by Greg Rucka (writer), JH Williams III (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Todd Klein (letters), Cully Hamner (back-up art), Dave McCaig (back-up colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (back-up letters)

The Story: With Alice’s plot against Gotham revealed, Batwoman moves in to stop her once and for all.

What’s Good: This remains my pick for the best looking book put out by DC or Marvel for pretty much all of the reasons I’ve listed in past reviews of Detective Comics. Abstract, creative panelling which nonetheless flows effortlessly, an astounding level of detail and atmosphere, well-plotted action, and Dave Stewart’s amazing colors continue to make this comic fantastic as an artbook in itself. Williams also does a rather neat thing this issue, actually drawing red boxes around key details in his large splashes…. and boy, oh boy does he have some tremendous splashes, many of which tell a whole sequence of action within them, with Williams never content to risk a single static image in an action-heavy issue.

Williams also often uses his panelling to position Alice and Kate as foils, or diametrical oppositions, using their bodies as borders to the panels, or at one point, even creating a splash that is a mix of both their faces. Williams, through panelling alone, successfully enhances Rucka’s story.

As far as Rucka’s writing goes, there’s a bit of a reveal about Alice’s identity, though it was lost on a Batwoman novice like myself. The action was also really cool and very fluid, detail-oriented stuff, with a blow-by-blow feel. Kate’s relationship with her father/military superior also continues to be interesting, as they end up having a strange language all their own, a mixture of military jargon and imperatives and tender familiarity.

Meanwhile, this was definitely one of the stronger installments of the back-up feature. A good mix of the action we’ve been getting and the characterization we’ve not been getting, the back-up felt much more substantial this month. Hamner and McCaig also put out their best performance yet. While the Saturday-morning flavor is maintained, things feel sharper and more detailed. Add to that a good amount of blue and a thrilling ending, and it’s a winner this month.

What’s Not So Good: Greg Rucka writes a good script, but frankly, I felt that it wasn’t good enough for what JH Williams was doing on art. At times, the discrepancy made the book almost feel like a Williams showcase. Williams turns in ridiculously innovative and totally unique art, while Rucka hands in a script that, while decent, is nonetheless your standard fare.

The problem is, I suppose, that this is an action-heavy issue. As such, Rucka’s script is more minimalist and pragmatic, with fewer character moments. He’s content to just move the action along while Williams goes wild. This is probably Rucka’s blandest script on this title. There’s more or less none of Kate’s trademark humor or menace, as even Alice sounds more comprehensible than usual.

Conclusion: It’s a great issues with amazing art and the back-up is the best yet, but that still makes it a great issue following amazing issues.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans