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Review: Batwoman #22

3175940-batwoman+01I want to love Batwoman so badly. I really do. Every month it’s one of my most anticipated books, and each month I’m left a little disappointed. It’s not bad, of course, and it has some of the most striking designs that DC produces (particularly when J.H. Williams III is on art duty), but the story just never measures up. Maybe I’m just remembering Greg Rucka’s amazing Batwoman storyline during his run on Detective Comics, I don’t know. It’s hard to live up to Rucka.

(SPOILERS) That being said, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman haven’t plotted out a boring story, but it just never seems to live up to its potential. Issue 22 comes right in the middle of an arc that’s supposedly going to set Batman and Batwoman against each other, which is a fight I’m very interested in seeing. Plus, we’ve recently learned that Kate’s sister Beth (aka villain Alice from Rucka’s run) is actually alive and being held by the DEO as a way of blackmailing Kate. All of that seems great. But, what actually happened in this issue?

Nothing, is pretty much the answer to that question. Kate, as Batwoman, and Bette, as Hawkfire (ugh, what a name) track down Bane for some reason, ostensibly to learn how to defeat Batman, as Bane has been the only man to do so. I didn’t even realize that still counted (Thanks, messed up New 52 continuity!). Then of course, we learn that Agent Chase of the DEO wanted to cut some kind of deal with Bane, the details to which we don’t learn. Surprise, right? Bane’s advice to Batwoman was so inane and unhelpful, she should have seen straight through the ruse. But she didn’t. Apparently she’s stupid now.

The final half of the book had to do with introducing a new mercenary team called Murder of Crows, somehow led by Colonel Jacob Kane (Kate’s father), even though he’s active duty military . . . We’ll just skip how ridiculous that is. We have pages of Bette as Hawkfire fighting and besting this group, all of whom are introduced with a caption box dedicated to their strengths and personalities, none of which I remember. We don’t see them do anything. We don’t see them in action. We see them all telling Jacob Kane how great Bette is. Boring. (Also, when did Bette become such a bad ass? Wasn’t she just screwing things up?)

All of what I’ve written above sound scattered and nonsensical, and that’s because it is. Nothing really happens. Scenes are lumped together with no sense of narrative flow, and the issue ends very abruptly, as they frequently do. Also, there’s not nearly enough Kate Kane/Batwoman. Bette is just not interesting to me. Hopefully the storyline picks up next issue.

Whenever J.H. Williams III is on art for this book, it’s undoubtedly the best looking comic DC publishes every month. However, while Williams is off doing Sandman: Overture, art duties have fallen to Trevor McCarthy. And that’s all right. He’s moved away from trying to replicate Williams’ ridiculous sense of design and begun to make the book his own: less detail, more cartoony, with pages that are a little less subtle. I personally like the style. It adds a boldness and aggression to the characters, which is something Williams didn’t frequently bring to the table.

Granted, I had a little trouble following the fight scene with Bane (One panel had Batwoman sneaking up behind Bane, and the next was a close up of Batwoman getting punched in the face. How did we get there?), but most of the action was kinetic and agile. The fight scenes with Bette and the Murder of Crows at the end fared worse, as McCarthy didn’t have the opportunity to actually stage a fight scene. He could only draw single panels unconnected with anything else.

As for the colors, I don’t know. I honestly can’t make up my mind. Guy Major’s choices at the beginning of the issue were great (during the fight with Bane). The snow was crystalline with a hint of light blue, which played against the dark of the forest very nicely. The bright orange and red of Hawkfire’s and Batwoman’s costumes, respectively, added another, deeper dimension. Unfortunately, and again I’m going to harp on the back half of the book, the pseudo-fight scenes with Hawkfire and the Murder of Crows were awash in dark blues, greens, and blacks, making everything sort of run together. Even the bright orange of Hawkfire’s costume became a dull copper. Nothing stood out, and everything seemed very one dimensional.

I love everything about Kate Kane/Batwoman as a character, and the art on this book is some of the best. It’s too bad #22 is such a let down. Here’s hoping next month’s issue will be much better.

Story: JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman Art: Trevor McCarthy

Story: 5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read