Review: Batwoman #23

So when did this series become about someone other than Batwoman? I mean, I get expanding and fleshing out supporting characters, but for the past two issues, Batwoman has been essentially MIA in her own book. This was a particularly unsuccessful issue of Batwoman, so let’s breakdown why.

This issue made me very angry. Before I started to write this review I looked over all the notes that I had taken as I was actually reading the issue, and my notes are full of the kind of profanity that this site eschews. Almost every single choice made in the creation of this book is wrong. Let’s start with the first scene, in which Kate Kane (aka Batwoman) injects herself with fear toxin to prove how much she loves Maggie. Oh God. Seriously? It’s literally the most melodramatic choice J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman could have made. What kind of person drugs herself to prove her love? Kate Kane certainly wouldn’t; Kate is tough, practical, logical, and intuitive, with a mission starting in eighteen hours. Seriously? What an idiot.

It’s a moment that screams against everything that makes Kate Kane an interesting and relatable character. I expect a move of this over-the-top magnitude to be on some ridiculous soap like General Hospital or Days of our Lives, but not on this comic. You know, I’ve tried very hard to avoid directly comparing individual moments of this run of Batwoman to Rucka’s, but I can’t help myself anymore. Greg Rucka helped to create a nuanced, believable character, and these current writers are butchering her. Plus, it meant that there was essentially no Batwoman in this book. Because she had drugged herself.

So now let’s move on to Bette, aka Hawkfire (a name which still makes me shudder). In her big scene, she managed to persuade a DEO agent to spill the beans on where the DEO is holding Beth Kane (Kate’s sister and former super villain, Alice). After hours of torture by Jacob Kane and the Murder of Crows (ugh), Bette swoops in and cracks the guy in about two minutes. Do I buy that? Nope. And she does so in the most boring way ever: she tells the guy that if the DEO loses a high valued target from the detention area, Director Bones would be out of a job, leaving a power vacuum that this particular DEO agent could fill. Maybe. And of course the agent immediately cracks, with no thought to what might happen if Bette and the Murder of Crows fail to break into (and out of, with a prisoner, no less) a heavily guarded, government sanctioned, military base. Yeah. Furthermore, it made Bette seem so much smarter and resourceful than Jacob Kane, a colonel with a huge amount of experience in the military and intelligence fields. Nope. Not buying it. Maybe I should just stop worrying and learn to love Bette, but I just can’t. There have been two issues almost directly focused on her, and Williams and Blackman have not made her interesting to me.

The final third of this issue is just as annoying. The DEO lets out seemingly all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery under Bane’s leadership, presumably with the plan of drawing out the Bat so that Batwoman can take him down. They just assume that Bane can control the Riddler, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, and some other goons? Please. That seems like a recipe for disaster to me. And then Kate wakes up from her self induced near OD, and is surprised to find that Maggie hasn’t left her. Why would Maggie have left you, Kate? You just injected yourself with toxin. You could have died. By injecting herself with poison, she passive aggressively ensured that Maggie wouldn’t walk out on her. God. Then they have an overly cliché discussion about cheating and love, with poor dialogue during a moment that’s meant to be emotional and dramatic. Let me just print an example. Kate says to Maggie:

“I’m so scared that you’ll never forgive me all those mistakes . . . and for the mistakes that I haven’t even made yet . . . all the ways I might hurt you in the future.”

That’s much too formal and writerly. No one speaks like that.

Normally the art in Batwoman is better than most other books, but this week it seemed rushed. There were pages that seemed to lack a lot of detail, or seemed sketchier than usual, and several times Maggie looked like a man. I am in no way advocating that this book adopt a fourteen year old boy’s image of what a woman should look like, but her face needs to be a little less masculine, please.

The two double splashes in the first third of the book were a strange mix of Trevor McCarthy’s style and Williams’ more painted style, and they didn’t really work. Yes, we got to see what Kate is afraid of, but none of it was new. The symbolism is obvious, and in the end, the double splashes just take up four pages that the plot desperately needed. It’s very much time for this arc to pick up, as the last two issues have seen it mostly in a holding pattern, and frankly it’s getting boring.

I’ll say this again, I absolutely love the character of Kate Kane/Batwoman, but this series is not doing it for me. Something needs to change. It needs a new writer, and it needs J.H. Williams III back on art.

Stray Observations

-Director Bones uses binoculars to watch a building in Gotham blow up. Apparently he, and by extension the DEO, is cool with civilian casualties. Okay.

-Kate’s surprise proposal to Maggie was beautiful, but that was so long ago, and nothing has really happened with that. Sure they’re engaged, but so what? This issue tried to create and clear up some romantic and emotional states, but it just didn’t work.

-That cover though, right? Some months it feels like I just buy this book for the covers.

Story: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman Art: Trevor McCarthy
Story: 4 Art: 7 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass