What should you expect from the comic that holds the Guinness record as the longest running comic book periodical of all time? Well for one, I want Batman in it. But I guess since he wasn’t there when it all started in 1937, his current absence from the title can be overlooked. What I do expect though is that the book is well written, artistically original, and sports an intense lead character with a tortured soul. Detective #855 featuring Batwoman has all those qualities in spades.
Greg Rucka continues the Elegy story arc with Batwoman confronting Alice, the leader of the Religion of Crime about why they tried to kill her. Unlike Paul Dini in the first two issues of Streets of Gotham, Rucka doesn’t build a first issue leading to a hero-bad guy showdown, and then cheat us by having a wimpy battle lasting only a few pages. Here the clash of characters lasts the whole issue; and it’s damn exciting to boot. He does a wonderful job creating a horrifically violent and insane villain. Rucka develops Alice slowly, seemingly an easy match for Kate, but then has her explode shockingly; almost reminiscent of another white-faced, red-lipped psychotic that has brutalized heroes of this title in the past. Similarities to another Bat-villain, the Mad-Hatter can be criticized, but the way it’s dealt with in the plot is pretty smart. Don’t worry though about a singularly dimensional storyline. Batwoman is explored with as much depth into her dark psyche as our antagonist. I really like that no matter how tough and dark Kate is; she is still vulnerable both physically and emotionally. Rucka never lets up on the action, but brilliantly intertwines it with insight into Kate’s inner turmoil and hints of Batwoman’s origin. Then just when you want to take a breather, the crazy ending drops your jaw in anticipation of the first page next month.
As much as I liked the writing, what makes this comic special is the art. J.H. Williams III gives us an interpretation that is gothic, action-packed, and even slightly erotic. I want to say that I was reminded of the old Tomb of Dracula comic from the 1970’s, but that wouldn’t be doing this justice. Almost every scene is visually stunning, and the panel of Alice holding a poisonous razor blade in her mouth was very imaginative. Also props should be given to Colourist Dave Stewart. I thought the saturation of red throughout would be too much, but the subtle changes in tone keep it fresh and artistically meaningful. Like any original artist, Williams’ style isn’t for everyone. However, I loved his work in Batman 667, 668 and 669; and I think he is giving a character that was almost dead on arrival, a thrilling new lease on life.
I wasn’t planning on making Detective part of my regular monthly purchases, and with the news from TBU staff out of SDCC that the title might switch to The Question as the lead story I still might not. But for now, Detective is one of the more interesting books in the Batman: Reborn lineup. And speaking of the Question, the second feature is a little better than last month, but hard to look at in comparison to Williams’ work on Batwoman.
Focusing solely on Batwoman, I give Detective #855
Reviewed by tiggerbrown