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Tag Archive: Batwoman


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One of the most popular characters and series to emerge from DC Comics’ New 52 reboot in 2011 was J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman.  Not only was the series popular, it received critical acclaim for Williams’ gritty storytelling and the stylish and spectacular, ethereal, and surreal artwork by Blackman.  The classic B-level superheroine of the 1950s had been reintroduced as Kate Kane with a new Alex Ross-designed costume in 2006.  In the DC Comics weekly series 52 the character became the most memorable legacy of the series–ex-military, a lesbian, of Jewish descent, with her ex, Renee Montoya, a Gotham police detective—rare constructs for any character in comicdom.  In the best of ironies, the character created to combat accusations of Batman’s sexuality in the 1950s became a symbol of the very thing she was made to deflect.

Beyond the symbolism of the modern character and success as a new iconic character, Williams and Blackman wrote a great Bat-book.  But after several successful months as a New 52 series, editorial decisions and creator ideas crossed streams and the series fizzled out.  Happily for fans of the character, DC is bringing Batwoman onto center stage once again.  Beginning this month in Detective Comics Issue #948 and continuing in February with Issue #949, the two-part “Batwoman Begins” arc forms the prologue for the monthly Rebirth continuity one-shot Batwoman: Rebirth in February and the series Batwoman, beginning in March.

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Writers Marguerite Bennett and James T. Tynion IV are co-writing the initial story with Bennett to take over the series later in the year.  Artwork will be provided by Steve Epting and Ben Oliver.  Jae Lee will be creating a variant cover for the series’ first issue.

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SCARLET-WITCH-#1

Last week saw the release of the first issue of Marvel Comics’ latest monthly Scarlet Witch.  The series is written by James Robinson with artwork by Vanesa Del Rey with colors by Jordie Bellaire.  Award winning Hawkeye cover artist David Aja provides the cover to the first issue, plus variant covers are available from Kevin Wada, Bill Sienkiewicz, Erica Henderson, Tom Raney, and Chris Sotomayor.  It’s not only David Aja’s cover, but Robinson’s well-paced introduction and Del Rey and Bellaire’s visuals that remind us of Matt Fraction and Aja’s successful Hawkeye series, another series about a secondary character and a life outside the scope of saving the world with the Avengers.

The new Scarlet Witch has a ghostly quality, and a style similar to DC Comics’s initial New 52 stories of Batwoman from J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.  It’s introspective look at a superheroine with a past also echoes Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s brilliant Black Widow series.

Scarlet Witch interior page

But this is a distinctly different story about a much different character.  She is not a young heroine.  She is a witch who speaks aloud with the ghost of Agatha, a dead woman she may or may not have killed in her past.  Scarlet Witch–Wanda Maximoff–is a detective of sorts in the same way as Liv Moore uses her supernatural skills to solve crimes in iZombie.

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The Renaissance of movie and TV tie-in action figures arrived in 2013 with Funko’s classic Kenner-style ReAction figure line.  Other companies focus on single licensed figures and getting the likenesses spot-on, but Funko’s diversification of lines meant everyone could find something that fit their personal niche at an affordable price point.  A true throwback series, one of the overlooked features of the line is the incredible variety of no-names-taken, classic kick-ass heroines represented.

In fact you can find here the top of the world’s best, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners, genre heroines.  Buy them for yourself, for your friends, or get your favorite as a totem to inspire you each day from your desktop.  And where the early sculpts in Funko’s line admittedly looked nothing like the actresses that made the roles famous, the new lines have only improved.  And nobody has better packaging designs than the ReAction line.

Zoe Washburne scene

Who would you add to the Funko roster of heroines?  Compare your list to our more than 85 suggestions for future kick-ass women action figures below.

First, check out this Baker’s Dozen of our favorites in the current Funko pantheon:

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Sassy, smart, and seductive.  It applies to Marla Drake, the Miss Fury of the 1940s and of today in Dynamite Comics’ time-hopping series Miss Fury.  And it applies to Drake’s masked persona and the series itself.  Writer Rob Williams and artist Jack Herbert have provided their response to the much-lauded Batwoman team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.  And just as the Williams III and Blackman team-up created one of the best comic book series in its first year out of the gates, so has team Williams and Herbert with their first year of Miss Fury.

