BATWOMAN #20

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

The Story: If you start thinking you can take the Batman alone, you need an intervention.

The Review: My favorite thing about this title is its willingness to allow all its characters to have a voice in the story, to make decisions and have a life that isn’t dictated by Batwoman’s actions.  That’s not to say the series doesn’t take on an additional burden with that.  The more rounded and independent characters you have, the more attention and development they demand.  By taking on a life of their own, they can shift the story in ways the writer didn’t intend.

While Williams-Blackman obviously have an interest in explaining how the D.E.O. came by Batwoman’s sister in the first place, I’m not sure that merited a six-page long, somewhat rambling narrative from Chase.  It really opens up more mysteries than it closes, as we don’t know how the Religion of Crime got their hands on Beth or even how she was revived.  Bones admits that where the sarcophagus in which she was found is concerned, “Hell, we still can’t figure out if it’s magic, or alien tech, or something else entirely.”

That’s fine; we don’t need all the answers right now.  But six pages just to establish that the D.E.O. found Beth by pure luck?  I suspect Williams-Blackman did this simply to inject some kind of action into a mostly dramatic issue.  But we don’t read Batwoman to see D.E.O. agents getting into messes way over their head, and Chase’s angst about the incident (“So why didn’t I die that night, too?”) doesn’t lead anywhere, either for her character or the story.

The wiser course of action might have been to cut all that extraneous material out and give more time to Kate’s actual reunion with Beth.  The scene is tastefully done—no gushing joy or ominous silences or weepy shows of grief here—and in a subtle way emphasizes the special relationship that exists between twin siblings.  Kate doesn’t need to test or interrogate Beth to know she’s the real deal; a quiet exchange of “Hi” and she knows that’s her birthmate sitting there before her.  Williams-Blackman underplay the moment a bit too much, however, giving us not enough time to really get a sense of the dynamic between the sisters.

So the D.E.O. has a new way of manipulating Kate—they can’t really strong-arm her any other way, given how quickly she takes down Chase, Asaf, and Bones during one tense moment in the issue—but that leaves us with two big questions.  First, can the D.E.O. really be trusted to fulfill Kate’s demands if she does manage to get them what they want?  “We can fix [Beth],” they tell her, but considering Bones flat-out admitted they still have no idea how she was revived, they may be overpromising here.  Second, what is Beth’s state of mind right now?  She’s shown these brief moments of lucidity, but she does switch back to Alice-speak in an ominous way: “Now, I can do no more, whatever happens.  What will become of me?”

I suppose there’s a third question as well: can Batwoman actually succeed in uncovering her male counterpart?  I don’t care what resources she gets from the D.E.O. or that she now has her entire family behind her, and I don’t care what kind of friends her dad plans to bring in (the ones referenced as Kate’s mentors and trainers in #0); the goddamn Batman is the goddamn Batman, with all the force and formidability that implies.  It’d be a great achievement for Kate if she manages it, but either way, Williams-Blackman have now knitted her supporting cast together into a cohesive unit, which will make storytelling a lot easier from now on.

McCarthy has already proven the extent of his talent on this title, so that’s pretty much settled.  On this issue, he does, however, show that there are areas where he can still improve.  There’s a lot of emotion going on here, and there are certain moments where the characters seem too neutral to what’s going on.  Maggie and Kate in particular seem too stone-faced, even when their words are heated and confrontational.  It doesn’t quite make sense to me that Colonel Kane would watery-eyed at the mention of Beth, while Kate’s remain dry.

Conclusion: Another strong showing as always, although Williams-Blackman make the mistake of letting one character go off on a tangent for way too long for too little benefit.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Are we ever going to get a payoff for Bones’ relationship to Kate?  I am just dying to see how that affects the semi-reconciliation she has with her dad here.

Grade

Conclusion