Friday, July 31, 2009

Elegy Part 2: Misterioso (DC)
Detective Comics #855 When: September 2009 Why: Greg Rucka How: JH Williams III

The Story So Far...
Inspired by an encounter with the Batman, Kate Kane joins the Gotham City masked vigilante fraternity as Batwoman! Adventuring alongside her lover and ally, The Question, she becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involved Intergang and a mysterious text called the Book of Crime.

The Question soon uncovers a disturbing prophecy that declares the "twice named daughter of Kane" will suffer a brutal end. An end she only narrowly escaped, having to survive mortal wounds inflicted during a sacrificial ceremony under Intergang's leader, Bruno Mannheim. Recovered; Batwoman returns to Gotham's streets and rooftops to pursue the thirteen covens of the Religion of Crime. An act that brings her into conflict with the newest leader of the criminal zealots - Alice!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batwoman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batwoman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Batwoman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batwoman 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Batwoman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batwoman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batwoman 2 (Projectiles)

- At the tender age of twelve years old, Kate Kane was schooled in the harsh realities of combat when she, her mother, and twin sister were kidnapped by armed gunmen. Rescued by her military father, Kate was the only apparent survivor of the ordeal, her mother and sister executed.

Kate followed in her father's footsteps, entering the military academy where she excelled in physical and academic pursuits, until lifestyle choices saw her exit abruptly. Returning to her native Gotham City, she encountered the Batman when foiling her own street mugging. Inspired by the dynamic Dark Knight, she created her own modified persona of Batwoman, utilizing the aid and resources of her father in the pursuit of justice. She battles Intergang and the Religion of Crime, who regard her with zealous interest. She also dated and worked alongside Renee Montoya, The Question.

- Little is known of the true identity behind Alice, save that she is a leader of the Religion of Crime, and speaks only in quotations from the works of Lewis Carroll. Her name refers to Alice Pleasance Lidell of Adventures in Wonderland fame, but the esoteric criminal bares no apparent connection to her thematic predecessor in Gotham City, Jervis Tetch (aka; The Mad Hatter).

Serving the prophecy of the Crime Bible, Alice shows particular interest in the exploits of Batwoman. Before plummeting to her apparent death, the villainess uttered a quote suggesting she may in fact be Kate Kane's thought-dead twin sister, Beth.

Math: Batwoman Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
Having hunted her way to the top of the Religion of Crime; Batwoman wastes no time firing a gas pellet at her primary target -- Alice! The compound does it's work, delaying the leader with choking tears, whilst disposable henchman charge head-long into a balletic martial arts assault of neck twisting and gauntlet slashing! The final blow is a stiff punch delivered to the gut of Alice herself.

The caped crusader bundles her newest nemesis under one arm, launching them both into the night air on the end of a powerful grappling line. Their travel brings them to a remote spire at the top of the Religion's church! There; the Batwoman intends to see to the interrogation of her mysterious foe. Alas, in order to do so, she must grant mercy from the effects of the gas which rendered Alice inert.

Alice hurls lines of Carroll, requesting a name, whilst Batwoman throws the villainess' leg-bound knife across the launch to a neutral corner.

The maniacal high mistress of crime proves undeterred by her predicament, staying a strategum of fictional misdirections and curio. Batwoman is not amused by her fancy.

The threat of violence raises the stakes as Batwoman dangles her prey from the jutting turret at the top of the medieval house. A strategy often employed by her predecessor, but rarely with a resulting glee from the threatened recipient. Indeed, Alice reaches smiling toward the oblivion below, forcing Batwoman to recant her threats, and jerk the villainess back toward stone safety.

"I think you might do something better with the time, than wasting it asking riddles that have no answers."

The umpteenth quote tips Batwoman off to the nature of her nemesis, but not to any hidden meanings behind her evasive words, save the obvious.
"How do you know I'm mad?" asks Alice, communicating perhaps more directly than could usually be surmised. The formal introduction is soon interrupted by the arrival of henchman, but a boot heel to a trapdoor has a way of dealing with those sorts. Leaving Batwoman to find new ways to gain the answers she seeks.

The merit of Batwoman's threats goes untested as Alice produces a razorblade from within her own mouth! Poison-tipped and clamped firmly between her teeth, it becomes the instrument of Alice's criminal salvation. A snape of her neck is all that's needed to slice through Batwoman's exposed cheek. The poison goes to work on her equilibrium quickly, leaving her ripe for a stiff boot from Alice.

The High Mistress retrieves her dagger with evil intent, but Batwoman still has the woozy presence of mind to evade her wild swing. Penchant for a landing is less impressive, seeing the poisoned heroine go to her hands and knees. The facade of her long haired wig is the difference between life and death, coming loose in Alice's murderous hands with the grace of a second chance. Batwoman wastes no time taking it, leaping from the turret despite her condition!

Batwoman makes her escape, gliding to the ground below on leather wings. It's a rough landing in the surrounding forest, but one that keeps her alive amidst swirling hallucunations of a traumatic childhood. A trauma that will threaten to play out again when her father recognises her predicament, rushes to her aid, and enters into a gunfight the Religion of Crime. Batwoman will take two shots to the back to rescue her father. She will be helpless to aid him, but other forces will have an interest in this war between good and evil...

The Hammer...
I had a tough time deciding whether or not the latter stages of this confrontation would constitute their own Quick Fix entry, or be included here. I think, as part of a continuous confrontation, they make a nice decider, earning Alice and the Religion of Crime a victory over Batwoman.

