by Greg Rucka (writer), J.H. Williams III (art), Cully Hamner (co-feature art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Batwoman gets a hold of Alice and looks for answers, while Renee gets in a fight and moves up the bad guy food-chain.

What’s Good: I actually thought the art this month was better than last month, even though that should be impossible. In a scene where Batwoman gets poisoned really unleashes Williams, allowing him to go apeshit with his already boundlessly creative panel layouts. The hallucinations are contrasted beautifully with the real world surroundings and the technicolors are enjoyable. It’s just all-around another fantastic effort by Williams, with a tremendous amount of work going into the smallest frame. The characters really stand out, the use of lighting is superb, and ultimately, this at times looks more like an art-book than a monthly floppy. I truly enjoy when Williams gets especially creative with his layouts, almost drawing “optional frames.” Your eye is led across a series of bigger images to get the story across, but you can look at the surrounding “optional” smaller images if you’d like to catch extra details. Really, really cool.

As far as Rucka’s tale goes, this is a “character” issue. Rucka does a great job of establishing Alice as a major character, creating a villain that is very unsettling and, well, utterly insane in a way that we’ve perhaps not seen before. His writing of Alice’s dialogue is nothing less than masterful, will all of her lines bordering on nonsensical gibberish while nonetheless being strangely intelligible. At times, it felt as though she were speaking her own language, “fluent crazy” as Kate aptly puts it. We also get a really, really brutal series of sequences that cement Alice as an evil person underneath all of that twisted, surreal whimsy.

Building on last month, Kate’s dialogue with Alice continues to develop her biting wit, making her all the more likable. Her hallucinations were also arguably the most fascinating bits of the issue, hinting at horrid suffering with a military edge as well as a love that is all but over. Really tantalizing stuff.

Meanwhile, the Question back-up is certainly solid enough to foster no complaints about the $4 price tag.  It’s pure fun, no more and no less, with Hamner once again showing his skills at depicting action scenes.  Renee’s fight banter is humorously badass, as is her bravado in general. It must also be said that the art, particularly as it synchs with Renee’s blue outfit, is really slick in the last scene.  This is a back-up story that is a perfect partner to the Batwoman feature.

What’s Not So Good: As a character issue, there isn’t a whole lot that goes on plot-wise this month.  Other than the tables being turned from where they were last month, there aren’t really any developments or discoveries. Kate hallucinates and Alice proves herself worthy of being a central villain, but we’re no closer to finding any answers regarding anything. This also made the book fly by surprisingly quickly; I was surprised when I hit the end.

Also, perhaps it’s unfair of me, but I kind of expected more out of this comic than a typical “our hero is unconscious and surrounded” ending, I get one not only in the main, but in the back-up as well.

Conclusion: Awesome art, a cool villain, and some foreboding hallucinations lead to another fantastic issue.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans

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