Even Greg Rucka's mom would have to admit that it has only been J.H. Williams III's art that has captivated Bat-fans into purchasing this title. Well Mrs. Rucka, your son finally came through. Detective #858 begins to tell us the origin of how Batwoman came to be. What makes this so nicely plotted is how it slowly reveals the tragic events of Kate's past while still continuing the story from the previous arc. I try quite hard to keep my reviews spoiler free, but I don't think I'm ruining anything by telling you that Batwoman's arch villain "Alice" will not only play an integral part of Kate's future but her past as well. The cliff hanger in issue #857 gave us a clue to where Rucka may be taking us, but the depth with which he tells this story is of the highest quality. He brings the characters to life with an emotion and intelligence that is usually reserved for the most heart-wrenching of novels. The set up for the tragedy in the "to be continued" last page was executed with perfection.
Rucka interjects themes of sibling attachment, responsible Motherhood, and a Daughters intense need for Fatherly love amid feelings of abandonment. Again, without spoiling the story, how will a young girl react when every element of security in her life is taken away? What will become of Katie when the one person who completes her is gone? How does someone who is completely intertwined with another cope with being alone? In my opinion, this is the most mature work I have ever read from the writer of Queen and Country and the Half a Life arc in Gotham Central.
All that said, you might think J. H. Williams III would rest on his laurels given how good the writing is this time around. Well let me tell you nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this may be his best work yet. The mesmerizing panels of romantic Gothicism are still present, but what makes this issue extraordinary even by Williams' standards is the incredible Norman Rockwell vision of the early scenes of Kate's youth. The mood of American innocence Williams is able to depict is absolutely brilliant. He then slowly builds the visual intensity leading us to a jaw dropping final page reminiscent of the best of Image Comics. Whereas the previous issues' scenes of Kate were almost breathers until a dramatic Batwoman scene; every panel of the young Katie in the new arc "Twenty Years Ago" is a detailed masterpiece.
Williams definitely puts the visual focus on Katie, but his two pages of Batwoman are dramatic gems. The scene of an unmasked Batwoman sitting alone slouched in despair evokes the iconic image of a downtrodden de-cowled Batman sitting in the Batcave wondering whether his chosen life path hasn't been a big mistake.
There has been no question that J.H. Williams' art has made Detective a must read. Now if Greg Rucka can continue writing mature fiction with depth and feeling, this book will no longer be a visual novelty, but one of the best comic series today.
Detective Comics #858:
Reviewed by Tiggerbrown