Review: Batwoman #26

batwoman 26 coverBatwoman #26

Marc Andreyko, Jeremy Haun
DC Comics


I could leave it at that, but then you’d have no idea what I’m sighing about. Which, while potentially hilarious, would mean that I wouldn’t have the chance to go on at great length about my favorite comic book subject: Batwoman.

We all know how much I love the comic, the character, the premise … just everything about Batwoman. When I quit reading comic books years ago, it was Batwoman with the New 52 that brought me back and has, until recently, kept me going. And while my triumphant return to comics has introduced me to other phenomenal characters, Batwoman will forever maintain a special place in my heart.

When my Comixology pull list indicated that there would be a new Batwoman last week, I was skeptical. I didn’t even go to my shop to pick up, thinking that it wasn’t going to be there, since it was still advertising for what would have been the epic finale of JH Williams III, and W. Haden Blackman’s run. I was delighted, however, to pick it up today and after my first read-through, I can say one thing for sure about this new take on Batwoman: Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Haun are no Williams and Blackman.

That said, I’ll clarify that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I read an interesting article that discussed the changing climate in comic book culture, where fans cling to the creative team behind a book more now than had really been experienced in the past. There was a time in my life where I didn’t care who wrote a book as long as my first comic book love, Rogue, was in the story. But when I heard that Gail Simone was fired from Batgirl, not too long ago, I very nearly dropped the series just because the writer who had made me love the character wasn’t going to be telling anymore Batgirl stories. I very nearly did the same thing when news broke about Williams and Blackman leaving Batwoman. Ten years ago, I might not have even noticed the change, save for some art differences. Now, who’s putting a book together is enough of a pull to get me to read something. Simone writing Red Sonja got me to read a sword and sorcery book I’d never have tried otherwise. Matt Fraction’s got me reading five different books. Amy Reeder’s got me reading Rocket Girl, and, faithful to JH Williams III that I am, I even picked up The Sandman Overture #1.

That said (again), I’m suggesting that maybe clinging so hard to a creative team that you lose sight of the character or the story might not be fair to the new creative team, the characters/story that you fell in love with because of the original creative team, or to the fans that are hanging on despite the shift. Batwoman #26 came out two weeks ago, and I’ve seen nothing about it on social media or the comic book resources I follow. Does that mean nobody’s given this book a chance?

I hope not. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this comic. Even as I write that, though, I have to wonder, why am I surprised? I know I love Batwoman. Did I honestly think that all the things I loved about the character or her story were going to be so drastically different with a new team that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the series anymore? I must have, because I flipped through it before reading just to find things I might hate. “Oh, see, look: traditional panelling choices,” as though that’s a bad thing. Or “Ugh, no mythological monsters or super-secret paramilitary organizations. BORING.”

But it’s not boring. It’s just different. And different, in this case, isn’t bad. Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer are partying it up at a swanky art gala, kind of a social debut since becoming engaged (it was nice that, despite them not being allowed to get married, that they can still enjoy being engaged for however long that will last). It’s cute and fun, we learn that Maggie loves Pee Wee Herman, while Kate has no use for him. We get to see that Kate has friends in real life. We get to see the connection she has to her cousin Bette outside of heroics. No, it’s not epic. But it’s actually kind of nice.

You see, comics have this tendency right now to just be so grandiose and over the top that it can be easy to forget that, in most cases, there are people under those masks and wrapped up in those capes. If we never ever get a chance to really see them be people, how can we be expected to care about them? And that goes for their heroic stories, too. Right now, and this is just based on what it looks like from this issue, it looks like this might be a pretty basic hero-villain fight. There will be twists and turns, I’m sure (I even have a guess as to who the Wolf Spider is) but after Medusa and the Weeping Woman, after teaming up with Wonder Woman, after the DEO, and even after half a fight with Batman, I kind of want to just see Batwoman kick some street-level behind. I don’t want her to devolve into some kind of thug-battering vigilante by any means, but I could seriously go for a couple of short Batwoman tales, some two- or three-parters that just explore her relationship with her friends, family, and villains, but also to see her really explore her relationship to Gotham City. For 25 issues, she’s felt above the world she’s set in, like she’s bigger than life.

batwoman 26 page

Andreyko’s Batwoman is very down-to-earth, for a socialite vigilante, aware of how she’s perceived in the media, has a strong foundation in her friends and family, but can still be swayed from going home to her fiancee to go out and fight crime with her cousin. After all that they’ve been through together, Batwoman is finally treating Hawkfire like a partner rather than a kid sidekick. I’m a little surprised at how quickly Bette went down in their scuffle with the Wolf Spider but hopefully that’s part of the story as a whole and not indicative of how Andreyko plans on utilizing her. I’d really hate for Hawkfire to revert to an ineffective partner that Batwoman has to bail out every adventure. After the huge character growth Bette’s had, it would be a shame to lose that momentum with a new writer.

Art is kind of a mixed bag for me. I’m liking the drawing well enough (though I stared long and hard at Batwoman and Hawkfire swinging across Gotham City, I could not understand Haun’s placement choices for their arms and legs) but what I really love, and maybe I’m in the minority about this, is that, thank God, Kate is being colored more similarly to everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that being pale is part of her character, but for her to be paper white when no one else is was always kind of distracting for me. I like her color scheme a lot better now. So while every page turn isn’t blowing me away the way it used to, I find the art passable. I kind of wish Francesco Francavilla was the regular artist on it, but I’m just happy to have anyone drawing the book at all, given the circumstances surrounding it.

I’m looking forward to #27 and every other upcoming issue for as long as DC keeps putting out Batwoman comics. What pulls me to this book is the character, not necessarily the creative team and certainly not the company (if it weren’t for Gail Simone and Batwoman, I wouldn’t be reading anything from DC). While I will be forever grateful to people like Williams and Blackman (and Greg Rucka, the writer who, in many ways, made Batwoman into the hero she is), I will also be grateful to Andreyko, Haun, and anyone else who keeps telling her stories. If Batwoman #26 is any indicator of what I can look forward to in the future, you can consider me one pleased super fan.

Kristi McDowell

Kristi McDowell

Comics, cats, and (red velvet) cakes enthusiast. What she lacks in social skills she makes up for with pop culture trivia. When she’s not writing her wildly popular blog, Pop Culture Sushi, she’s editing the independent ongoing series Autumn Grey and working on her own mini-series, debuting this fall. She may also, instead, be playing more Fallout 3 than is frankly acceptable. She’s played in a rock band, worked in a comic book shop, and knows enough karate to fight crime – if only she could settle on a theme that goes with pink. No flamingos.That is to say, she has a tenuous grasp of reality and the audacity to think that someone actually cares about what she has to say.