Tuesday, May 14

Chase (DC, 2011)

Reprints Chase #1-9 (Feb-Oct 1998) plus other materials to 20o2.

I finished reading this collection a couple of weeks ago after allowing it to sit unread on my shelf for a very long time, always intending to get to it but never actually doing so until toward the end of last month I picked it to be my “between-months” reading – what I read once I've finished my monthly mail-ordered comics before the next month's box comes in. I had initially been drawn toward it because Cameron Chase, Agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations, has been a major player in the New 52 Batwoman series virtually from the beginning, and this “cult favorite series from the 1990s” (back-cover blurb) was plotted and pencilled by the same writer-artist as produces the latter-day series, J. H. Williams III. I had, of course, encountered Chase herself in previous appearances here, there, and yonder through the years, most notably in Birds of Prey a few years ago, and I figured this would be a good way to get up to speed on the character.

And the heart of the book, the eponymous nine-issue series from 1998, does that very well, along with the character's real introduction in Batman #550 (Jan 1998) which appears here as a sort of prequel. But there is much more after the series' untimely end. This very thick trade paperback – modern comics no longer generally numbers pages, but the Comic Book Database lists it as 352 pages – includes pieces of varying length from no less than eight other comic books in addition to Chase #1,000,000 (Nov 1998) which may well be considered the tenth issue of the series itself since every DC comic published that month participated in Grant Morrison's DC One Million event (coincidentally just appearing yesterday in the on-line solicitations as an Omnibus volume to be published on 30 October 2013). And frankly that latter half or so of the collection I found to be much less satisfying. The various pieces and parts appear in rapid-fire succession with no attempt to put them into their proper context, which most of them could really have benefited from. Were I less familiar with the history of the DC Universe than I am I would have been totally lost; as it was I was only half lost. For instance, the short piece containing a reference to the “Kansas” disaster – I'm lucky that I had read the Our Worlds at War event from ca. 2001 with the destruction of Topeka (and devastation of Smallville). Chase #1,000,000 comes directly after #9 – publication order, yes, but with nothing to indicate that it was part of a larger event which, granted, saw most of the line-wide “tie-in” issues having little or nothing to do plot-wise with the main event, and neither does this. I knew that, having read DC One Million back when I was making my way through Morrison's late 1990s JLA series in collected form. In some other cases, however, I remain befuddled. This collection could have been much better than it was, I think, with just a little more work. As it is, DC can't say much more than that it does have almost if not every page dealing with Cameron Chase between 1998 and 2002 in collected format. For what that's worth.

Which all sounds very critical – and is meant to. Nonetheless, I really did enjoy the basic nine-issue series, coming away from it with a better understanding of just who Cameron Chase is, what drives her. Understandably, since these stories focus on her, she comes off as a more sympathetic character than she ever has in an allied/antagonistic supporting role such as in Birds of Prey or current issues of Batwoman, but that's inevitable. Even the villain (which she's not) is the hero in his own story. It's very good stuff, and I would recommend all fans of the current Batwoman read this. But frankly I'd rather have paid $19.95 for just the nine-issue series collected by itself (with the Batman issue thrown in as prequel, as here) than this bloated $29.95 all-inclusive mess. Or, make that thicker volume more user-friendly with some text pages providing context – that's all it would have taken, doubtless a one-day job for one of DC's editors, if not JHW3 himself. Were I one to review on a zero to ten scale (which I'm not, obviously), I'd be hard pressed to award this present volume as a whole higher than a six or so – which is unfair to the original material, which by itself would rate much higher, verging on nine or ten. But it is what it is.

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!

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