Catsuits and pointy ears aside, Miss Fury is a unique take on the world’s first superheroine.  Writer Rob Williams concocted the surprise hit of the year–a book that might not have been on pull lists yet it was swiped off the store shelves every week as readers couldn’t get enough of the series.  Among many classic titles emerging from the publisher known for licensed works from the past like The Shadow, the Green Hornet, and the Bionic Man, Miss Fury is a non-stop, action-filled, fun read–it’s a comic book series that will remind you why you love comic books in the first place.

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As a comic book artist that excels at the feminine form, Brazilian artist Jackson “Jack” Herbert is well on his way to becoming the next Adam Hughes.  His Marla Drake is a sophisticate back in the 1940s.  In 2013 she is a provocateur, an agent of an untrustworthy manipulator, murdering as he directs, because she believes she can save America from a dreadful alternative reality.

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Hawkeye cover art

From its “bad romance”-themed Issue #8 in February through an issue featuring the other Hawkeye Kate Bishop in Los Angeles in its most recent Issue #14, Marvel Comics’ monthly Hawkeye series has kept up its unique brand of high-quality storytelling all year.  With its visuals led by David Aja for most of the year, other artists have stepped in to backstop Aja, including none other than another Eisner winner artist, Francisco Francavilla.  But the continuity and consistency of Avenger Clint Barton and his friends is thanks to the writing of Matt Fraction, who, like J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman and their Batwoman series, took a lower tier superhero and produced the best monthly series in its publisher’s line-up.

Each issue managed to maintain a slow, downward spiral of its hero as a self-deprecating lost soul who is only understood by a dog who is then taken across the country by his friend Kate.  In one issue (Issue #12) his brother Barney “Trickshot” Barton takes over the entire story and we barely see Waverly, Iowa born Clint Barton.  Rarely do we see typical superhero action, like Hawkeye donning his supersuit or showing his skill with bow and arrow.  When we do see it, its via West Coast Avenger Kate Bishop.  Clint is virtually absent from Issue #14, as Kate, with Lucky in tow, matches wits with a strange but beautiful masked villain.

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One issue (Issue #13) focused on the somber events surrounding the funeral of neighbor “Grills,” the guy who grilled on the roof for tenants of his building and referred to Clint as Hawkguy.  In that issue girlfriend Jessica Drew, the Spider-woman, tries to mend fences with Clint in the car procession, only to see afterward that he had fallen asleep during her entire compelling monologue.  It’s a scene that defined this year for Hawkeye–everything that could go wrong, did, and every time he was close to getting a break he missed it.  Yet readers are sucked in, and stick around to cheer on this everyman and his daily efforts to get back on track in a world where he isn’t the main superhero around.

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The winners of the 2013 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced at a gala ceremony held during Comic-Con International: San Diego, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, on Friday, July 19.  We’re particularly happy with the choice of David Aja’s Hawkeye, one of borg.com’s favorite series of 2012 and Dark Horse Presents, the source of some of the best stories last year, as best anthology series.  We also liked the judge’s selection of Dave Stewart for colorist, who had such incredible work last year on several books including the Batwoman series.

Here are this year’s winners:

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

“King City,” by Brandon Graham (TokyoPop/Image)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips

“Pogo, Vol. 2: Bona Fide Balderdash,” by Walt Kelly, edited by Carolyn Kelly and Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books

“David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again: Artist’s Edition,” edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

“Blacksad: Silent Hell,” by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

“Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys,” by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Anytime I get the chance to go behind the scenes in any industry I have tried to take full advantage of the opportunity.  I once performed in a band at Disney World in Orlando and enjoyed seeing the underworld that made the Disney operation work literally underneath the city.  I later worked at the Smithsonian Institution and got to witness a similar but greater operation in the vaults not under the museum but in the upstairs floors.  From the standpoint of a musician it is fascinating to stop and take stock of all that is required to make a symphony perform a complex work and make it sound perfect.  I get a similar level of excitement when interacting with writers and artists at conventions or via email or other encounters, and in particular watching an author build a universe where nothing had existed before.  Watching any artist in action is an education, an opportunity to learn, admire, and maybe even emulate if you have the discipline and desire.  Reading great words helps you become a better writer, and viewing great art gives you a better feel for design and form in general.

When an artist reveals his or her process, it is a lot like a magician showing how a magic trick works.  The risk is that some of the knowledge could make later viewings somehow less meaningful.  But when dealing with a great creator, no matter how much you learn about process, none of it takes away from the experience, because ultimately, merely having the knowledge of the “how it’s done,” doesn’t mean you can wander off and replicate it, because skill and artistry are greater than mere process.

