BATWOMAN: ELEGY (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by J.H. Williams III
Collects Detective Comics #854-860
As far as I’m concerned, one of DC Comics’ biggest blunders in recent memory was not taking better advantage of 52 and the bevy of characters hinted at and featured therein, specifically Batwoman. The character got all kinds of press for being a lesbian (big deal, Rainmaker was out a decade before in Gen 13 and she wasn’t even the first) and yet didn’t get her own book. The last issue of 52 came out in July of 2007. Batwoman appeared sparingly but only took over Detective Comics in August of 2009, nearly two years later. That’s a great way to kill buzz. Anyway, with Batman RIPing, DC needed someone to take over Detective Comics and Batwoman turned out to be a pretty good choice.
Fantastic, actually. I had read most or at least some of these issues when I still worked for ToyFare and had access to all kinds of comics. This one was super popular though, so I didn’t really have the chance to stare at the pages as much as I would have liked. That’s something I really relished this time around. J.H. Williams III is truly a unique voice in the din of same-old-same-old comic aritsts. The things he does with layouts and panel set-ups is just amazing. I even had fun looking at his panels-within-panels to try and figure out what the shapes were supposed to be. Oh, duh, they’re BATS!
In addition to spending more time with the artwork, I also got to live in the story a little bit more which was more layered than I remembered. Even though I got to take my time, I still couldn’t help but read the book in two sittings. Greg Rucka wove a story–two actually, broken up into four issue arcs–that’s not only exciting and interesting on its own as a standalone story, but also absorbing for fans of the character’s minimal appearances. The first directly rolls out of 52 with Batwoman dealing with Alice, the new head of the cult that tried to kill her in the weekly series. The second story focuses on Kate Kane’s past from her early childhood to her time in the military to her training to become Batwoman. Not since Batman Begins have I seen an origin story so well done and make this much sense (within the world of superheroes at least).
Rucka didn’t shy away from potentially hot button issues like Kane’s sexuality and in fact embraces it. He even makes a fantastic argument against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell through Kate when she tells her superior that she can’t lie about being gay because that would go against the cadet code. That rigid honesty is something that should be lauded in the military and not an excuse to get rid of somebody. (I know DADT got repealed recently, but this book came out before that). Even though she slips at times she still shows her true character and retains the moral code she learned from her military father that serves herself and helps her become a hero.
All in all, I think Batwoman: Elegy is a pretty fantastic stand alone trade for anyone to pick up. There’s some in medias res stuff going on, but I think the basics are explained pretty well, even if you don’t get all the deets until the end of the second arc. I actually own the soft cover version (not the deluxe seen in the picture above) and got it thanks to a great deal on Thwipster a few weeks back. I highly recommend keeping an eye on that site either via email or Twitter or whatnot because there’s something for everyone on there. My only complaint is that the collection–which has a great Intro by Rachel Maddow–doesn’t include the following three issues which Rucka wrote, Jock drew and featured Batwoman teaming up with Batman. Would it have been such a big deal to include three more issues and charge a little more for a more robust collection? But hey, those are minor complaints for a book I not only greatly enjoyed, but also actually purchased (that doesn’t happen much) and will be keeping in the collection (which happens even less).