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Batwoman #17 – Review

BATWOMAN #17

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

The Story: What’s a mother to do when her daughter’s got a heart of stone?

The Review: I don’t often respond directly to the opinions of my fellow comic book reviewers, but I have to protest the comments of Aaron Duran in his assessment of this month’s Batwoman.  Maybe it’s the truncated nature of Newsarama’s Best Shots Rapid Reviews, but I just didn’t feel his gripes with the issue justified giving it a 5 (out of 10) rating.  While he had some valid criticisms, they overlooked a lot of the issue’s key strengths.

It’s true that the defeat of Medusa comes across a little anti-climactic, given how much time has been spent building her up as a villain, only for her to be brought down by a trick out of Greek Hero 101.  Seriously, if a reflection is all it takes to vanquish her, then wouldn’t she have perished by accident a while ago?  But while this particular resolution is a little lame, the rest of the arc wraps up in an appropriate, satisfying fashion.

For one thing, it makes perfect sense that once Medusa goes down, her army of monsters would fade away with her, since it was her own ancient powers of belief that fueled this doomsday vision.  It also makes sense that without Medusa’s vengeful thoughts running the show, the Mother of all Monsters would be reduced to what she truly is: a tragic figure, like so many from Greek myth, a woman who mourns her beloved, monstrous children even after they wronged her.

In a nice counterpoint to the unsettling death of Pegasus in #14, Wonder Woman once again extends a hand of mercy to a fellow immortal, only this time it doesn’t involve a beheading.  While it’s entirely in keeping with her character that Diana would respond to Ceto with tenderness instead of violence, the moment would’ve been that much stronger had it not taken Batwoman’s intercession to get her partner to that point.

We also get the inevitable, triumphant comeback of Bette Kane, who takes on a new moniker, Hawkfire,* as she puts down the villain who did the same to her.  Though she defeats the Hook mostly by virtue of the expensive new gadgets from Uncle Jake (and relies on the same move Kate pulled on Shard in the first Batwoman #0), she definitely took a risk to do so.  While I feel her reconciliation with Kate probably could’ve used another page or so to fully land, once she saves Kate’s back, Kate has little choice but to accept her cousin’s vigilante aspirations, right?

Once again, Blackman-Williams demonstrate tremendous respect for every character on this series by offering resolutions to even the ones on the fringes.  For example, Abbot has been little more than an infrequently recurring figure in this series, but you still get an important glimpse into his motivations before he fades out for good.  And certainly the reappearance of Sune, after her bizarre departure in #10, is something of a surprise.  But it’s the final two pages, bearing one shocking reveal and one shocking revelation (“You have our sister’s eyes.”  Notice: “our”.), that really shows off the writers’ long-term storytelling.

You’ll notice that I haven’t spoken much about Kate’s now-trending proposal to Maggie at the end of the issue.  That’s because I happen to feel that, as spectacular a moment as it is, the timing doesn’t feel quite right.  Maggie and Kate have come a long way in their relationship in the last year and a half, but the fact is it has only been a year and a half and even less in the context of the series.  Marriage now just seems more like a play for attention than genuine rightness.

As always, Williams maintains high marks for the title by his art alone.  I’m of the mind that it takes at least a decent story to let even the very best art look its best, but with Williams, I do think that he can turn even a mediocre story into something you could look over again and again.  He makes artistic choices no one else does; who else would put the marriage proposal in a playground, drenched in fog, swept with dead leaves—and still look romantic and beautiful?  That has a lot to do with Stewart’s equally brilliant colors, giving spectrum and depth even to fog and smoke.

Conclusion: I still consider this to be one of the most consistently well-told series on the stands right now, where even when it’s not as good as it can be, it’s still very good.

Grade: B+

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Not sure how I feel about the new name.  I still think Flamebird has a cooler ring to it, but Hawkfire works okay.

- Anyone notice that this issue was basically all women, hero and villain, in all the principal parts?  Of course, that won’t get any press, but a marriage proposal will.  Figures.

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