Written by Greg Rucka
Art by J.H. Williams III (Elegy) / Cully Hamner (Pipeline)
With Bruce gone and Dick busy in the new Batman and Robin story, it’s time for the girls to come out and play with a double feature. The headlining story starts Batwoman, while Renee Montoya takes the back-up tale. Both stories are each the first part of on-going story arcs.
In Batwoman’s story, Elergy, she’s chasing down members of the Religion of Crime who have come to Gotham City. She’s still a bit ticked at them from the events of 52, so she may be taking this a bit personally. This is the main story of the book, being on the cover and having over 20 pages dedicated to it.
The story itself is fine, and it’s good for building a character that’s been mostly confined to miniseries and ensemble casts for year-long weekly projects. We get to see Kate’s heroics affect her love life with the usual thinking the hero is slacking off instead of really being the hero she is. Her “night life” also contributes to her relationship with her father, who supplies weapons and helps with going over information. Detective Comics is a good opportunity for the character to grow while it takes a break from Batman, and she’s off to a decent start. It’s not a complete break as a Batman shows up for a report, making Batwoman feel a bit more connected to the overall Batfamily than before.
Batwoman has some development, but unfortunately nothing that really adds actual depth to her. Having a relationship we’ve never seen before fail lessens any sort of emotional impact. Kate’s family situation might matter more if we knew anything about it other than her colonel father providing support. Her background info is shallow right now, but more will hopefully come in the future.
The Question story Pipeline (also written by Rucka) has Renee out in L.A., sorting through emails sent to The Question, looking for those that must be answered. She finds one about a missing girl who never arrived after her brother paid for her smuggle into America. This one is short, only eight pages to set up the premise of Renee in L.A. answering questions that need to be answered (or the ones about swallows) and to set up Renee in a cliffhanger situation she can more than likely easily handle.
This story has less meat to it than Batwoman’s. It’s also not the focus of the book, so that doesn’t really matter. There’s not much to make a judgment call on at this point. It is a nice little bonus to the main story though.
Together, both stories are decent starts to their story arcs. As Batwoman’s is the principal, it has the bigger weight on the score. It’s off to a good start, but Batwoman’s character and history needs to be fleshed out a bit more.
The detail and coloring of the Elegy storyline differs greatly from the scenes featuring Batwoman and the scenes featuring Kate (that’s a generalization as some transition scenes have Kate in the following Batwoman art). Batwoman’s scenes utilize darker colors with bright red and white standing out. The shading and tone differences are really well done and life like. There’s a fullness to the characters that seem more realistic. This is most true on the Batwoman suit, which has a shine and coloring that invokes a feel of Alex Ross’ work. In contrast, Kate’s scenes are almost cartoony. The colors are bright and vivid, yet they’re flat with little variety in tones. If Batwoman’s scenes have more depth, Kate is far more 2-D. Kate herself looks younger in these scenes, more of a Batgirl than a Batwoman.
The differences also extend to panel layout The Batwoman scenes are much more unique in their panels. Panels have diagonal and jagged edges, often resembling lightning bolts. In the Kate scenes, however, panels are the traditional rectangles in pretty conventional layouts.
The characters are still fairly well detailed in both stories, especially the face lines. So are the backgrounds with from cracks in the walls to Kate’s entire apartment. Still, the Kate scenes don’t seem to match the feel that the Batwoman scenes set the book up with. Perhaps the conventional artwork of Kate scenes versus the stylized art of Batwoman serves as a symbol of the contrasting double life of the character. Kate deals with ordinary things like dating, her father and working out, while Batwoman deals more with the surreal criminal religious fanatics descending upon Gotham.
One similarity between the two is Kate/Batwoman being incredibly pale. While this works in the Batwoman scenes, it doesn’t so much in certain points in Kate scenes. She looks like she’s trying to be gothic with her pale skin, short red haircut and dark eyes make. She may be, but that’s never brought up. I’m also not sure if the black around the eyes is her being tired from being up all night, heavy makeup use for the day or just the leftover mascara from the Batmask.
The Batwoman scenes are enjoyable to look at (aside from one point where Kate looks like V from V for Vendetta), and while the Kate scenes don’t look bad, they feel somewhat off thanks to the feel the Batwoman art sets up at the start and continuing later in the book. This may lead to an unsettling experience that distracts readers from the overall story.
The Question art is fairly un-noteworthy. Again, not the main focus of the book. The black ink is used heavily in bold lining and shading. Not quite as much detail as in the first half of the book. The backgrounds seem somewhat flat. However, the art is consistent.
Again, with Batwoman’s story being the main one, it factors in more. Its art changes disrupt the feel and theme of the story, as well as possibly jar readers from the plot.
Overall, it’s a decent issue and a good start to both story arcs. It’s not perfect though. The characters need some more depth, which will hopefully come down the line. With the variety of art and panel usage in this book, you’re likely to find something that catches your eye, just as you’re unfortunately likely to find something that doesn’t.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10