Woe is the comic fan who bemoans the loss of Paul Dini in Detective Comics and refuses to jump on a book featuring a strong female lead, for that comic book reader is going to miss out on one heck of an issue.
To be honest, I was hoping for more sleuthing in Detective Comics than chasing thugs to give up answers and then bringing the fight to those that wish to bring Batwoman harm.Â Nothing against Greg Ruckaâ€™s work here, as he tells a competent story, even if readers are dropped right in the middle of the action, with no explanation of whatâ€™s going on, or who many of the new players are.
In order to really appreciate the story that is being told in Detective Comics #854, readers will need to have read 52, and the Crime Bible mini-series (also by Rucka) to half-way understand whatâ€™s going on as the issue kicks off.Â Even then, Kate is only featured briefly in the Crime Bible series, so there is a lot of fill-in-the-blank that readers need to be clued in on.Â What is clear is that Intergang and the Religion of Crime are keen to kill the â€œtwice-named daughter of Cainâ€, but the new leader reveal has me scratching my head and wondering what else readers havenâ€™t been privy to since 52 ended almost three years ago.
Is that they mystery? Readers trying to figure out what is going on?
Rucka does an excellent job of making sure that readers are aware that Batwoman isnâ€™t the detective that Batman is, going so far as to show her father, a former marine, helping her out with the surveillance and Bat-gear.Â Rucka goes even further by giving Kate a gun, and showing her using it in the closing pages of the feature story.
Beyond that, there are a lot of Kate Kane character building happening in this issue, from her interactions with her father, to the falling out with her current lover, readers get to know more about the character behind the mask rather than the gruff character she plays on the streets.
As far as the art goes, Iâ€™m simply in love with what J.H. Williams III has done with this issue, from the deco page layout, to the way the color slowly bleeds into the issue.Â Â Williams III is certainly going to get people to sit up and take notice of the role design plays in the art of comics.Â I really liked examining Kateâ€™s apartment for additional clues and hints to who this person really is behind the mask.
The only thing Iâ€™m not keen on is the retro bullet bra Kate sports while in costume.Â itâ€™s distracts from both the story and the look of the character, and I would think it would be a hindrance when moving around.Â Iâ€™ve seen plenty of women in sports bras that still maintain a shapely female form that usually end up being more provocative than some 50â€™s throw back.Â The only saving grace for that costume design is it somewhat fits with the time period the original Kathy Kane appeared.
in addition to the layout and art, what also helps sell this issue is the way colors are used.Â From the reverse color scheme of Alice – she uses a white motif to Batwomanâ€™s Black, to the way Dave Stewart uses a warm color scheme and lighting to help convince Kateâ€™s snitch that he really will be safe if he spills his secrets to her.
The art and color alone have me going back to read this issue again and again.Â I could stare at these pages for hours on end, and never tire of the vision before me.
Contrasting the main feature is The Question back up story.Â It is fitting the two characters are together again, even if they are on opposite sides of the country.Â Here Renee is attempting to help an immigrant track down his lost sister, who looks to have been caught up in some slave/porn ring.Â As one might expect, things donâ€™t end well for the detective in the chapter cliffhanger, as it looks like she about to get that blank look wiped off her face..
What I found most surprising in this story is how Rucka is able to mirror many the story elements from the Batwoman story into The Question, particularly in the morning sequence of both tales.Â This story moves at brisk pace, and it needs to if it hopes to tell a complete story in 48 or so pages.Â Or so Iâ€™m guessing, as I expect DC is going for the trade and hoping to package six issues worth of content into one trade.
Unfortunately, when you come off the awesome art of J.H. Williams III and go right into Cully Hamnerâ€™s work, it is quite jarring, and a bit off putting.Â Thatâ€™s not to say Hamner isnâ€™t a qualified artist, because he does a top notch job in this issue.Â I think it is the immediate jump into The Question story without any break that sets everything askew.Â Perhaps DC will figure out a way to create some kind of break between stories to keep this from happening in the future.Â It has to be handled just right because an ad break could easily get readers thinking the issue is over and skipping the back up story.
I went into Detective Comics expecting to really be let down seeing as how Paul Dini is no longer writing the series.Â I came out on the other side quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the issue.Â Putting a female lead in one of the biggest selling comic titles of all time was a real gamble for DC, but it pays off in a solid issue that earns 4 out of 5 stars.