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

The Story: From woman to man to dog—the devolution of Maro.

The Review: At one point in this issue, Maggie remarks, with total affection, “Oh, Kate…you never do anything half-assed, do you?”  And while this is trademark Bat-family behavior, for Kate this seems especially true.  She has a persistence that slides well into stubbornness.  She may be resistant to change, but once she decides to, she doesn’t transition into it like most of us; she goes for it heart, mind, body, and soul.

Take this case of Gotham’s disappearing children, which Batwoman has investigated since nearly a year ago.  With each arc, the opposition gets only more formidable and the stakes bigger, yet she’s clearly committed to seeing this mystery through to the very end—whenever that may be.  Just when you thought her underground confrontation with Maro and four supernatural minions would top everything off, you learn there’s a greater battle yet to come.

The worst part is the people Batwoman fights for may not want her help.  Both Falchion and Maro have referred to a “Mother” as the motivation for their actions, but we still know nearly nothing about her.  The final page gives us a couple clues: Maro calls her by a name, Mitera; her form is not completely human; and despite her presumably creepy appearance and nature, she holds all eerily in her sway.  Seemingly forgetting their ordeal entirely, the kidnapped kids look at her with adoration, an infant stretching its arms out for her and calling her, “Ma.”

If Batwoman now has to rescue a whole gang of children enthralled by some monstrous matron, she has herself partially to blame.  By sticking so rigidly to her principles, she prevents Chase from stopping Maro in his tracks—not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but her method seems impulsive and excessive, creating far more complications than the situation merited.  So what we see here is a pattern of gut behavior which Kate acts out in full, with little regard to the big picture, and often leading to even worse problems.

We have no more graphic reminder of this than Bette’s coma.  Yes, Bette’s own wholehearted impulses brought her there, but it was Kate who left her vulnerable.  Colonel Kane sees this more clearly than his daughter, and he offers Bette the only thing that could possibly appeal to her subconscious enough to save her, though it’s the same thing which led her towards death in the first place.  It’s a pretty cool twist on an otherwise sentimental, somewhat cheesy scene.

McCarthy shows a bit of slippage here, but that could very well be Perez’s contribution to the issue, considering the two artists have completely different styles.  You can see a wavering hesitance to the linework on Maro’s face in the opening which McCarthy would usually never allow to get away from him.  Overall, however, the issue looks as slick and stylish as it ever has, though it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that no one can really touch Williams on depicting the otherworldly and supernatural in such a convincingly urban manner.

Conclusion: With another rock-solid arc to its name, Batwoman retains its position as one of DC’s strongest titles, offering first-class art, emotional and entertaining scripts, and simply a distinctive flavor of superhero all its own.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – By the way, I’m pretty sure that unless Bette’s brain patterns completely flatline, it would be both legally and morally reprehensible to cut off life support.

– Sawyer and Chase know each other, eh?  That’ll make for an awkward scene should they and Kate all get in the same room together.