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Batwoman: Elegy Paperback – June 14, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. On the surface, this is a fairly straightforward superhero thriller, in which the new (lesbian, tattooed, Jewish) Batwoman tussles with a crime-worshipping cult that's trying to poison Gotham City, and discovers how her personal history is entwined with that of their leader, a pale, murderous Lewis Carroll–quoting porcelain goth. In practice, it's spectacular—the kind of adventure story that you race through the first time and return to, to pore over slowly. The obvious attraction is Williams and colorist Dave Stewart's artwork, whose mutable style and wildly inventive layouts get across the story's twisted chronology and psychological subtleties all by themselves. Almost every page is some kind of visual set piece with symbolic resonance, and the big action scenes are as thrilling as superhero comics get. The second half of the book, Go, is Batwoman's origin story and the history of her relationship with her father; Williams actually adopts different visual aesthetics for different types of flashbacks within it, including a clever pastiche of David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One. Rucka's writing also deepens on closer examination, mostly because his Batwoman, Kate Kane, is a superhero like no other: don't-ask/don't-tell'ed out of the Marines, she treats her spandex-and-Kevlar work as a kind of military service that gives her life meaning. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* There are a number of reasons why this story arc, which appeared last year in Detective Comics following Batman’s (for now anyway) death, is a departure from more traditional caped-crusader fare. For starters, Batwoman (aka Kate Kane) is the most prominent gay character in DC’s universe, and she kicks ass with combat boots not stilettos (though her suit is still painted on). This volume deftly blends the story of her origin as a superhero with a dark thriller that pits her against Gotham’s newest resident crazy, the High Madame of the Religion of Crime. In flashbacks, Kane get kicked out of the military for standing tall at the conflicting crossroads of Don’t ask, don’t tell and the West Point Honor Code that says A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. In the present thread, she locks horns with the gothy villain Alice, who speaks entirely in quotations from Lewis Carroll. All this makes for a nuanced, literary, and culturally charged story, but the real knockout element is Williams’ art nouveau–inspired compositions. The consistently arresting layouts and twirling line work cross the design sensibility of Alphonse Mucha with Gotham City’s special blend of midnight grittiness. Rucka and Williams have crafted a superhero comic that is ambitious and unique in its approach, and it deserves to be read and then read again to appreciate the fullness of its smart storytelling and even more impressive artistry. --Ian Chipman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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When it comes to comics, I'm normally more interested in the stories than the artwork, but J.H. Williams III's art is just so incredible I had to get this. The story isn't half-bad either.
After "Infinite Crisis," the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) took a year-long sabbatical to re-assess their purposes in life. The 52 weeks of their absence was chronicled in the series "52." During that time, Gotham city needed a protector, and Kate Kane became Batwoman to fill the void. During this time, she fought an organization called the Religion of Crime.
In this volume, Batwoman continues to fight crime (even though Batman is back in action). The Religion of Crime has a new leader, Alice, whose dialogue consists entirely of quotations from the works of Lewis Carrol.
The first four issues here are the "Elegy" story itself, telling the story of Batwoman's fight against Alice. This has one plot element that is extremely difficult to believe, but telling you what it is would be a spoiler. The remaining three issues are Batwoman's origin story. As an interesting twist, Kate's father becomes her "Alfred."
Parental guidance: This books contains lesbians, painted-on costumes, and a werewolf, so I'd rate it about PG-13.
Additional note: I think this story survived the 2011 reboot, more or less.
History (and Wiki) notes that this modern-era Batwoman debuted in 2006, during the seventh week of the 52 maxi-series, and that she began operating in Gotham during Batman's year-long sabbatical, post-Infinite Crisis. But it wasn't until DETECTIVE COMICS that she and we finally began getting truly acquainted. Going into this brace of issues, you need to know that Batwoman had long been targeted by the Religion of Crime, what with Batwoman's demise having been prophesied in the Bible of Crime. This monstrous cult's previous leader, the High Madame, some time ago had captured Batwoman, had plunged a dagger into her heart.
As this volume opens, Kate Kane - not to be confused with Kathy Kane a.k.a. the original Batwoman who debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS #233 way back in 1956 - is still recovering from her near fatal stabbing. So she doesn't react too kindly when she hears that a crazed murderess named Alice has just assumed the role of new High Madame to the Religion of Crime and its thirteen covens in Gotham. The Batwoman anticipates having a word with Alice. This'll pose a problem as the creepy Alice tends to exclusively quote Lewis Carroll.
Kate Kane has landed much notoriety, thanks to her being a 1ebanese or something. That so much attention is given by you and you and me to that one aspect of her makeup tends to undermine how strong of a character she really is. Greg Rucka is a wonderful writer, expert at crafting these taut, hard-boiled thrillers, and he doesn't neglect those good character beats (and if you haven't checked out his Atticus Kodiak and Tara Chace novels, then you're missing out). This volume explores not only Kate Kane's sexual orientation but, finally, her full backstory. I love that Batwoman isn't just a female Batman clone. We learn of Kate's military career being derailed before it even had a chance to take off. Desperate to serve in some way - and late one evening inspired by the Batman - she doesn't feel the need to worm her way into Bats' inner circle. She's her own woman and doesn't require Batman's approval (but she gets it anyway). In fact, the sense I get is that should any in the Bat family throw a criticism her way, she'll just shrug it off. Along the way, Rucka establishes Kate's set of supporting characters (the most prominent of which is her military dad who acts as sort of her tech/tactics/weapons support at her secret home base). It's a very interesting, sometimes tense relationship that they share. Kate habitually calls her dad "Sir."
Even if Greg Rucka hadn't been penning this and the writing had sucked, it still would've been worth a peek for J.H. Williams III's sensational, haunting artwork. It took forever for me to get thru these issues, mostly because I spent minutes ogling the art inch by inch. Williams' creative layouts and impressive design work deserve the reader's rapt attention, and, hell, maybe a bit of adoration. I was so tempted to rip out that glorious two-paged spread (pages 18 & 19) in issue #854 just so I could pin them up on the wall. The Batwoman is visually dynamic. I love her costume's stark contrast of black and that wash of crimson. Kate Kane in her civilian guise is equally as striking. Kate, with her paleness and fiery hair and unconventional wardrobe, looks one step out of sync with everyone else.
By the way, I think colorist Dave Stewart just ran out of red.
Kate Kane's tragic origin story unfolds in issues #858-860. One of the neat things about this arc is that Williams, during the flashback sequences, applies a style that's reminiscent of Mazzuchelli/Weeks/Lark. I initially assumed another artist was handling the flashback panels, but, no, it's all J.H. Williams.
Unlike the other "New 52" relaunches, the current BATWOMAN series (Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology (The New 52)) - which unfortunately doesn't have Rucka but does have J.H. Williams - actually picks up the continuity from these issues in DETECTIVE COMICS. In the New 52, Kate's backstory and the events in the "Elegy" arc still happened. Just in case you're looking for one more reason to get invested.