BATWOMAN #15

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

The Story: It’s rough to be a mortal cop in the midst of a mythic crisis.

The Review: If there’s one area where superhero comics as a genre still lags, it’s in the treatment of supporting characters.  Any prose writer worth his salt knows that when these characters get motivations and plotlines all their own, they make the world of a story even richer.  After all, everyone in the real world is the hero of their own story; fiction should at least try to reflect that, even if happens to feature one star.

And sure, I get why most writers might shy away from that kind of work.  If you have a series titled Superman, readers pick up an issue expecting to see the Man of Steel.  But that to me seems a simple failure of making Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Cat, and the rest of the gang interesting characters in their own right.  Give the support cast half the respect you give your star, and the possibilities for compelling stories suddenly multiply exponentially.

Williams-Blackman have invested quite a bit of time in making Maggie Sawyer a prominent member of this title.  Incredibly, she has a whole life that Kate really isn’t a part of, relationships Kate has nothing to do with.  She alone has dealt with the parents suffering from the loss of their children, and we’ve seen those interactions grow over the course of this series.  It all culminates in one of several emotional climaxes in this issue, a standoff with the desperate Isabella, where Kate gives the most impassioned, convincing plea for reason she can possibly pull off:

“…if you get killed, what will happen to them?  Where will they go?  Who will take care of them?  Foster homes?  The street?  The church?”

The brilliance of that speech is not only in its internal logic, but how it builds on Maggie’s personal history.  Williams-Blackman have not been shy about confronting—let’s not say controversial, but complicated social issues on this title, and here we get the ultimate cocktail of religion, prejudice, and family.  To discuss the strength of Williams-Blackman’s execution of this story would require more space than this review allots (a “problem” I run into frequently on this title), but suffice to say, they handle Maggie’s life with great dignity and detail.

Although writers from both sides of the Big Two come in all shapes and sizes, I have noticed a general difference between them.  Marvel writers tend to focus on the action, revealing plot and character through what’s going on panel to panel; DC writers love to narrate, giving you insight into background details and the characters’ minds.  Although plenty of DC writers tend to just blather, Williams-Blackman deliver a gripping, elegant narrative that wouldn’t sound out of place in a decent novel: “Cameron Chase is a novel, ripped right down the spine.  Only ever telling me half the story.”

There’s every danger that McCarthy would pale beside the stature of Williams’ unassailable style and innovation.  Fortunately, Williams only takes the bookend pages, leaving McCarthy to render the bulk of the issue with his sleek, pop-art style of linework.  Here, his art has far more sophistication than the stuff he gave us in Batman: Gates of Gotham.  Characters look fully fleshed and properly pulpy, and the action goes beyond mere streaks of movement, packing quite a punch.  Stewart and Major attend to their respective artists’ figures with bright, lively colors, making them even more eye-catching.

Conclusion: It’s a risk spending so much time developing a character who’s not the star of the show, but for Williams-Blackman it pays off beautifully.  Maggie Sawyer might not become a supporting character in the popularity league of Lois Lane or Aunt May, but she proves to be just as fascinating a figure as her more famous girlfriend.

Grade: A

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – We all suspected a past between Chase and Maggie, but Maggie confirms it with a single, quiet word (“Please.”) and Chase reaffirms it by giving in.

– Is Maggie a Southerner?  “Locusts from Texas tall grass…”  A deeply driven Roman Catholic background…

Grade

Conclusion