DC Comics has not always done right by Batwoman. A few years ago, the creators behind the character’s New 52 solo book quit after the powers that be stopped them from letting Kate Kane marry her girlfriend.
The title quickly went from one of DC’s best to folding a little over a year later and the character basically disappeared until last year, when James Tynion IV made her the co-lead of the excellent Detective Comics. There, Kate frequently outshone her cousin, Bruce Wayne, acting as the team’s more approachable, perhaps more qualified, task master. Now, she finally gets a chance at her own book again and it definitely lives up to expectations.
We got our first taste of what the book might be last month with Batwoman Rebirth #1. While that issue teased a lot of potential storylines, this one actually starts to dig into them. Tynion IV is clearly determined to continue exploring Kate’s past and internal life and co-writer Margueritte Bennett joins him at the helm. Bennett made her name with women-focused and often lighter fare like DC Comics Bombshells and Josie and the Pussycats, but she is also–surprisingly and somewhat depressingly–the first woman to write for the main Batman title. So, she’s well-acquainted with the dark, depressing world of Gotham City’s bat-themed vigilantes. While it’s impossible to tell who writes what, the quick-witted dialogue of Kate’s Girl Friday, Julia, is pretty reminiscent of the Pussycats in Riverdale.
Speaking of Julia, though she’s very tech savvy and might just be spying on Kate for Batman, she’s basically the Alfred of this book (she’s even a Pennyworth). Indeed, she’s just one of the many reasons this issue feels similar to a Batman story. However, while Kate seems just as brooding as her cousin, Tynion and Bennett seemingly sidestep the mistake of drawing too many parallels in the same way that, for instance, Supergirl did in its first season by digging into the character’s own backstory.
Last month, we learned that Kate had a relationship with a dangerous and presumably criminal woman named Safiyah on the fictional island of Coryana. Now, that past comes back to haunt her when it turns out an assassin associated with the island is connected with selling the serum that sparked the Night of the Monstermen arc a few months back. While that story was, frankly, a bit forgettable, the serum is basically just a McGuffin here. The real goal is to explore Kate’s history and the events that transformed her from soldier, to party girl, to masked vigilante to whatever she appeared to become at the end of the Rebirth issue.
As for the art, penciller Steve Epting has a really kinetic style that suits the propulsive storytelling. Every panel feels like it’s in motion and Jeromy Cox’s colors enhance the action, giving the book real-world feel that makes even the most extreme scenarios feel possible. However, that doesn’t mean he lacks a sense of style. In fact, both he and Epting particularly excel during the flashback sequences, delivering a highly stylized look that gives the sections an appropriately subjective feel.
Batwoman #1 is, overall, a promising read. It gives Kate a compelling problem to solve that also tells us more about who the character is and might become. Let’s hope DC doesn’t screw it up this time.