by Greg Rucka (writer), Jock & Scott Kolins (art), David Baron (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Kate hunts down Cutter in an effort to save her cousin Bette.

What’s Good: Much like the rest of the “Cutter” arc, this issue is all about mood and atmosphere.  Everything feels dark, gritty, and generally unpleasant.  It’s an effective mixture of noir and horror that is both brooding and slick.  Everything feels smooth and modern, yet definitely nasty.   The book’s tone is definitely heavy and the atmosphere is thick.  As an experience, this issue is a job well done.

A lot of this has to do with the artwork, which is generally well-done by Jock and Kolins, though a lot of this success is owed to David Baron’s colors.  The dichotomy of blue and red is still flawlessly employed and only aids that sense of moody tension.  Both sides feel menacing, but distinct.  The layouts are also brilliant, echoing this color opposition.  There are a couple of times that opposite pages are divided between Batman and Batwoman, with images of both down the centre.  It’s really fun stuff and works well with what Baron is doing.  It also gives Rucka’s narrative structure some real life, realizing it in a very literal way.

The last scene of the book also sets up Batwoman’s future quite nicely.  The dialogue sort of encompasses much of what Rucka has been trying to get across regarding the character. Furthermore, this issue’s cliffhanger will have you salivating for what Rucka has ongoing.

What’s Not So Good: There just isn’t much meat on the bones on this narrative.  The lack of credible villain or characterization combines with a conclusion that isn’t nearly climactic enough to make for an underwhelming conclusion to a surprisingly underwhelming arc.   Other than the last three pages, there’s also a complete lack of any really significant dialogue.  So much of Batwoman’s success thus far has been in Rucka’s little character moments. With those stripped away, the issue feels simply lacking.  Everything just comes off a bit airy or perhaps a bit empty.  It just doesn’t feel as important as it should.

Granted, the bland and utterly inconsequential villain doesn’t help.  Cutter has been anything but remarkable.  Rucka makes some strides with that this month, by introducing Cutter’s partner in crime and motivation for evil: a demented, bandaged girlfriend obsessed with plastic surgery.  Yet, really, it just doesn’t feel as important as it should and instead reeks of being a missed opportunity.  Why did Rucka decide to introduce his villain’s driving force and key motivation in the last issue of that villain’s storyarc?  Why did Rucka deprive Cutter of his most unique characteristic and association until now?  Either way, it was clearly a mistake as the issue’s final moments, and this arc in general, would’ve felt much more significant had this character been introduced earlier.

The finale was also completely underwhelming, as the action scenes were really nothing special and felt like another day at the office of superhero comics.  Batman and Batwoman land a few punches on their respective antagonists and that’s that, arc’s over.  Ending an arc with a standard brawl is bad, and ending it so briefly, without anything particularly distinctiion, is even worse, especially given how that same plan didn’t work last month.  It’s horribly anti-climactic.

I also have to say that Kolins, when he takes over on art, draws a really weird looking Batman.

Conclusion: A surprising mediocre and insubstantial read.  A lot of moodiness and nice art, but little else.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans

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