by Greg Rucka (writer), J.H. 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: We get a glimpse into Kate’s childhood and the grisly trauma that ultimately defines it.

What’s Good: This issue may very well be JH Williams’ finest hour.  He shows himself to be an artist with unbelievable range, able to not only adapt, but also completely change his entire art style to suit a particular mood.  I honestly felt as though three different but equally talented artists worked on this book.

Williams’ illustrations of Kate’s childhood are less photorealistic and less hyper-detailed, more heavily inked and lined, focusing more on emotion.  The simpler feel to the work captures the innocence and relative simplicity of childhood, while also carrying a more smudged, vintage feel.  It’s only fitting that a flashback is drawn in a style that is, in itself, a pulpy flashback.  Meanwhile, Williams’ drawing of Kate’s father’s battles is all fist-pumping, scratchy, detailed line-work, while the present day is depicted in the ultra-modern, Kate-focused style we’ve come to expect from Detective Comics.  Williams’ sense of pacing in his transitions between these three styles is amazing.  You instantly know you’ve fallen back into the past the minute the art removes all the gloss to present a world of snowy and family without any slick super heroics.

I can’t overemphasize just how awe-inspiring Williams’ work here is.  The art truly tells the story and raises Rucka’s script to new heights.  While Rucka does a solid job at depicting both the tenderness and unique circumstances that govern Kate’s family dynamic, Williams’ emotive artwork heightens the sense of childhood pain, innocence, and love.

Most memorable is how Williams essentially depicts Kate’s childhood trauma in a manner that is baptismal.  She goes from an average family outing, to a fully paneled page that is entirely black, before re-emerging into a world loaded with blood, bullet-holes, and corpses.  The transition is stark and brutal, while also giving the sense of a kind of awakening, a wrongful rebirth into an adult world of violence.  It’s a brutal, yet beautiful moment that encapsulates the dramatic flair of Williams’ artwork and the synergy he and Rucka share.

While nowhere near the level of the main feature, Hamner turns in a solid performance on the second feature.  His kinetic action scenes are as fast, and natural as we’ve come to expect.  The story’s ending is also an enjoyable, heart-warming little moment that fully embodies the Question as a character and a hero.

What’s Not So Good: The childhood flashback sequences are the main feature and the present day scenes are the interlude, not vice versa, as might be expected.  I didn’t know this and so was a little surprised when I reached the main feature’s ending.  It’s not a flaw, but a word of warning is needed.

The biggest problem with this book, however, is the second feature.  It’s sadly just not particularly creative.  There’s no final adversary for the Question to face, there’s no twist, and she doesn’t employ any ingenious plan.  She just gets in a fight with a few nameless thugs and saves the day, as we expected, getting from point a to point b.  It’s just your bog standard “street hero” fare without shock or nuance.  Normally, this would be more forgivable, but as it’s essentially following a magnum opus, its faults become glaring.

Conclusion: Worth every damn cent.  If you’re turning this book down, you don’t like comics.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans