Friday, July 3, 2009

I've been going a little BATS lately . . . . .

DETECTIVE COMICS #854 by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III
Bulls-eye!!! Jeff was dead-on target in recommending this book. It's very, very good. It's my favorite of the new Batman spin-off books, right up there just after BATMAN AND ROBIN, which I also admire greatly. What gets your attention immediately is the fabulous art, included with a lot of little nuances that make you appreciate it more. I haven't seen this many jagged and angular panels since Gene Colan's work on early DAREDEVIL books. And artist J.H. Williams III seems to love employing them on the action pages and contrasting with very square, boxy panels on the scenes of dialogue between characters in regular life. Also, the colors by Dave Stewart (a modern master) are breath taking. The predominant use of red and black, highlighted with shades of gray are very effective and help give this book the appropriate tone.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the very first issue in the storied history of DETECTIVE COMICS since his original appearance where Batman was not the featured character. And, at least for now, it looks like he has stepped aside in favor of making this a Batwoman title.
You can always count on a good story when Greg Rucka is responsible. He does a fine job of introducing the main character and rounding out her personality throughout the first issue. This appears to be the same Batwoman that I was first introduced to in the pages of 52. In those issues some mention was made of her sexual/romantic leanings but it just seemed like some window-dressing to get us to take notice of the new Batwoman. In Rucka's capable hands this aspect gets respectfully explored in more detail in a manner that makes it a vital part of her personality rather than just an attention-grabbing device. The break-up scene with her older, mature lover is particularly handled well and is also very revealing. It seems Kate/Batwoman has the same type of problems other heroes face when trying to establish relationshisp in the little bit of extra time not devoted to crime fighting or their day jobs.
I also remember something from 52 about a group of satanic worshippers that were making Batwoman the object of their devotion/attention and almost killed her. It seems that this criminal religious cult has re-surfaced with a new leader who has re-activated 13 covens.
There's a funny aside as Batman is comparing notes with Batwoman and he offers some advice: "Do something about your hair. One pull, the fight's over for you." Several panels later we learn that the long flowing tresses are a wig, and just part of the uniform. (I wonder what would happen if somebody yanked extra hard on Batman's cape?)
During her investigation/pursuit of this cult we are treated to some terrific art and a mind-numbing wash of those colors I mentioned above. (Check out the two-page center spread - - - awesome!) It also seems like Batwoman is quite a kicker and this might be one of her most utilized questioning techniques. (There's a great two-page widescreen panel early in the story where her foot is coming at the reader and we can actually measure the treads on her footwear. (Hey, isn't that a Wolverine brand steel-toed outdoor all-weather boot?)
The major villain when revealed, is a new creation (I think) - - "Alice" and is very evocative of Lewis Carroll, all dressed in white and lace with pasty-face and speaking in white script over black word balloons in a cryptic and archaic manner. Very creepy, she could end up being as relevant to Batwoman as Joker is to Batman. At least Batwoman was smart enough to bring a gun. Keep watching.
The Question back-up feature is also written by Rucka; and I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes this character, a new and different Question (Renee) from the one last seen dying in the pages of 52 and passing the mantle on. (This was one of the storylines in the disappointing 52 series that kept me hanging in there to the end.)
Both stories in this issue featurea male partner/assistnat that seems to do the computer work/background investigation for our two sleuths,. One is apparently Kate/Batwoman's father who also doubles as her physical trainer. Both stories also end with the heroines getting ready for battle. I definitely want to see where these two stories go next.

GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #1 by Paul Dini and Guillem March
This book is way more light-hearted than DETECTIVE, BATMAN AND ROBIN and even STREETS OF GOTHAM, the other new title penned by Paul Dini. It's got funny moments and doesn't take itself too seriously, providing a nice "pause that refreshes" among the current Bat-titles.
Considering the current status fo criminal activity in Gotham in the absence of the original Batman, this trio opts for safety in numbers and strikes up an alliance. I'm not entirely sure that will be enough to keep Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn away from each other's throats over time but it seems to work for now. In fact, it's two against one before the issue ends. (Catwoman gets probed for the identity of Batman.) I'm also not sure how this title is going to play out over time, but I remain optimistic mainly because Dini is in charge and he usually finds a way to keep things entertaining.
The new villain, Bonebreaker, isn't much to get excited about but provides the reason these three get together and lets them show off their fighting skills and fledging teamwork. The artwork is good but it's not going to bring me back to see more of March's work like some other titles have artists that I can't get enough of. However, I was entertained and I'll be back for more. At this point, I think the other Dini title, STREETS OF GOTHAM, is the one to follow. (Previously reviewed in these pages - - thanks, Jeff.)

4 comments:

  1. The Crime Bible Cult/Batwoman stuff was explored further prior to this issue of Detective in the miniseries "The Question: Five Books of Blood" and "Final Crisis: Revelations" (both written by Rucka).

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  2. I missed 'em both. No wonder . . . .

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  3. You don't need to have read either to understand Detective, but they're from Rucka so they are both good.

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  4. Five Books of Blood was incredible. Revelations was also rather good, a nice spiritual aspect to the events of Final Crisis, but it's nowhere near the level of where Five Books of Blood was. You should grab that ASAP.

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