Overview: In Truth and Justice #5, Batwoman tries to get away from her battle with Nocturna but finds trouble in a small town.
Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): Kate Kane, Batwoman, drives furiously, drinking dozens of cups of coffee, and failing to reach Maggie Sawyer, as she remembers her recent fight with Nocturna. She plans to stay at Maggie’s cabin to recover, sees a strange monster in a small town, but ignores it in favor of a drink at a local bar. Flirting with the bartender, she hears hint after hint, but is distracted from her flirtation when a crash alerts her that her car has been crunched mysteriously.
Kate changes into Batwoman in the bathroom, leaving another message for Maggie, but finds nothing. Staking out the roof she saw the monster first leap from, she notices an older lady knitting across the street and leaps to the ground to interrogate. The lady thinks Kate is a circus person and has no information for Kate, so Batwoman heads into the woods. Unfortunately for Kate, Nocturna attacks!
After a fight, Kate has the upper hand, and Nocturna confesses to being the town’s urban legend, after which Nocturna gets the upper hand, almost skewering Kate. When leaves nearby rustle, Kate whacks Nocturna on the head, and Maggie bursts into the clearing. She had been at the cabin the whole time, which is why she didn’t get any of Kate’s calls, and since Maggie was about to leave, she takes Nocturna back to Gotham in her trunk, while Kate continues her vacation.
Analysis: The anthology series Truth and Justice has put out one Bat-Family story prior to this, about Red Hood (Jason Todd), and the next issue promises Damian’s birthday party. However, this issue, “Quiet Getaway,” does not live up to the previous Red Hood story, which bodes poorly for the Robin story. Writer Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes) and artist Maria Laura Sanapo (Sensational Wonder Woman) provide a story focusing on Batwoman’s fight vs. Nocturna, who has unfortunately become Kate’s “nemesis” since Marc Andreyko’s notorious run on the Batwoman title in the new 52.
Nocturna’s non-consensual relationship with Kate in that storyline led to a lot of fan anger and hatred of the character, leading to creators choosing to try to “fix” that problem by having Kate punch the vampire villain over and over again. However, Ellis doesn’t provide anything else for readers to latch onto – moments of longing for her relationship with Maggie, and a relatively sweet reunion at the end, don’t distract from the utterly pedestrian nature of the conflict and fights. Kate herself also doesn’t make a good showing at all, running away from her last fight with Nocturna, with flashbacks to her getting punched in the face – hardly a convincing way to show the trauma of her relationship with Nocturna.
Additionally, the small town, which provides the setting for the first two-thirds of the story, is so thinly written, if it were a setting on a TV set, it would fall over like the cheapest of cardboard. When compared to the similar “hardcore heroine hits a small town chasing a spooky villain” story in Birds of Prey: Hero Hunters by Gail Simone, this tale simply doesn’t measure up. Where Simone created a rich feeling of depth in the bar that Huntress hits when trying to find information about her target, Ellis gives us a dull bartender and a sleepy, mumbling drunk. The interrogation of the older lady quite simply wastes time, as it doesn’t provide interest or development for Kate or the lady herself, and the final battle has no stakes (pun absolutely intended) whatsoever, as there’s no way that DC would kill off Batwoman in an anthology issue.
When compared to James Tynion’s story about Batwoman in this month’s Pride special, there’s no comparison – Truth and Justice #5 provides a completely uninspired rehash of one of Batwoman’s worst moments (fighting Nocturna), while Pride gives us a poetic and sensitive exploration of Kate’s history with her sister, inspired by one of her best moments, Elegy by Rucka and Williams.
Kris Anka provides the main cover for Truth and Justice #5, showing Kate shooting her red Batarangs into the trees (at the reader), providing a good representation of what happens in the issue itself, though sadly, it doesn’t have much of Anka’s trademark style on display. Yasmine Putri provides a beautiful, if a bit generic, variant cover for this issue, featuring her typically lovely rendering of Batwoman, with a clever and stylish Bat logo overlaying Kate in costume.
Editor’s Note: This issue collects three digital-first chapters of the series. You can find the chapters of the comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue either through Comixology or Amazon.