Review: Detective Comics #857

by

Or – “I Am DE BATWOMAAAAN!”

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There’s a new head of the super-creepy Religion of Crime, and she’s as dangerous as she is eccentric and beautiful.  Batwoman has been rushing to stop Gotham’s latest freakshow from taking over the town, but when Alice kidnapped Batwoman’s father last issue, it was clear that things were about to get personal…  But how did she find out Kate Kane’s identity?

DC2.jpgPreviously, on Detective Comics:  Kate Kane has returned to Gotham after being nearly murdered in the pages of ’52,’ and has established herself in the post-Bruce-Wayne city as a fixture against crime (or, to be more specific, against the Religion of Crime.)  Her father always seems disappointed in her, her girlfriend thinks that she’s cheating on her (all those late-night disappearances, you know…  Bruce Wayne couldn’t keep a steady lady friend either…) and she is haunted by past experiences that we are not yet privy to.  Alice, the new head of the religion of crime, is still fixating on the “twice named,” and seems to be intentionally drawing Kate/Batwoman out to unknown ends.

Renee Montoya, the next Question, has been working to try and find a missing girl, a quest which has taken the faceless crimefighter to new depths (literally, as she was stuck in the trunk of a submerged car) and brought her into conflict with any number of goons who want to crush her skul like a coconut.  One missing girl led to a series of missing girls, which led the Question to the realization that she’s dealing with slavers, trafficking in human flesh.   Now Renee has MORE than just one life riding on her actions, but will the pressure prove too much for her?

We open with Batwoman still at the cotillion we saw her at last issue (her dance with Maggie Sawyer was a beautiful piece of work) stunned to hear the voice of Alice on the other end of her phone, revealing that she has Kate’s dad.  Batwoman suits up and heads out, Alice’s mysterious words making Batwoman certain that the Religion is about to attack Gotham with chemical weapons.  It’s a race against time (but, oh my word is it beautifully rendered) as Batwoman commandeers an airplane to attack Alice’s airplane, and performs a daring mid-air leap to save her father and the city.  She fights her way in, and even Alice is taken aback at her determination, as the red-haired hero takes out all the guards, and confronts Alice (while Daddy takes the wheel of the plane.)  With guns blazing, Alice attacks Batwoman, and their battle leaves both women hanging from the open cargo bay of the plane.  Rather than let Batwoman save her, Alice STABS her, remarking, “You have our father’s eyes.”  Do WHUT, now???  As the madwoman falls elegantly into Gotham Bay (and let’s not pretend that she’s dead for even a second here, folks) Batwoman’s shock is a tangible presence.  Have I mentioned how GORGEOUS J.H. Williams art is?  The last panels here are rendered exquisitely, going from full color, to monochrome, to stark black and white as the villains words sink in with Kate…

The Question’s story begins with Renee retrieiving a phone from a very dead looking mobster-type, then rendezvousing with Aristotle “Tot” Rodor (who was also Vic Sage’s tech guy and link to humanity, back in the day) about the evidence she’s found:  the kidnappers are selling women on the black market.  Tot quickly helps her put the evidence together, leading Renee to a man called Chandless, a very Hollywood type with some bad connections.  Breaking in, she is confronted by Chandless and his goons, and quickly turns the tables on him.  Amazingly, though, the bodyguards SHOOT THEIR OWN BOSS rather than let him squeal to a superhero, and The Question is forced to make a run for it.  The story ends with Renee under siege from all sides, racing towards a swiftly closing gate, armed gunmen on all sides.  I almost typed something silly about whether or not she would make it, but it’s waaay too early in the game to start offing Questions again.  The next big crossover Crisis should still be a couple of years away (not counting Blackest Night.)

Greg Rucka does great work here, giving both Batwoman and Question a specific point of view that includes their sexualities, but doesn’t revolve around them.  Moreover, each woman has a DIFFERENT personality, making the stories separate and distinct beasts…  When I first heard of the lineup for Detective post-RIP, the cynical part of my brain figured that putting the two gay supers in the same book was going to lead to a sensationalistic “Lesbian Double Feature” feel, and I’m glad that it didn’t happen here.  The Batwoman story took a couple of reads before all the nuances came through, but I do have a question or two.  If Alice (as she claims) has the same father as Batwoman, wouldn’t said father have RECOGNIZED her, even with white face paint?  Is the reveal meant to be shocking that Batwoman has a sister, or is it meant to be shocking that the man that Batwoman THINKS is her father is NOT her father?  It’s not clear, but that doesn’t necessarily undermine the point of the story.  The Question’s story falls into a very strange place here, as the art (by Cully Hamner, an old favorite of mine dating back to “Green Lantern: Mosaic”) does a superb job with Montoya, making her mask work, making the action sequences nice, and even managing to show her in her sports bra without being cheesecakey or titillating.  The only reason I can think that Renee’s story doesn’t feel as engaging as Kate’s is the superlative art and storytelling on the first feature.  Still, this book delivers the crime-fiction, delivers the street-level vigilantes, and some excellent storytelling overall.  Detective Comics #857 earns a very strong 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, and makes me happy to be reading a bat-title again.

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