Batwoman: Elegy

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Fair warning: I’m probably going to spend this post geeking out a bit, because this trade is everything I could ever hope for in a Batwoman comic. I absolutely love it, so be prepared for some pretty hardcore fangirling.

Going into this trade, I knew very little about Kate Kane. I hadn’t read anything about her backstory; other than the fact that she had a prior relationship with Renee Montoya, I knew virtually nothing about who she was outside of the cowl.  Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III joined forces to change all that, creating a storyline that is illuminating and truly beautiful.

Williams III’s artwork is absolutely mesmerizing.  He creates flowing, full-page spreads that not only tell a beautiful story, but that fit the tone of a given scene. When Batwoman is in the middle of a battle, the page is sharp, with distinct, dark coloring and splashes of bold reds. In contrast, he switches to more muted, less aggressive images when more domestic scenes are playing out.  The effect is entrancing, helping further pull the reader into the story, setting the mood for each scene.

Greg Rucka’s story has all of the subtle genius I could ever hope for.  I was surprised to find how well Rucka was able to write not only a female superhero, but a lesbian superhero, without once falling back onto cliches or stereotypes.  Instead, he writes a fully realized character who stands on her own, without needing the support or backup of long-standing characters like Batman. Everyone’s favorite dark knight pops up in the very beginning, essentially to remind the reader that all of this takes place in Gotham, and then poof! he’s gone.

And you know what? I didn’t miss him.  Kate Kane’s story was just that good.

Her story picks up after she was stabbed by the fanatic followers of the Religion of Crime.  She learns they have a new leader coming to town, and she vows to find out why this woman is journeying to Gotham.  Of course, this is Gotham, so this isn’t your typical religious zealot. No, instead, this woman has her own brand of crazy to bring to the table.

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Alice isn’t out to get Kate, but instead hopes to rule Gotham, and plans on unleashing a toxic chemical over the city to kill millions.  Kate vows to stop this, but along the way she learns of a unique connection between herself and Alice, one which ties back to a prophesy made about her long ago:

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At this point the comic takes a step back, and reveals Kate Kane’s backstory. It turns out she had a twin, Beth, whom she believed was killed alongside their mother when she was a young girl.  Kate learns that Beth is actually Alice, only to watch her seemingly fall to her death.  The implications that her sister was alive all this time haven’t fully set in yet, but surely Kate will be dealing with this for some time to come.

What I love most about Kate’s story is that although she very easily could, she never plays the victim. She is always in control of her own life, making her own decisions and standing up for herself.

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Whether it’s against an attacker, an ignorant military system, or her own father, she stays true to who she is and does what she believes to be right.  It’s sometimes a rash move, but at least she honors her convictions, which allows her to fit right into the Bat-family. Of course, she feels entirely separate from Batman and company, which oddly enough, I sort of love.  She views the Bat signal as a call to arms for like-minded individuals to do their part and take back their city. She approaches it from a militaristic angle, bringing a new perspective to a team that has otherwise been led and taught by one man.  I love that she’s more independent that the rest of the Bat-crew, acting on her own while still fighting for the same cause.  She may be her own character, but there’s the perfect balance between individuality and being a part of something bigger.

I can’t praise this comic enough. Between the gorgeous artwork and the thought-provoking story, this story arc was truly mesmerizing.  If Mistah J doesn’t already have the continuation of the story on “the shelf”, I’m going to have to go hunt it down myself, because I need to know what happens next.  It’s been a while since a new character has so fully grabbed my attention, but Batwoman has done just that. She’s everything I want to read about in a kick-ass superhero comic.  She’s strong, independent, and too stubborn for her own good, with personal failings that only help to make her more endearing and relatable.  Her story is clearly just beginning, but I’m already hooked.

-Jess

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