By: Marc Andreyko (story), Trevor McCarthy, Andrea Mutti, Pat Olliffe, Jim Fern (art), Jay Leisten & Tom Nguyen (inks), Guy Major (colors)
The Story: Forget the wrath of Mother Nature; there are common criminals to worry about!
The Review: DC’s handling of this title has been so erratic that I didn’t even know that #24 was J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s final one until I saw the credits on this issue. I could have sworn they had at least another issue before departing, but I guess DC was eager to tie Batwoman into all the Zero Year craziness, and Williams-Blackman didn’t feel like being good sports about a crossover given the circumstances of why they left in the first place.
That’s all to say that Andreyko couldn’t have started his run on this series under worse circumstances. Not only is he coming in while tensions over his predecessors’ departure are still simmering, he has to simultaneously deal with the inconclusive arc left in their wake as well as a tie-in to another storyline altogether. In this situation, Andreyko is kind of like the hapless stepparent who joins a family that just went through a hideous divorce, leaving the household in debt and forcing them to move. Unhappiness is nearly guaranteed.
Andreyko might have been able to get by had he not gotten wrapped up in the snare of Zero Year. The problem this crossover presents to Batwoman in particular is that she’s already had a couple “zero” issues, both within the last three years. There’s only so much material you can get out of a superhero’s origin story, and here it becomes clear that Andreyko is starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel, patching together the dregs to create a barely coherent story.
He starts off on the wrong foot almost immediately by failing to come up with an adequate reason for Kate to be in Gotham during the events of Zero Year. The chosen excuse is to attend her Uncle Phil’s funeral, but given we never learn anything about this Phil other than his name,* we can hardly be expected to care. Kate’s moroseness at his death is terribly unconvincing as Andreyko doesn’t bother to define their relationship beyond merely one of blood.
Yet Andreyko spends an inordinate amount of time developing a blood relationship between characters who don’t need it. I rarely take issue with a writer’s storytelling choices unless they’re executed poorly, and this time, I protest Andreyko’s decision to make the Kanes and Waynes relatives as unnecessary, confusing, and possibly damaging to Kate’s character. Part of her appeal was her independence from the Bat-family proper, and her reliance on her own family of supporting characters. To create this link between her and Bruce diminishes her individuality and begs the question as to how neither of them caught on to the other’s game earlier.
It baffles me how Andreyko believes this would be an improvement on Kate and Bruce’s previous relationship. Their encounter at a family wake for the aforementioned Phil is hardly any more profound or engaging than when they were just social acquaintances. “Your parents, my mom and Elizabeth, now Uncle Phil…do you ever wonder if there’s a curse on our family?” Kate asks.
“Murder isn’t a curse, Kate. It’s a terrible crime. And a terrible justice must be served upon its perpetrators.”**
This trite exchange is a good sample of the blandness infecting the rest of the issue: Alfred’s strange fawning over Kate (“I’m quite sure what you consider ‘okay,’ most people would consider ‘exceptional.’”), the utterly heatless meet-cute between Maggie and Kate, Kate’s somewhat ludicrous decision to speed out into the hurricane battering Gotham to fight crime and the similarly ridiculous burglars she ultimately defeats.
With a small passel of artists taking turns on the issue, there’s little chance of any visual redemption where the script falters. Although Mutti, Olliffe, and Fern strive to emulate McCarthy’s sharp and agile figures, the differences are very noticeable and often in their disfavor, at times chunky and emotionless, at other times thin and common, and at still other times loose and messy. Even McCarthy doesn’t seem like he has his heart in it when he takes over; without Williams to spur him on, McCarthy puts out only his most conventional work, with none of the storytelling creativity he displayed before.
Conclusion: A strange, pointless, and discouraging read in almost every way. Taken together with the uncomfortable creative changes on this series, this should be a red flag to escape before things get worse. Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * And Lord, isn’t that the most generic name you can come up with for a totally pointless character? Phil is a name that only belongs with rarely-seen uncles.
** If Bruce is hoping to perpetuate a playboy image to cover up for his true life’s mission, then he’s doing a terrible job, spouting off lines like that to members of the military. Also—“I guess I tend to prefer the shadows.” I mean, really?
– And the award for Most Ridiculous Use of the Obvious in a Dialogue goes to a nameless jewel thief and Kate:
“What the–?! You’re supposed to be dead! I shot you!”
“I know! And you know what–? It hurts!”