Graphic Detail reviews a new graphic novel or trade paperback collection every week.
Batwoman is one of the best series in DC Comics' New 52, and basically one of the best comics on the stands right now period. Don't believe me? Then check out Batwoman vol. 1: Hydrology, the series' first hardcover collection, available this week.
In "Hydrology," young socialite Kate Kane—in her secret life as the costumed adventurer Batwoman—has to track down a bunch of missing children in Gotham City. Parents claim their kids have been kidnapped by a mythical "Weeping Woman," a ghostly spirit who drowns children much as her own kids were drowned years ago. Could this ghoulish monster be real? Kate Kane's going to find out, but she'll also have to deal with an impetuous sidekick who thinks she knows more than she does, a government agent trying her best to unmask the Batwoman, a new relationship with a powerful policewoman in Gotham, and, oh yeah, a guy named Bruce Wayne who wants to recruit her for something called Batman, Inc….
What makes Batwoman so great? Well, for starters, read that plot description and notice just how much is going on in this book. Batwoman is one of the best comics currently being published at juggling multiple stories—each arc has not just an A and B plot, but Cs, Ds, and Es to spare. No sooner does Batwoman tackle one challenge than two more rise up to meet her. This keeps the book fresh and interesting; writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman never let the comic rest on an artificial status quo.
But, okay. The real, obvious star of Batwoman is its art, courtesy of co-writer J.H. Williams III. Put simply, no one draws like him. His panel layouts are endlessly creative; his characters, intimately detailed. Williams and colorist Dave Stewart switch effortlessly between different styles depending on what's happening in the book—for civilian scenes with Kate a very straightforward visual approach, for action scenes with Batwoman insane visuals that play with a comic page like you've never seen, for (tasteful) romantic scenes a black-and-white style reminiscent of old photography, etc. It's just brilliant.
Another big appeal of Batwoman is the minority character in the lead role; like we talked about a few weeks ago, not only is Kate Kane a woman, but she's also a lesbian. It's rare (though increasingly less so) for mainstream superhero comics to treat LGBT characters as well-rounded humans, but that's absolutely not an issue in Batwoman. Kate Kane is, in fact, probably one of the most relatable characters in DC's stable; her relationship troubles with family, friends, and romantic partners should, if nothing else, present her as a fully fleshed-out character. Sometimes Bruce Wayne would be lucky to get this kind of treatment.
For folks following along with Batwoman monthly, this hardcover packs an extra bonus—along with issues #1-5 it reprints issue #0 of the series, a book that actually came out long before the New 52 was a thing… it was originally released in November 2010, but then the rest of the series was held back to coincide with DC's line-wide September 2011 relaunch. That means that not a lot of readers may have gotten this introduction to Batwoman, which analyzes the character through Bruce Wayne's eyes. What does Gotham's original Caped Crusader think about this upstart? Will she join his team?
This is a very glowing review, with good reason—Batwoman is a straight-up winner. If you haven't yet checked out this series, this hardcover collection presents the perfect opportunity to do so. So get readin'! A