By: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman (story), Trevor McCarthy (art), Guy Major (colors)

The Story: Sometimes people are so close, it’s like they share one body.  Sometimes they actually do.

The Review: This fragmented approach to storytelling that Williams-Blackman have taken on has been an interesting experiment, and a pretty successful one.  Keeping six different plotlines running at the same time in each issue and somehow delivering a coherent, unified read is no easy feat, so in that respect alone, Williams-Blackman have been wildly effective.  But up until now, there didn’t seem to be any reason to write the arc this way except for sheer novelty.

Now, however, with each plotline running closer to each other in time, all coalescing into the “Now” of the present story, you can see how each informs and plays off the others.  Imagine one of those photo-mosaics, where you have scads and scads of little pictures, each with a distinctive subject of its own, yet all coming together to form a single, focal image.  We’ve been too close to the individual pictures, and only now do we step back and see what we’re really looking at.

I know there’s a lot of excitement over the twists in Batman nowadays, but I’d say the last page in Batwoman counts as one of the better ones as well.  All along, we’ve seen Maro play a major part in this arc; heck, he even has his own featured chapter in each issue.  Yet somehow we managed to overlook his absence in the final battle, so when he does appear and reveals his role in all this, we still rear back in surprise.  And we haven’t even gotten to all the questions begging to be asked, specifically in the exact nature of his connection to Sune.

The only real downside is Maro’s rise seals Falchion’s fate as a forgettable villain.  Besides a brief tête-à-tête with Maggie in #9, we have learned nothing about his history, strengths, or motivations, which seems a waste.  On the other hand, Maro has become massively compelling as an antagonist, claiming responsibility for the creation of so many monsters of myth, reinforcing a cycle of superstition and old wives’ tales which only make his special abilities stronger.  He emphasizes that behind every myth, there’s always a dark reality: “The Babylonian Brotherhoood named it the Star Fire.  To the Sumerians, it was the gold of the gods.  In India, it was called soma.  And ambrosia in Greece.  To you?  It’s blood from a virgin.”

On lesser scale, the other featured characters gain new dimension in this issue.  In five short lines, just one-half of a brief phone conversation, we learn the exact reasons for Maggie’s obsessive pursuit of Gotham’s missing children and gain a major insight into her past, which is an impressive feat of storytelling economy, to say the least.  We get a confessional monologue from Colonel Kane that is at once moving and powerful, but never preachy.  And then you have a powerful, totally restrained moment showing Chase’s compassionate side, a glimpse into a humanity she usually keeps concealed.

I’ve admired McCarthy’s work on other projects, but I always viewed him as a purely action-oriented, kinetic artist.  Entrusted with a demanding script, McCarthy not only rises to the challenge, but surpasses himself, demonstrating enormous range.  His stylish paneling are exactly what Williams would’ve wanted, outrageously beautiful yet completely sensible.  His linework is simple but secure, clean but nonetheless detailed.  He is capable of more subtlety than you’d ever expect, like his depiction of Chase in her chapter.  As she crouches over a fatally wounded D.E.O agent, she may be in body armor, but her posture and body language is more like a nurse looking patiently over her charge

Conclusion: If you need any evidence that Batwoman has every capability to be the equal of its more famous counterpart, look to this issue.  It may not be as wildly ambitious in its abstract concepts, but its more grounded tone, if anything, resonates with you eve more.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Who’d have ever thought you’d be surprised to discover a comic book character wasn’t a lesbian?  Certainly some kind of accomplishment, right?