Saturday, October 22

Batman and Robin #1 and Batwoman #1 (Nov 2011)

“Born to Kill”

Tomasi and Gleason are a good team who did great things on the Green Lantern Corps title in the past few years. It's too soon for me to tell how well that will translate to the world of Gotham City and the New 52 Batman and Robin. No point in lamenting (surprisingly) the new team of Bruce Wayne Batman and his son Damian Wayne as Robin, and luckily Dick Grayson's tenure as Batman teamed up with Damian has not been wiped from continuity, is even referenced in these pages. Damian is having a bit of trouble adjusting to working with his father instead of “Grayson,” which manifests itself in a degree of surliness that is somewhat beyond where he had grown to of late. As a coworker who read this issue before me stated, “He's still the little shit,” but then he's only seen Damian in a few cases up until now and hasn't experienced the growth the character has undergone in the couple of years since he was introduced. To wit, at one point, arguing with his father, he slips and refers to “Grayson” as “Dick” instead. ! Really, I think if you look past the surface, Damian is one of the more interesting and well-developed characters in comics today. For that reason if no other I'm on board here with enthusiasm. Of course, since this is a Bat-title, that's pretty much assured anyway.

Briefly told, this issue sees Bruce take his son for one last visit to the site where the saga began, where Damian's grandparents were gunned down that night long ago. One last visit, because the site is going to be bulldozed and developed, and Bruce has determined to stop honoring their last night on Earth and start honoring their wedding anniversary instead. A situation develops that finds them averting a nuclear catastrophe at Gotham University – but in which Damian displays a bit of his usual recklessness that endangers the criminals they are fighting and brings down a stinging rebuke from Bruce. I think Bruce is having a bit of trouble adjusting to working with his son as Robin as well!

There's a framing sequence that doubtless sets in motion what will be the overall story for the early issues of this title, set in Moscow, where a Russian agent of Batman, Inc., comes to a bad end, even being rather graphically and lowered alive and conscious into a vat of acid on the last page in a horrific sequence that ends with his captor proclaiming that it's now time to pay Bruce Wayne a visit. Next: Bad Blood.

“Hydrology, Part 1: Leaching”

Well, I said I'd believe this comic would finally appear when I was holding it in my own hands, and not before. I guess I have to believe it's out now. It has been literally years in coming since it was first announced, and in the past year was delayed time and again, the most recent at really short notice round about February, I think at the time the final decision to go with a full-on Relaunch-boot-vamp-whatever this is was made, in order to just have it come out with all the other new #1s.

This is a beautiful comic, as much painted as drawn, although that does have its drawback in that I sometimes find it hard to follow the story itself through a variety of odd, artistic panels that seem to break all the rules of graphic storytelling. What do I know about those anyway? All I know is it makes it hard to follow, and I've been reading comics for how long? – 45 years? Anyway, it is nonetheless beautiful.

As to the story, some bizarre, beautiful spirit (?) is drowning parents in the process of taking their children in the Latino quarters of Gotham City. Kate Kane Batwoman is on the case, having unsuccessfully tried to prevent one instance, whose parents begin this story by telling GCPD Special Crimes Unit leader Maggie Sawyer how El Angel Rojo de La Muerte, “Dark Red Angel of the Night,” Batwoman, had saved them but failed to prevent their children from being taken. Maggie is visited by Kate, who is startled (?) to see a picture of Renee Montoya and to discover that Maggie knows about her and Renee's relationship (“Detective, remember?”). Well, Kate and Maggie set up a date … was that why Kate was there, or was it related to the case? Anyway, as indicated when we last saw her in Detective Comics (a year or more ago?), Kate's cousin Bette Kane is joining her as a “sidekick” – but Kate will not have her as Flamebird, Bette's former identity, and is insisting on training her anew. The Flamebird costume is out – “You don't need that garish costume … You need a uniform.” Bette ends up military fatigues and a mask rather than a traditional super-heroine costume! Anyway, she finds the whole thing a bit humiliating. And then there's an ugly scene when Kate's estranged father shows up. For the benefit of those who maybe are picking this up new – the hypothetical “new reader” DC is trying to court in this initiative – there is a pretty good recap of the defining event of Kate's childhood, the kidnapping and apparent death of her mother and twin sister … except that the twin sister apparently did not die and has returned as the villainess of the first Detective Comics arc a couple of years ago, “Alice.” And Jacob Kane apparently knew that Beth was not dead – Kate has not forgiven him and it looks like she has no intention of doing so.
(This is a huge image file!)
Interspersed with this we see Department of Extranormal Operations agent Cameron Chase being tasked by Director Bones to bring in Batwoman – a task she does not relish given how well their attempt to bring in Batman a few years ago went! – and also a meeting between Commissioner Gordon and Maggie Sawyer regarding the case of La Llorona – “the Weeping Woman” – “That's all I have to go on, Commissioner. A ghost story.” “If that's your only lead, Detective,” Gordon tells her, “you follow it. Until this case is solved and those kids are found … whether you believe in urban legends or not.” And the issue ends with Batwoman, inspecting the same crime scene where a teenage girl was killed in the abduction of her younger cousin that Gordon and Sawyer were overseeing, being approached by Batman. She bristles: “This is my crime scene now.” “I'm not here to take it back. … But we do need to talk. … I have a proposition for you...” To Be Continued.

Have Bruce Wayne Batman and Kate Kane Batwoman formally met? Last I remember, he was stalking her in a different guise in the #0 issue that came out forever ago, determining that she is indeed a good prospect for Batman, Inc.

I do have one complaint about the art – mainly the coloring. I don't know if it's intentional or not, but there are times Kate Kane looks so pale as to be literally vampiric in her appearance. Sometimes she is literally chalky-white (see above). Other times the variance from other characters' flesh-tones is not nearly so severe. This actually is a quirk that appeared during the later issues of the Detective Comics run, so I'm sure it's intentional ... I'm just not sure what they're going for.

Overall, an intriguing issue. Frankly, I didn't really miss Greg Rucka who has overseen almost every other appearance of Batwoman since her creation a few years ago, including the great run she had in Detective Comics a couple of years ago.

Thanks for reading, and Cheers!

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