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

The Story: Don’t be too hard on him, Kate—everyone needs a hook to get by in this world.

The Review: Last issue marked something of a turning point for this title.  The first story arc, appropriately enough, focused entirely on delivering a knockout tale that would get you to fall in love with its tone, its sophistication, and its star—check, check, and check.  Now that you’re hooked, it’s time to expand the scope of the series and get you to sympathize with its world and supporting cast.

With that in mind, Williams-Blackman’s “six story” format works very well, especially in this issue, now that most of the light setup is out of the way and they can really focus on knitting the various perspectives together.  It’s clear that a lot of thought went into deciding which scenes go where, as despite the lack of chronological order, you can still see the plot develop in a fairly clear fashion.

The best example starts in Kate’s story, where she encounters Abbott (a werebeast from the Religion of Crime), who worries Medusa might “run us out of Gotham.”  We cut to Maro, and see Killer Croc complain that the occultist promised to make me big time…to give me the juice I need to eat Gotham alive.”  Both these scenes intersect in the following chapter from Maggie’s POV, where we see Croc, now buffed out and feral, tearing into various werebeasts.  A Medusa agent soon after states, “…the Gator’s gut is full of acolytes and Abbott has gone to ground,” proving Abbott’s concerns from earlier.  This is a situation where you can have your cake and eat it too; the story feels lively from the constant cuts, but you can follow along quite easily.

All this is the more plotty sort of stuff, but Williams-Blackman also take the opportunity to do some necessary character work.  So far, they haven’t quite managed to pin down Maggie nor Chase, both having assertive, wry voices which just happen to echo Batwoman’s herself.  It’s a case where we have three strong women, each with strikingly similar backgrounds, so it’ll take some doing to define Chase and Maggie’s personalities and make them more distinguishable.

By far, the most poignant scene comes from Colonel Kane, still trying to bond with his only remaining family, one who’s on life support.  You got to love the contrast between his image as a burly, toughened military man and his bringing a hairbrush to the comatose Bette, reminiscing about how he used to brush his twin girls’ hair with it when they (and he) were younger.  It’s quite emotional hearing him speak with such obvious love for his daughters, especially Beth, whom we know so little about prior to her going to Crazy Town.  A rare taste of bittersweet in a mostly rough-and-tumble title.

The news of Reeder’s split is well-known by now, and no doubt much commentary made of it, so there’s no use in me putting my two cents in.  I can only say that Williams brought such a high bar of excellence to the art on this series that choosing Reeder to follow him was something of an honor, an indirect testimonial to her artistic caliber.  Not only does this sudden departure take away from that achievement, it also means yet another DC title has lost a critical female creator, which it can ill afford, considering the controversy they’ve stirred on that very point.

If creative differences were really involved in this breakup, I can see what those differences might have boiled down to.  Reeder’s light, fluid style doesn’t have nearly the gritty realism Williams established.  It’s also true she doesn’t achieve the emotional subtlety of Williams’ work either.  Still, she has an appeal that works well for this title, or at least this story arc; it’s less static and feels swifter, and she has a bit of cuteness that works very well in the domestic scenes, like Maggie and Kate’s sushi date.

Conclusion: Somewhat less suspenseful than the opening arc, but just as focused and driven in telling a good story. Batwoman continues to impress, remaining a solid performer in DC’s line of titles.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – For my money, the D.E.O. has by far the coolest doo-dads of any secret agency in the DCU—though Stormwatch’s sentient space station is pretty neat.  Chase hands Kate what appears to be a purple arrowhead: “It’s a throwing dart.  Made out of a slice of sentient tech.  It’s self-propelled, responds to voice commands, and even has a splash of classified alien A.I., making it smarter than half the people in this room.”

– Incidentally, when Chase made that last line, she and Kate were alone.  Oh, Chase—I think I love you a little bit.