Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#32 - BATWOMAN: HYDROLOGY (Issues 1-4)

By Darryll Carter

BATWOMAN #1-#4| J.H. WILLIAMS III co-writer & artist| W. HADEN BLACKMAN co-writer| DAVE STEWART colorist| TODD KLEIN letterer|

What better way to start off the review of a new series, in a new year then with a new reviewer. Hi there comic fans, I’m Darryll “YTC” Carter, here to give you guys my impressions on DC Comic’s ‘New 52’ Batwoman series.

Before we dive into the review, it is only fair to inform you all how I conduct my reviews. There are three categories I address; the story, the art, and the Hype Factor. The story deals with the actual tale and how well it was conveyed. Was the content clear or convoluted? The art covers the visual style of the book. This includes; penciling, inking, coloring and lettering. Last, but not least, is the Hype Factor, or what I like to think of as geek climax. Simply put, anything that especially noteworthy or that evoked a strong response or emotion. Let’s get to it.

The Story

Batwoman is helmed by the amazing team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. The story begins with Kate/Batwoman interrupting a new menace she’s been tracking known as the Weeping Woman (la llorona to the local community). The Weeping Woman is a mysterious water banshee that is wishing away children and drowning others.

As it turns out, Kate is not the only woman tracking the banshee, but Detective Maggie Sawyer of the GCPD (Gotham City Police Department) is also on the case. Williams and Blackman waste no time reminding us/establishing Maggie as Kate’s current love interest and a potential thorn in Batwoman’s side.
While juggling Det. Sawyer and the cape and cowl, Kate has also taken it upon herself to train her younger cousin Bette (Flamebird of the Teen Titans). Her reason for doing so seems deeper than a simple desire to nurture and more along the lines of an emotional outlet.

A heated discussion unfolds after training Bette, between Kate and her father, Colonel Kane (who essentially filled the role of Kate’s Alfred and Oracle). The argument is about Kate’s late sister and works its way into a clever recap of Kate’s back story, the events that happened in Detective Comics #854-863.

Kate’s Detective Comics run was spent tracking down and stopping the Religion of Crime, led by an elusive and theatrical woman named Alice. As it turns out Alice, is potentially Kate’s long lost twin sister, presumed dead, from a terrorist abduction that also claimed the life of Kate’s mother. The battle of good vs. nefarious reached its climax in the skies above Gotham Harbor. Upon defeating the RoC and potentially losing her sister again, Kate discovers that her father may have known her sister was alive all along. The revelation tore a rift in their healthy father/daughter relationship and aroused the attention of the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations.

DEO Agent Cameron Case is assigned to investigate the Batwoman and an Army cover up of the RoC battle over the skies of Gotham, by Director Bones (who looks like a Dr. Phosphorus who finally burned out). Not long after getting her assignment, Case finds herself examining the crime scene of the latest Weeping Woman murder where she is confronted by Det. Sawyer. Case makes it a point to inform Sawyer that she is at the top of her “Who is Batwoman?” list and makes off leaving a sour taste in the mouths behind her.

Kate determines the potential lair of the Weeping Woman from a not so casual break-in at the GCPD file room. When she arrives at the lair, which resides under a pier, she is consumed by the Weeping Woman and nearly dies. After escaping the near death experience she is then confronted by Agent Case and a swarm of DEO agents. She flees the scene in a pinpoint disarming fashion and rides away on her bike with such precision it would have made Bruce grin.

Running high on her adrenaline Kate gets home and tells Bette that she can’t train her anymore and says a few things she’ll probably come to regret. Bette runs out of the apartment angry and dons her Flamebird costume. Not long after Bette leaves, Sawyer shows up at Kate’s door. She comforts a distressed Kate and the two begin to consummate their romance.

While Kate is having the night of her life, Bette is out prowling the night. She bites off more than she can chew and gets into a gang fight that leaves her gutted and near death. Agent Case finds Bette’s near-lifeless body inert in the snow and takes her to an undisclosed area. Under the malevolent watch of the DEO, Bette is coerced into stating Kate’s name, leaving Agent Case to draw her yet to be revealed conclusion on Batwoman’s identity…

The Art

As always the art of Williams III is exemplary and breathtaking. The illustrations involving the Weeping Woman were among the best I’ve seen from his Batwoman work. The water rushes across the page and separates the panels like a dreamscape. It beckons the eyes to gaze one second longer. Even the way the smoke from Director Bone’s cigar flows through the air adds to the eerie and mysterious tone set by the story.

All of the great art is supplemented by the colorist, Dave Stewart. Stewart does a great job of aiding and adding to Williams III’s pencils and carrying the tone over into color. The contrast theme of Batwoman comics is still present in these issues. Her bright reds and pale white tear through the subtle dark hues of the shrouded darkness that is Gotham at night.

When readers think of art, I think they tend to forget about the letterer. Todd Klein has created some of the creepiest lettering I’ve ever seen for the Weeping Woman. He also does a fairly accurate job of capturing Kate’s climax in words.

The Hype Factor

The Hype Factor this time around is consists primarily of majestic awe. The mere meshing of the art itself left me thinking I had found the end of a rainbow (possible double meaning?). In addition to the art, there were a few moments that overwhelmed me. The first was a comment from Kate when investigating the Weeping Woman’s lair. Unsurprisingly, Kate’s seemingly a Jason movie fan (or has at least seen it). She says, “God this is so Camp Crystal Lake. Just don’t be the dumb chick who goes into the basement alone…” Second, was the beating Bette got out in the cold snow. Lastly, but so totally not least, is Kate’s climatic moment toward the beginning of issue #4. I can’t say much more than that. The review is PG, check it out for yourself, you’ll probably enjoy it.

The Conclusion 

The Batwoman team has impressed me and exceeded the standard once again. The story is solid and shaping up to be a wild ride. The weaving of three different angles, Kate’s, Sawyer’s and Chase’s, is well executed and leaves you yearning for what’s next. If you couldn’t tell already, I really enjoy these books. They are the reason comics are considered art and not just funny books. Batwoman #1-4 gets a Wargreymon¶¶¶¶ out of 5. 
5 stars- Omnimon

3 stars- Metalgreymon
2 stars- Greymon

1 star- Agumon                

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