In Brief: While tracking the Monster Venom, Batwoman’s only remaining lead brings back her past.
Summary: The issue opens with a question: If you want to cause pain, how do you pick your target? Batwoman’s investigations have led her to Istanbul, Turkey. There, in the middle of the Grand Bazaar, a terrorist injects himself with Monster Venom. With the help of Julia Pennyworth (the daughter of Alfred from Snyder’s Batman run in the New 52), Batwoman takes down the monster, who returns to his human form. While being interrogated, the man gets executed with a throwing knife. Behind them stands the executioner, a woman with tribal-like face paint. Batwoman chases her without success, the knife being the only lead left behind.
Back in the Sequoia, the yacht that is being used as their base of operations, Kate is informed by Julia that the computer has been scanning the blood on the blade, and that they already know the origin of the knife: the island of Coryana. As the yacht sails on Mediterranean waters, Kate and Julia take a minute to relax in hero style, that is, not relaxing at all and talking about the case. Kate inquires whether Julia is a spy for Batman or just her assigned babysitter, a question that Julia refuses to answer by changing the subject to Coryana. Typical tactic of a Pennyworth.
Kate then starts telling her tale about when she was in Coryana. Back in her “Lost Year”, she is almost drowning when a mysterious woman saves her. She is taken to a mansion where she is taken care of by a middle-aged man called Rafael, Safiyah’s right-hand man. Some time after the incident, Kate is walking the corridors of the mansion and encounters what seems to be a henchmen meeting. The Istanbul market killer is among them.
Back to the present, Batwoman arrives in Coryana. The question on how to cause pain is brought back at this moment, but this time it is on how to cause pain to oneself. Apparently being in Coryana is one of the ways that Kate might answer that question.
Despite being on a secret mission, Kate is immediately recognized by Rafael. He stumbles towards her, blood spilling from his mouth, hurt by the same kind of throwing knife that killed the terrorist. Knees failing, Rafael asks her: “Why did you come back?”
In Depth: This issue puts to rest all of my concerns with the pacing that had risen with Rebirth. Tynion and Marguerite Bennett give us a taste of all the basic ingredients that go into a Bat-tale: starting with an action scene, going to briefing and intel, to a character interaction moment, flashback and a final cliffhanger. Everything flows nicely and it doesn’t feel rushed. The only remaining concern is the sporadic suggestion that Batwoman might be just a female Batman, but that might be the writers playing with the concept of a Batwoman. I guess time will tell.
As for the art, I still feel that Cox’s colors are not playing in favor of Epting’s style. Cox goes for flat, toned down colors, and while the color palette is perfect, the technique used lacks the depth that Epting’s drawings require. The best-looking panels in this issue are the ones with soft coloring, and the beautiful black and white flashback sequence.
Talking about the flashback sequence, it shows the full potential of this team. The amount of information given is nothing but what is necessary for us to understand what is in Kate’s mind, and sometimes that information is given only graphically.
The layout is slightly out of grid, contrasting with the previous panels which follow an alignment. This gives us a sense of Kate’s mild discomfort with those memories. The choice of using red accents has become a tradition in Batwoman comics, but what came as a surprise to me was the woman’s eye having been painted red. This screams at us to pay attention, that she is important to the plot.
Overall: Batwoman #1 is an improvement from the overbearingly dense Rebirth issue. The art is unique, but the color is conflicting with the lines. The plot shows promise and the new characters are being well introduced, and the cliffhanger at the end might lead to some intricate plot points.