Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comics review: Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III

I've said quite often that I'm not very familiar with comics and graphic novels.  Multiply that times about a zillion when it comes to superhero comics - I'm mostly just not that interested.  I was reading some Swamp Thing for a while, but that's not your typical cape and tights comic; I quite like Watchmen but, again, that's not your stereotypical superhero story.  Somehow this Batwoman: Elegy collection book made it onto my to-read list, however, and the library actually had it.

The Batman gave her the inspiration.  Her father gave her the discipline.  Years of training gave her the skills.  But only Kate Kane herself knows what gave her the unbreakable drive to serve in the war on crime.

This is an origin story (I'm a sucker for origin stories), picking up sometime after the Batwoman was nearly killed by being stabbed through the heart.  She's mostly healed and is ready to pick up the fight again, especially since the crazy cult, the Religion of Crime, has an insane new mistress in town.  The A story is the Batwoman's battle with crazy Madame Alice, and it's a little confusing what with all the turncoat shapeshifters and all.  The B story, Kate Kane's backstory flashbacks, is where all the good stuff is: Kate's mother and identical twin sister were brutally murdered when she was a child.  Kate joins the Army, then has a wild-child period before running into the Batman.  After that encounter, she realizes that she too can take up the fight against crime and, aided by her father, a retired Army colonel, assumes the mantle of the Batwoman.

Much of the art in this book is amazing - kaleidoscopic, multi-faceted and vibrant.  The story is unexpectedly poignant in places too, particularly in these days of "don't ask, don't tell:" Cadet Kate is a lesbian and her final confrontation with her brigade commander is gut-wrenching and honest.  Apparently Batwoman's sexual orientation has caused somewhat of a stir in the comic's fandom.  I found it compelling from a motivational (for the character) standpoint but non-intrusive otherwise.

I liked that the Batwoman character is attractive but not a knockout, strong and curvy but not ridiculously voluptuous.  Her costume is tight but doesn't particularly sexualize her (i.e., no cleavage).  Her gorgeous long red hair is a wig - Kate Kane's hair is cut in a practical bob.  She's fairly smart, stubborn, vulnerable ... a pretty modern superhero.  I don't imagine that I'll follow the comics any further, but I'm definitely happy that I read Batwoman: Elegy.

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