I hadn’t picked up a DC new 52 comic yet, but I’d read on the internet about how the Batwoman title was the best of them. Really?
I got this via a goodreads advance copy giveaway and since I didn’t know the story yet, I got ebook versions of issues 1-5 (since this volume is a collection of 6-10 in a hardback omnibus). The first five issues don’t do an origin story, though the first has a clever 2-page splash as a flashback and every issue does the boilerplate “this is the origin” blurb at the beginning. My main takeaway from the first five issues was that the artwork was pretty but felt inconsistent in quality from page to page. The story was interesting in a soap-opera / Kick-Ass sort of way.
Then I got to these stories in Volume 2. The artwork is better and more consistent, but the figures are occasionally posed in garish ways that jarred me out of the narrative. I don’t mean some bad guy picks up a character and twists them around (though that happens), I mean some human stands or kicks or punches in a way that the bodies look wrong. In an attempt to convey more of the story in ink than in dialog, there are visuals that don’t make sense, concurrent panels that seem to miss several frames of key action, and scenes of movement that are so noisy as to be nonsensical. It’s like the comic version of Transformers 2 on an IMAX screen.
Perhaps the flow of the art could be forgiven if the story itself were well-scripted, but it’s decidedly not. I’ll give credit to the author for not making a big deal out of the sexualities of any characters depicted, but that’s about his best accomplishment. The narrative neither unfolds in a linear, suspenseful, nor revelatory fashion. It feels chaotic, as if on each page the writer thought, “Oh, I need to include a scene about this. Wait, did I put in this scene, yet? I’ll put it in now.” There’s no structural payoff, there’s no artistic relevance to the order of scenes.
And all of that could even be forgiven if the reader were given any reason to empathize or root for any of the characters. Nope. Sure, I want the bad guys to be stopped from doing the bad things, but I’m given no reason to care who does it. I don’t care if Batwoman, the Police, or the Feds do it. Hell, I’d welcome Batman coming in, shoving everyone out of the way, and taking care of business himself. At least I know why Bruce Wayne does what he does and I buy that he can do it.
The writer relies upon an assumption of empathy or loyalty to his main character that certainly didn’t exist with me. I never felt inclined to say, “Hell, yeah!” when Batwoman punched someone, threw a toy, survived gunfire, kissed someone, or got laid. The artwork excelled enough to make me want to look, but not enough to make me care.
The whole character feels weak, frankly. Okay, she survived a trauma similar to Bruce Wayne’s: her mother and twin sister get brutally killed… but her father’s alive. Not as bad. She went to West Point. Not as badass as spending every day from the age of 8 until his twenties training in every form of combat a billionaire’s money can buy. She gets kicked out of West Point for being gay and… decides to become Batwoman? What about all the hundreds of other people who’ve been drummed out of the military for being gay? Are they all Batpeople, too? No, of course not.
Unless a later issue somehow divulges information about what makes Kate Kane more than any other military school non-graduate, I just can’t see any reason to care about her stories. Certainly, these five issues didn’t do it for me.
originally posted at: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/513697645