One to Keep, One to Drop: Batladies

Keeper: Batwoman

Batwoman #1 cover, art by JH Williams III

I picked this up because: Com’on, it’s the long awaited sequel to Elegy, and you all know how I feel about that.

What’s good about it? Art, art, art, art, art. J.H. Williams is a highly skilled visual storyteller, continuing the combined comic-y and hyperrealism style he established in Elegy. His layouts are dynamic, enhance the story and make reading the book a joy. Yes, occasionally you have to read a book twice, but that’s no hardship when the book is so pretty.

Amy Reeder, the artist on the arc that started this week with #6, is also a top notch artist who utilises Williams-esque layouts to the same excellent effect. While she as her own style, the two merge seamlessly from book to book and it remains very much a Batwoman book.

The cast of characters is great; I was excited to see the return of Cameron Chase, Williams’ character from Chase, and Maggie Sawyer and Bette Kane have filled out a cast that never seems to pass the reverse Bechdel test Jacob Kane, in fact, is the only named male character right now, and the writers are taking slowly his reconciliation with Kate after the events of Elegy: giving it the space it needs to be a decent story.

I also like that they’re very definitely going in a new direction with Kate, not letting her be just another Batfamily member, they’re keeping that distance that sets her apart. An equal, but not a subordinate or a partner.

What’s bad about it?

Well, it did rush straight into the story with very little back story or explanation for beginners – and what there was was a crowded and confusing double page spread. It was part of the DC reboot, but it’s been in production for so many years that the reboot feels pasted on. It’s not a book for Batwoman newbies – but that’s OK, ’cause you should be reading Elegy anyway.

I’m keeping it because: I just like looking at it.

Dropper: Batgirl

The cover of Batgirl #1 (due September 2011); Batgirl is wearing a black outfit with yellow bat symbol/gloves and a purple cape lining. She has red hair and a wild grin and is running/jumping exuberantly towards the viewer.

Batgirl #1 cover. Art by Adam Hughes, image from IGN.com

I picked this up because: Oh,. Let’s be honest. I didn’t ever pick this up, as I had all the feelings about it before it launched. I did, however, want to give one of my favourite writers a chance and so I read someone else’s copies. I won’t be picking it up, though.

What’s good about it? Simone, as always, has an ear for great dialogue, and for characterisation. The supporting cast – including a police officer who blames Batgirl for the death of her partner, and Babs’ cheerful, protective roommate – are a pleasure to read. It has the kind of lively interpersonal interactions you expect from a Gail Simone comic. Dick and Bruce turn up and are in top form as characters. Jim Gordon is always the best fictional Dad.

The interior art, also, is bold and energetic and a perfect fit for the book. In many many ways it is entirely enjoyable.

What’s bad about it? I tried, I really did. But there’s history with this character I’m still not ready to let go of. Never mind that Jim suddenly doesn’t know about his daughters extracurricular activities – I’m willing to accept that I’m just being stuck in the continuity mud in that one – this just isn’t the Barbara Gordon I love.

See, what I loved about Oracle – what I loved about all the Birds when Simone was writing them – was that she was a woman who had suffered a traumatic event and (mostly) recovered and moved on. In Batgirl, she’s right back into the very start of that recovery process.

Simone loves writing recovery and ascension stories, and they definitely have their place. Her work with Black Canary will always have a very special place in my heart. But I don’t want to watch Barbara struggle with petrifying flashbacks and survivor’s guilt and villians who are DARK MIRRORS of her recovery, because the Babs I fell in love with had already overcome much of this, and regression this steep upsets me.

I can’t even say it’s out of character for Babs to invoke the events of The Killing Joke to scare a villain straight. But it doesn’t make for a pleasant read. I was hoping for a story more about a woman learning to walk again. What we’re getting is a story about a woman learning to fight – as if Oracle ever stopped.

Oh, and in the most recent issue, Bruce tells Babs that she is the One True Batgirl. Just so Cass and Steph fans know where they stand.

I’m not picking this up because: It is just not the story I want to read in a Batgirl book.

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