BATWOMAN #21

By: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman (story), Francesco Francavilla (art)

The Story: What does a Croc need to do to get some respect in this city?

The Review: Williams-Blackman gave us a pretty great send-off last month, what with Batwoman and Co. deciding the time had come to bring in the goddam Batman themselves and getting us pumped for a big, juicy Bat-fight.  Then, all of a sudden, Williams-Blackman decide to throw this “Interlude” at us instead, one featuring Killer Croc of all characters.  Given the fact that he has nothing to do with the arc at hand, this is a bizarre, untimely sort of choice.

Setting aside how this makes almost no sense, the issue itself does succeed in getting you invested in the heart, mind, and soul of Waylon Jones.  I have a distaste for the brawler-type criminals in comics.  They always seem to carry their muscle-headed approach to fighting over to their lives as well, and come across as rather moronic for it.  But Croc declares early on, “I know I ain’t smart, but I ain’t stupid, neither,” and spends the rest of the issue proving it.

I should say that Williams-Blackman don’t completely reinvent the wheel, here.  Croc doesn’t suddenly become Ozymandias-type mastermind and in fact mostly retains his straightforward style of operations; an ambush (literally from the bushes) is about as sophisticated as his planning gets.  Even so, there’s a clarity to his perception that definitely sets apart this Croc from those of the past.  It goes beyond self-awareness in the moment (“Time for a rematch, Bat-bitch!” he screams, at the same time thinking, “Sometimes I hate the crap that comes outta my mouth…”), though this is a big step up for him already.  He now seems capable of seeing himself from a broader viewpoint, gaining valuable insight as he connects his past to his present.

This kind of reflection affords us a deeper look into Croc’s interior, from his obviously troubled childhood to his musings as a villain in a superhero’s world (“I’m always getting’ to the big game and never touchin’ the trophy.  Always on the losin’ team.”) to the difficulties and joy of finding love as a lizard-man.  We also explore the trauma and lingering side-effects from his transformation into the Hydra, which is valuable because Croc was largely used as a handy tool during the Medusa arc.  Perhaps most importantly, we get glimpses into his future as a messianic leader to the were-beasts left rudderless in the wake of Abbot’s death, which is a major promotion from sewer mutant Batman beats up from time to time.

Lest you think Williams-Blackman wrote this otherwise solid issue on a whim, we do get a scene which reveals why this interlude appears where and when it does.  As Croc attempts to get the jump on Batwoman, he finds himself stymied not only by his opponent’s resilience, but by her assistance as well.  In a terrific display of Gotham’s finest, Maggie doesn’t shy away from battle, but jumps right in to cover her fiancée’s back, soon joined by Hawkfire.  It makes Croc realize, “Batwoman has allies, friends, family.  If I kill her, there’s gonna be a reckoning.”  It should make us realize that right now, Batwoman’s gang is a lot more tight-knit and committed than Batman’s is at the moment, and that might be enough of an edge when they make their move.

Getting Francavilla to draw this issue just boosts the street cred of the issue that much more.  The Bat-family of titles has always been the most grounded (relatively) of DC’s superhero works.  Combined with Batwoman’s supernatural edge, and Francavilla has found a book most suited for his tastes.  He downplays Killer Croc’s usually campy flavor in favor of a more urban legend look, and somehow finds the beauty in the unlikeliest places, whether it be Gotham itself or the union of two scaly, half-human freaks.

Conclusion: It would be a more perfect issue had this interlude not come so unexpectedly, but there’s no doubt that Killer Croc ends up in a much, much better position as a character than where he started, and that’s as much as you can ask for.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I don’t quite understand why the were-beasts need to take revenge against Batwoman.  Clearly, by Abbott’s death by stoning, it was Medusa who actually killed him.

Grade

Conclusion