Or – “Come To The Dark Side…  They Have Cookies!”


During the events of ’52,’ the Religion of Crime was fixated on “the twice-named daughter of Kane,” and spent a great deal of time trying to skewer Batwoman in accordance with the prophecy.  They failed in stabbing her to death, but didn’t disappear, resurfacing with a new leader, a crazy white-skinned woman known as Alice.  During their intial encounter, Batwoman was stunned to have Alice refer to “our father,” before swan-diving into the freezing polluted waters of Gotham Bay.  Is Alice a loon, or is she genuine?  And does this have anything to do with the mysterious and traumatic incident from Batwoman’s childhood? 

Detective Comics #858

DC2.jpgWritten by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams III
Co-feature art by Cully Hamner

Previously, on Detective Comics:  The Batwoman has continued her battle against the Religion of Crime in a newly Bruce-Wayne-free Gotham City, with the tacit approval of the new Batman (who you may remember gave her her first real batarang back in the day, and may have a weak spot for athletic redheads in skin-tight leather.  Her latest clash left her gobsmacked to find that the cult’s new leader claims to be her previously-unknown sister…

In her half of the book The Question has run into dead end after dead end in the search for a missing girl, but has finally discovered a slavery ring that may or may not have some sort of ties to an illicit pornography ring.  After nearly being drowned, she’s tracked the criminals to their lair, only to find herself running from armed men towards a very locked gate which happens to be the only exit.  One of our heroes at the end of a gun, the other at the mercy of her own past…  It’s hard to say who has it worse right now.

Sometime in the not-so-distant past, we see twin sisters playing soccer, having a lovely afternoon, when one of them realizes that they’re late getting home.  Their mother warns them to stop doing one another’s homework, and informs them that they’re going to go and admit to one of their teachers that they’ve been switching places during his class.  The girls protest, and their mother sternly explains, “This is no longer about Mr. Dougherty.  It’s about the two of you, it’s about taking responsibility for your actions.”  The girls are sent to bed, but awaken in the middle of the night to hear their soldier father has returned home.  Time passes, and we see the girls (in color coded snow suits, I might add, one wearing black and red, the other whites and pastels) angry that their father has recieved another promotion, causing the family to move again.  Kate is saddened about another move, but sister Beth tells her she won’t be alone.  “We’ll always be together…”  I nthe present, the GCPD mounts a recovery effort in the bay to try and find the body of Alice and her stash of chemical weapons, but no body turns up.  Batwoman returns to her cave, and begins running a DNA tests, comparing samples of Alice’s blood (left on her gauntlet blades during their fight) to her own genetic material.  Flashback time again, as Kate remembers another birthday without daddy, a trip for waffles that ends with mother and girls kidnapped by extremists.  Through a blindfold, Kate hears the sound of her sister being tortured, her mother’s cries, and the sounds of gunfire before her father unmaskes her and takes her away.  “Keep looking at me,” he says, “You don’t want to see…” Kate doesn’t listen, and looks to find the bodies of her mother and sister, seemingly dead…

The Question, for her part, finds her way out of a seemingly inescapable deathtrap (and, no, it doesn’t involve a laser, acid bath, and hitting a high ‘C’) making her way out of danger and straight to the shipyards.  Once there, she slip aboard a freighter whose cargo is a bit unusual, even for the crime-ridden scumhole that is Hub City.  Doctor Rodor provides her with intel and backup, until his signal gives out, unable to penetrate the ships hull.  She slips in, and finds the hull full of frightened young women about to be shipped out of the country.  Before she can act, there’s a gun at her head, and one of the slavers snorts.  “You’re not a very smart girl, you think you could do this thing all–“  Before he can finish saying “alone,” a bullhorn cries out announcing the presence of the FBI, and the Question easily drops him.  (The moment where she moves is a wonderful artistic moment, giving the panels a kineticism that’s wonderful…)  The Question slips away during the chaos, removing her false face as her client arrives to reuinte with his lost sister.  “The woman, the one with the hate, I asked her and she FOUND you!” he tells her, but as they turn to look at Renee, she’s gone, leaving a graffitti of a faceless woman and her website address (which, for those of you who have this issue, does indeed seem to be a real domain.)  We fade to black as Renee Montoya’s first adventure comes to a close…

There’s been a strange sort of imbalance to previous issues of this title, wherein the Batwoman portion of the book seems to be a little more engaging than the Question portion, but that imbalance is somewhat correction with this issue.  Montoya’s quest and her actions are much more decisive than before, while Kate Kane is tied up with issues of her past, giving us an issue that’s mostly flashback.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it fleshes out the character in wonderful ways.  Part of me wants to make a snide remark about the “evil twin” subplot, but as a whole this book works for me, and even though the revelation of Alice came out of left field, it served more as a “What DO we know about this character?” moment rather than an “Everything you know is WRONG!” situation.  Batwoman’s traumatic past has been referenced before, but this issue’s chilling explanation (made even more horrifying by the fact that we never actually SEE what happens, only the aftermath) makes Batman’s trauma pale in comparison.  This story serves as the first chapter of an origin of the Batwoman, something we have yet to see, even given her relatively high profile in recent years in the DCU.  Detective Comics #858 is a much more balanced beast than previously, with both our heroes putting in a fine showing and getting some development time, earning a nicely handled 4 out of 5 stars overall.  As with most of DC’s co-featured books, my chief complaint is the format itself.  The split-story conceit is a bit constraining, (for the characters, and, presumably, the writers) making me want full issues of BOTH features instead of the two-by-two format…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Dan Hunter
    November 6, 2009 at 4:10 am — Reply

    Loving this book, after a personal recommendation by the writer (oh, did I just drop that name? I’m sorry :-D)
    I have to say the layout of the panelling and the art itself is visually stunning, shaking up the 4 colour format.
    When I heard about the new Batwoman, I first thought it won’t last and soon enough we return to the status quo.Why bother investing time, effort and money following a fad character (ooo she’s a lesbian!)

    Promising new DC characters have a history of being introduced but never seem to have the longevity of the icon characters and often fade into obscurity, as comic fans we stupidly don’t like change,(but change gave us Nightwing!) – I hope Kathy Kane bucks this trend. Once again Rucka shows mastery of the writing craft and has created a layered, living and breathing female protaganist.
    Plus two stories in one issue!

  2. ~wyntermute~
    November 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    I gotta ‘gree with the “two-stories in one book is too short” school of thought. I get what they’re trying to do, but… I just hope that, eventually, they decide to “split” the pairings that might be successful as stand-alones.

  3. November 6, 2009 at 9:26 pm — Reply

    I love the fact that Kate’s sexuality is not at the heart of these stories, either. It comes up, certainly, but thus far it’s been treated in a reasonable manner.

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