By: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman (writers), Amy Reeder (penciller), Rob Hunter & Richard Friend (inkers), Guy Major (colorist)

The Review: Talk up any comics enthusiast, and one of the first things out of their mouths will be something along the lines of how unique comic books are for storytelling.  You hear less about their painful limitations.  I don’t know about you, but the most frustrating restriction on comics, in my mind, is their painful shortness.  Many writers have made the most of the pages they get, but by and large, I find myself wishing there was a little more substance in my hands.

That was the prevailing feeling I got reading this issue.  You shouldn’t take that to mean Williams-Blackman skimped on the story in any way.  After all, it’s fairly ambitious of them to not only play around with a number of different character perspectives in the story, but also to set each vignette at a different time.  All told, you get six mini-tales, each standing on their own, and each with enough drama to support half an issue on its own.

This fragmented structure can easily get confusing, but Williams-Blackman do two things to keep things moving smoothly and clearly.  First, they bookend the issue with the central action, Batwoman facing down the kid-thieving Medusa, which lays down some context for each of the different stories we get here.  Second, while each scene has only faint connections to the others, they have enough common ground to deliver a unified story overall.  Think of it as a mosaic, each scene piecing together to form a bigger picture of where this series plans to go next.

Even so, some scenes work out better than others.  I especially liked the sentimental and awkward exchange between Colonel Kane and Bette Kane, who’s still comatose from her run-in with Hook-Man in #4.  Not only do their share blood, but both have been abandoned by Kate, and both are, at the moment, experiencing the loneliest moments of their lives.  Particularly touching is the colonel reading aloud an Ian Fleming novel, which “[Kate] always liked,” telling you all you need to know about where the ex-soldier’s heart and thoughts really are.

Most important is our introduction to Maro, the woman (I’m assuming—a slight androgyny to her appearance makes her exact gender a bit dicey to pin down) responsible for creating the Weeping Woman.  We don’t get much insight into her long-term goals, but her ability to make fancies come to life will prove formidable to Batwoman down the line, and her Zen attitude toward child-murder is quite disturbing—a worthy foe for our heroine.

Maggie and Cameron Chase’s parts in the issue come across less powerful, but also interesting.  For better or worse, these will be the primary women in Kate’s life, each exerting her own particular influence on the redhead, yet sharing some significant qualities.  It should be no surprise that both Maggie and Chase are strong women in their own rights, and neither brooks Kate’s occasionally petty behavior.  In time, however, we’ll need to see more of their emotional background, if we’re to take them as seriously as we do Kate.

I was a big fan of Matt Wagner’s Madame Xanadu on Vertigo, and much of that had to do with Reeder’s highly distinctive style of art.  However, Williams has crafted a very distinctive look for this title, not to mention a very high artistic bar, so whoever has to follow him will necessarily have a lot to live up to.  Reeder is admittedly not as diverse as Williams, but her free-flowing, organic aesthetic, along with a flair for drama and detail (see the fishheads littering the alleyway where Chase and Batwoman confront some thugs) is very effective all the same.

Conclusion: Very much a prelude issue, complicated by a somewhat complex structure and an artistic readjustment.  In the end, though, the series feels quite as solid as it ever was.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Love that Colonel Kane reads from You Only Live Twice, considering the Japanese elements of the issue, and the theme of redeeming oneself after the crash from a terrible trauma.