Kate Kane, Batwoman, has really caught the imagination of fans. She stands out as a character, strong, her short red hair and angular looks beautiful, but in the way you’d meet beauty at a comic convention, not how some artist mis-imagines it on a comic cover.
Maybe it is the way that the character has taken so long to come about, germinating first in Detective Comics, then in a stand alone. It took the new 52 event to bring her to her own title, and yet in that time the character became well known as one to read. Her sexuality may be of interest to some, but for me, it is not a concern. People are gay, bi, lesbian, transgendered in the real world and in the words of Stonewall, we need to get over that. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise or a ‘special’ thing, although then comics, for all their violence, oddness and ludicrousness are still seemingly conservative, and make a big deal when characters are gay like it’s some triumph of the will to normalise the complex nature of human sexuality in comics.
Batwoman is not just another Batman clone or a sidekick grown up. There are interesting angles to the way the Batman franchise has expanded with individual characters and titles appealing to different readers, and this is then reflected in the actual comic world as Batman creates Batman Inc.
Yet Kate Kane seems to stand somewhat apart. The daughter of a colonel, she is a natural fighter, trained at West Point with multifaceted fighting abilities. She has been hurt and damaged previously, as is the trope with costumed vigilantes of the parish of Gotham, but her character is thoughtful, does things and takes moments, like looking at a photo of a lost police detective, lamenting the loss, and maybe reminding the reader of a harsh editorial decision.
So the first collection of the new 52 has a lot of pressure on it to perform, to present a decent story, and it does so.
Children are going missing in Gotham and Batwoman is on the case. Meanwhile Batman is on the Batwoman case, watching her every move, and the GCPD are on that case and then a government agency, which let’s say has some unusual operatives, is also on the Batwoman case but looking to turn her to good use against the Batman.
We get a bit of history about Kate as we follow her. She has a sidekick who adds an interesting angle. The situation with her estranged father is unclear, but what is nice is that there are quite a lot of female characters in this comic, which only makes their lack elsewhere obvious.
The only moment that was slightly odd was when a dialogue box explained who Batwoman was and mentioned that she was a proud lesbian. I felt like working out when a male character had it said in a similar fashion that they were ‘proud straight’ and it isn’t and it felt odd, as the story shows Kate for who she is and obvious statements like that seem superfluous when the reality of male heroes is not touched on in the same way. You know, ‘he was proud womaniser’, ‘he was a proud philanderer’, ‘he was a psychotic with women’, ‘his girlfriends died a lot’.
Otherwise, the art work is delightful, the layouts on the comic have diversity and quality that sets them apart, beautiful use of the page, the clever adjustment of style of panels to sit and fit the story, and the artwork itself, so well illustrated, fine lines with nice colouring, giving clarity, the colours especially with Kate’s hair being vital, (although I can not figure out her skin colour, its consistently pure white which is fine, but it seems very perfectly porcelain), and the Todd Klein lettering adds to the story, imparting a feeling that Klein is a maser of —this is all fine comic work.
An enjoyable start to the series and an intriguing nice ending, with the start of another phase primed. I quite enjoyed it.