It isn't the most auspicious way for a hero to make their debut in the rankings drama of this here Comic Book Fight Club, but frankly, it's lucky we even got that far. I am completing this entry well into October of 2010, which probably tips you off to the state the site's been in for the past year. Suffice to say, the action has been thin and slow, culminating in a grinding hault with the last shipping list of June.

I'm far too stubborn to completely call it quits, but it seems apparent that the enthusiasm I expressed last December just won't be enough to carry the site to regular updates. I suppose now is as good a time as any to thank regular readers and supporters of the site, and assure you that the information it contains will remain live as long as Blogger permits.

Having an issue of the Rucka/Williams collaboration on Detective Comics at the top of my to-do stack was an interesting challenge. I think it's fair to say that it was never in danger of being your average DC comic book, but for me, I'm not sure that's the compliment it was for many other readers.

A frugal reader by necessity; I wasn't compelled to finish this first arc, let alone continue onward into the adjoining Batwoman story. I think it's fair to say that I don't yet have any affection for the character herself, who was overwhelmed by controversy after being announced through mainstream press as a gay heroine, only to tumble out of print shortly after [after the conclusion of 52]. Granted, marketting stunts aren't often the fault of the comics themselves, but it added to the uninspiring hot air that seems to surround this character and her exploits.

The concepts Batwoman tackled in her 52-debut, and beyond, are nice enough, and I think it's reasonably intelligent to try to establish the character with a mind for an independent niche, rather than reducing the concept to female Batman stories. That said, the literary aspirations of Elegy fell short for my tastes, a trait I tend to associate with Greg Rucka's philosophy and manner when approaching writing comics. As the issues unfolded, I found myself increasingly unconvinced by the depth behind the cover of each issue. The Carroll gimmick and it's relation to the story felt more like an unsuccessful attempt at a smoke screen -- a device not quite elaborate enough to make this feel like a developed story, different, or otherwise. It felt a little sophmoric, if I can be so bold. [Not that I'm about to rattle off as comprehensive a list of quotes as Rucka's Alice dialogue!]

I wouldn't be arrogant enough to suggest that it was any kind of confirmation of this assessment of the work, but it certainly came unsurprising that Batwoman would be shunted out of the flagship DC title, and Rucka would part ways with the writing staff. If nothing else, it was almost inconceivable that the company would invest longterm in a Detective Comics without a Batman, even if that fact came a bit more sudden than was expected. You might speculate that it was an abrupt decision to direct the Batwoman scripts toward Detective, with conspiratory clues suggesting it might not have always been devised that way.

It will be interesting to see how Batwoman's future unfolds.
We know, of course, that JH Williams will co-tackle the writing and art chores on an upcoming Batwoman series, which should be very interesting. There've also been those recent DCU appearances in both Grant Morrison's work on Batman & Robin -- which included a meddlesome reference to the Crime Bible that resulted in the brief death of Batwoman [during Blackest Knight] before her Lazarus Pit resurrection; and Justice League: Cry for Justice, which is probably a piece of the canon Batwoman die-hards would be happy to forget, along with many other DC fans...

As reluctant as I am to accept gender-swapped facsimilies, I think there's certainly merit to what was attempted with Batwoman. Whilst sensationalizing the fact did little to create an admirable precedent, we must accept that homosexual characters are as much an absent necessity of plausible fiction as any other grouping, and by putting that trait on such a (potentially) prominent brand, DC made a fair effort. I'd probably rather they administer these types of creations with a bit more accepting non-chalance, which is another criticism I might lay on [Greg] Rucka's shoulders, at least in terms of treatment in the characters' out-of-costume attitude, but it's shared blame.

Kate Kane in her civilian persona takes boystrous to utterly obnoxious levels, flaunting her sexuality in a manner that probably fairly approximates some archetypes, but with the baggage of this character's path to creation, feels more like ham-fisted liberal sentiment rammed through a shallow character. It's needy in it's methodology, shouting pro-gay sentiments like the book is looking for that approval. Which, granted, it certainly seemed to get from some readers.

I'd be remiss if I didn't, in closing, refer to another influence that has a role to play. Darwyn Cooke was recently grilled for expressing his opinion that there's little to be gained from forcing a new sexual orientation or gender on established heroes -- something I personally agree with. His perspective, even when clarified, isn't especially generous to those actively seeking a perceived equality, but is a strong starting point for the creative side of comics.

Killing off classics -- as was done with Vic Sage [The Question] -- in order to shift the role over to a stunt like Renee Montoya, is frought with danger. In these shared corporate universes, it would be nice if new creations could join their ranks, earning their way up. It doesn't share the wealth of the white washed classics, but then, there's a universal truth to the integrity of a consistent creation, especially in a serialized medium. I should note, I'm perhaps paraphrasing Mr. Cooke's words, to add my own take. If you're interested, you should certainly seek out his thoughts, rather than take my word for it.

In closing; this was probably one of the better issues of the Batwoman/Detective experiment, at least in my opinion. Fisticuffs doesn't always make for a better comic book, but in this case, it added some honesty to pages that I feel were unnecessarily elongated. JH Williams has given the character a very distinct and exciting visual take, which might be refined even better with a different script. I look forward to seeing where the character goes with new creators, and hope I will have the opportunity to share that transition with you in future updates. Cheers!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4

Batwoman: Elegy is available in a single collected volume.
By using Amazon purchase links provided, you help give back to the site. The Infinite Wars Amazon Shop contains collected editions of most issues reviewed in the five years of Infinite Wars spotlight reviews. You can find more info on all of those in the Secret Archives. Cheers!

No comments: