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

The Story: Kate demonstrates she’s not exactly girlfriend material.

The Review: A black friend of mine once told me that to make it in this world, “you can’t work as hard as a white man; you have to work harder.”  A dim outlook, but one no less wise for it.  I think the same philosophy applies to women as well, perhaps even more so, and perhaps especially to women in the superhero business.  One of the long-running, subtle themes of this series is Batwoman’s struggle to craft a heroic identity beyond “the female Batman.”

The first step in that struggle involves her lack of resources.  Though independently wealthy, she doesn’t have the technological connections and inventiveness to be as well-equipped as the Dark Knight.  Working for the D.E.O. has clearly caught her up some.  Here, she gets to put her voice-controlled throwing dart (with the bit of alien A.I. inside) to use against Medusa’s monster minions.  As cool as the dart’s versatility is, it takes away from Batwoman’s abilities to a certain extent as it takes down all her enemies for her, all in a row.

Still, considering she’s outnumbered by supernatural foes, the extra help is warranted.  Besides, she proves her chops later in the issue (but earlier in the story) by singlehandedly executing a breakout at sea, clearing two boats full of GCPD cops, including her girlfriend, in the process.  The scene plays out yet another complication in Batwoman’s life: the overlap between her civilian identity and her night job.  Batman’s had a long time to separate his personas, but now that Kate’s dating Batwoman’s direct competition, such divisions don’t seem feasible now.

At any rate, the distinction between Kate and Batwoman isn’t all that profound, anyway.  Unlike the night-and-day difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman, Kate is only a slightly more relaxed version of Batwoman, something even the blasé Chase notices.  If there’s one part of her personality she can’t squelch, even in costume, it’s her emotional defensiveness.  When Chase implies that Kate and Maggie’s break-up is near, Kate’s protests reek of denial: “We’re not breaking up!  We’re both working a case!”  True, but she seems to overlook the fact that Maggie doesn’t know she’s also working a case, so her absence would be that much more inexplicable.

At some point, we need to know who this Rush fellow is and why he figures so prominently in this story arc. Last issue he claimed Batwoman promised to protect him, from which we quite naturally assumed he was an innocent who had the bad luck to get mixed up with Medusa.  Maro reveals, however, that placing the sentient hook (the Ashoth) with Rush was not a random choice: “You…are just what the Ashoth desires…  And through the Ashoth, you shall be set free.  To indulge your grimmest fantasies.”  So Rush’s horrible transformation feels less like misfortune, and more like karma—destiny, even.

Reeder again displays that lovely fluidity that’s so idiosyncratic to her style, one which plays up the feminine qualities of this title more than any other artist possibly can.  Her paneling, especially in the sequence where Batwoman takes down every GCPD cop on a boat, has grown more creative and dynamic, adjusting to the fleeting action of the series.  The only real criticism you can make about her work is the emotional depth doesn’t quite come close to what it was under Williams’ hand.  The issue by no means lacks emotion, but it doesn’t feel as nuanced nor complex as the script intends it to be.

Conclusion: Each plotline proceeds smoothly, allowing the big picture of the story arc to come into focus. Batwoman has become an incredibly dependable title for getting a balanced dose of action, character work, intrigue, and the supernatural.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  Excellent words to live by.

– Williams, Blackman, or letterer Todd Klein, you might want to know that it makes no sense that “Maggie’s Story” (during which Batwoman arrives to break out Sune) takes place a day before “Chase’s Story,” when Batwoman delivers Sune to the D.E.O.