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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.

DTC_Cv854.jpgTo 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.  Nothing against Greg Rucka’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 what’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 what’s going on as the issue kicks off.  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.  What is clear is that Intergang and the Religion of Crime are keen to kill the “twice-named daughter of Cain”, but the new leader reveal has me scratching my head and wondering what else readers haven’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 isn’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.  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, I’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.   Williams III is certainly going to get people to sit up and take notice of the role design plays in the art of comics.  I really liked examining Kate’s apartment for additional clues and hints to who this person really is behind the mask.

The only thing I’m not keen on is the retro bullet bra Kate sports while in costume.  it’s distracts from both the story and the look of the character, and I would think it would be a hindrance when moving around.  I’ve seen plenty of women in sports bras that still maintain a shapely female form that usually end up being more provocative than some 50’s throw back.  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.  From the reverse color scheme of Alice – she uses a white motif to Batwoman’s Black, to the way Dave Stewart uses a warm color scheme and lighting to help convince Kate’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.  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.  It is fitting the two characters are together again, even if they are on opposite sides of the country.  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.  As one might expect, things don’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.  This story moves at brisk pace, and it needs to if it hopes to tell a complete story in 48 or so pages.  Or so I’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 Hamner’s work, it is quite jarring, and a bit off putting.  That’s not to say Hamner isn’t a qualified artist, because he does a top notch job in this issue.  I think it is the immediate jump into The Question story without any break that sets everything askew.  Perhaps DC will figure out a way to create some kind of break between stories to keep this from happening in the future.  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.  I came out on the other side quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the issue.  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.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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12 Comments

  1. John Luiza
    June 24, 2009 at 10:59 pm — Reply

    I’ll have to go back and reread. I just don’t “speak” Batwoman like I do Batman, Robin, etc. I LOVED the art, but didnt’ feel as excited about the story as I was with the other Batman titles. It also sounds like I should pick up some 52 trades…..

  2. June 24, 2009 at 11:26 pm — Reply

    Y’know what? I’m not sure why this team surprised you. Paul Dini is good and all, but this book isn’t called “Paul Dini Comics For Stephen.” :) I have to say that this one worked for me on all levels, and that was no surprise to me. JH Williams really knocked one out of the park with his Batwoman art, and Greg Rucka delivered an interesting tale, and the parallel scenes in the Question and Batwoman stories felt neat to me. I liked the story, I loved the art on both, and most of all, I want to read a Batwoman ongoing featuring this creative team…

    (As an aside, this makes TWO Bat-titles on my regular pull list. I think I’m going to lose my Hipster Doofus membership card.)

  3. June 24, 2009 at 11:34 pm — Reply

    Y’know, I wish DC would put out a series call Paul Dini Comics for Stephen… that would rock. And while you might think I didn’t care for the issue, that is not the case, I enjoyed it a great deal.

  4. June 24, 2009 at 11:37 pm — Reply

    I think I was more disbelieving that you weren’t sure about Rucka. You were one of the hugest 52 fans on the planet, and Rucka was a full quarter of the writing staff of that series… And I seem to recall YOU telling ME about how awesome JH Williams art is.

    Or maybe that was Freddie Williams?

  5. June 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm — Reply

    I believe I was promoting Freddie Williams that time, now you’ll have to hear me spout for hours on end why JH is da-bomb

  6. Ricco
    June 25, 2009 at 9:11 am — Reply

    “bullet bra” I chalked it up to body armor…
    Didn’t the Specter kill all the followers of the crime bibble? Oh right, it was in Final Crisis which didn’t really happen.

  7. Ocho
    June 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm — Reply

    The bullet bra is very Yvonne Craig.

  8. June 25, 2009 at 7:48 pm — Reply

    The bra was a bit distracting at first, but I liked that it was a different approach to the gigantic busted women in comics. It gave more of a real body feel to the art. I really liked this issue. I have no problem with a $4 price tag when there’s an issue this well done being made for it.

  9. Dave
    June 25, 2009 at 10:02 pm — Reply

    I LOVED this issue…I thought it was a 1000% better than the first two issues of Power Girl.

    • June 25, 2009 at 10:30 pm — Reply

      What does this issue have to do with Power Girl? :)

  10. June 26, 2009 at 10:24 am — Reply

    I never read 52 or whatever mini they’re talking about and I wasn’t too lost. I hope they go back and do a little origin on Kate Kane in one of these issues though, but I can wait until the first arc is over. Trying to figure things out for yourself is one of the most fun things about comic reading when you get to track down some back issues on Ebay and shop victoriously!

    I like Dini’s run on Detective a lot. Grant Morrison’s Batman and Dini’s Detective runs is what got me into reading comics again after all these years. Dini has two other Bat-books he is writing so it doesn’t really bother me that Rucka does Detective now.

    I could care less about the Question though. Maybe she’ll do an adventure with The Riddler to liven things up some? I could care less about Manhunter either. Both those books should be $2.99

  11. jedhavok
    June 30, 2009 at 12:33 am — Reply

    I love this issue of Detective Comics. Greg Rucka was the first comic book author i read when he was doing wolverine(Brotherhood story arc). And it got me hooked. Rucka did a good job here, I dont know anything from Batwoman other than she is a lesbian and her name is kate kane. But the story does not confuse me eventhough i dont know any of the characters. I loved the art here, J.H williams III did a great job on the art. Its beautiful but keeps a little bit of dark and strangeness feel to it. I will definitely follow this series.

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