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Batwoman #23 – Review

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

The Story: Apparently, to Batwoman, love is night sweats and terrifying fever dreams.

The Review: There are a lot of contradictions wrapped up in the Bat-family, but the one that perhaps fascinates me the most is despite their airs of being the most straight-to-the-ass-kicking vigilantes in the DCU, they’re also the ones with the biggest dramatic streaks.  The fact they responded to tragedy by dressing up like bats should tip you off already, but you might still be surprised how often you see them acting like the master thespian.

Even Kate, with all her military upbringing and top-class training, is susceptible to a bit of melodrama on the right occasion—and it has to be the right one, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to take her seriously at all.  Demonstrating her commitment to Maggie by injecting herself with Fear Toxin has got to count.  It’s a big, soap opera moment, with Maggie helplessly stretching out a hand, protesting, “Kate!  No!” while her lover swoons, muttering in martyred fashion, “Now I’ll know what you went through, Mags…”  But hey—comics!

You might question the wisdom of putting yourself under eighteen hours before a fight with the big Bat himself, but more than physical strength, Kate needs all the emotional security she can get to press her advantage against her counterpart.  Making sure she has a trusting marriage waiting for her can only give her greater motivation, and there can be no sweeter sendoff than having your fiancée ask you to re-propose so she can say yes again.  In true police veteran fashion, Maggie lays out the bright lines of her devotion to Kate, and once she knows Kate can fit in, she doesn’t need to take her interrogation any further.

There’s not much to say about Kate’s nightmares; they cover all the subjects you pretty much expect (e.g. Beth, her dad, Batman, etc.) and provide no new insight into her character.  What the Fear Toxin does do is leave Kate indisposed long enough so you can see what the other members of the cast are up to on the eve before the big showdown with Batman/jailbreak of Beth from the D.E.O.  It’s just another example of Williams-Blackman looking beyond their star to flesh out the story.

Thus we arrive at Bette and the Murder of Crows giving Agent Asaf the onceover as they try to discover Beth’s exact location.  This is good storytelling in several respects: it covers a necessary logistical step in the Kane family’s master operation, it puts an underutilized featured player to good use, and you get some solid character development out of it as well.  Asaf proves a tough nut to crack (which I appreciate, given how government agents in the superhero genre often come across as all hot air and no muscle), and ultimately, he buckles not from physical pressure but by an appeal to his ego.

The one defect with this scene is how straightforwardly Bette takes her knowledge of Asaf to convince him to betray his employers.  It’s yet another glory moment in a long string of glory moments for Kate’s former sidekick, all a part of Williams-Blackman’s unceasing campaign to convince you to take Bette seriously.  Giving her easy wins on something that should require more struggle, however, is kind of overkill.  Had we seen some kind of tension between Asaf and Bones or Chase before now, his quick turn to treachery would be more convincing.

Delusions or visions of any kind always give artists a chance to get creative, and the ones involving fear usually produce the most powerful results.  McCarthy strikes a good balance between metaphor and literalism in his depiction of Kate’s terrors, resulting in some fairly disturbing images: Batman emerging from Bones’ gaping maw, only for Colonel Kane to climb out of the Dark Knight into the clutch of Beth’s massive hand, after which she proceeds to tear off his face, revealing Bones’ underneath.  Grisly stuff, and so hauntingly painted in deathly whites and reds by Major.

Conclusion: Can we just get on to the big showdown already?  Williams-Blackman are clearly stalling, even if they do manage to deliver another engaging issue with terrific McCarthy art.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Isn’t it a tad stupid, though, for the Murder of Crows to just show their faces to Asaf, even under the distraction of torture?  A little prudence goes a long way, guys.

- I am still positively aching to know more about Bones’ connection to the Kane family.  Yet another reason why I want the story to accelerate as soon as possible.

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