Following my review this weekend of The Art of Drew Struzan, I think this is a great follow-up book in a similar vein.  I received my personal copy of Alex Ross’s Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross from Alex Ross’s business partner, Sal Abbinanti around Christmas time.  It was like an early Christmas present.  Among other things, Sal is a long-time friend of Ross, and I can never get over the fact that Sal was a model for Ross’s classic Captain Marvel, maybe Ross’s most iconic superhero re-imagined.  If you ever are fortunate enough to deal with Sal, look for a great experience.

Rough Justice is a play on words.  “Roughs” are what Ross refers to as his work that is created in order to get to a final painting.  He uses thumbnails to get down the big picture and often to lay out the design for an entire work.  He often free-hand sketches with fluid movements, with sprawled out reference images surrounding him, in order to mock-up the image he sees in his head, well before he dips his brushes in gouache.  And of course the “Justice” in the title comes from his ongoing themes underlying his great superhero subjects and the title of one of his key series for DC Comics.

Maybe artists of equal or better skill will find things to critique in Ross’s artistic process revealed in Rough Justice.  But, if so, I bet that small group of artists is so small that I’d wager there would still be more praise given than not.  Ross isn’t apologetic that his images are realistic (some folks prefer more abstract elements).  Neither does he apologize for using actual models for his development of a scene.  His process is his process, yet it is likely using any other process would get him to the same results.  The same type of photo references are used by Drew Struzan and Frank Cho so it’s almost as if the very best artists use this method for a reason–it helps to make them the best.

I’ve mentioned before that I met the late Michael Turner at a convention a few years ago and he let me flip through all his great original art pages.  When you page through Rough Justice, you get a similar experience.  I found myself actually checking my hand for pencil smears, because the reproduction of Ross’s original pencil work is so nicely reproduced.  Ross notes that he does not rely on tracing or projections in his work.  Ross is as much penciller as painter, although the public rarely gets to see anything but his finely tuned painted works, and except for some convention sketch books, this book is the ultimate collection in a single volume.

Alex Ross's original sketch design for the new Batwoman

In Rough Justice the reader learns the great role Ross has in the development of sculpts for maquettes or action figures based on his version of characters.  This explains why so many of the figures based on his work are so accurate to the painted renderings.  We also learn Ross’s role in re-designing Batgirl and Batwoman–resulting in the singular look that became the current Batwoman.  And look for a number of “What ifs”–renderings that did not make it to a final form or comic book series.

Like Struzan, unfortunately Ross has encountered the same letdowns with the industry, less collaboration and more direction by the Powers That Be to punch out a final product, and similar bumps.  Yet his work reflects none of this.  Rough Justice includes extensive images of Batman, Superman and Captain Marvel, as well as images from Kingdon Come, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, and Ross’s many anniversary edition over-sized coffee table editions.  Rough Justice does not include a lot of text, but what is there highlights Ross’s thoughts behind his work and process.  And along with the images Ross includes all the margin notes from the original art, indicating notes to himself or others, giving the reader yet another angle into his creative process.

Rough Justice is a good companion to The Art of Drew Struzan.  It’s a good reference work, a fine chronicle of Ross’s art, and its great presentation and superb images qualifies this as a nice coffee table book.

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross lists for $30.00 but is available for much less at online retailers.

   

The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks – Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove – The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

Earlier this year, and even from time to time over the past several years, commenters have criticized the comics publishing industry for its lack of female creators.  As with the lack of women creators in a lot of industries, the criticisms have credence.  You have to look very hard at comic conventions to find a female comic artist from a major publisher, for example.  But more and more female writers seem to be coming to the fore every month.  In the meantime, what is flourishing in DC Comics’ New 52 are female superhero characters.  In the past few weeks we reviewed here both the first issues of the new Wonder Woman series and the past two months of the Batgirl title.  Wonder Woman’s story is brilliantly drawn in the realm of the Greek gods and goddesses, as she is on her path to becoming a key leader of the Justice League.  Batgirl’s story bridges a lot of territory–she is a superhero with a rich past in the DCU: as daughter to Batman’s main partner in fighting crime, Commissioner Gordon, as former crime fighter in a wheelchair and member of the Birds of Prey, under the guise Oracle, she also covers the younger side of hero work and the trials of being at the beginning of a heroine’s career.

But Wonder Woman and Batgirl just scratch the surface of the arsenal of women crimefighters across the DCU.  In stark contrast to Batgirl, but equally as interesting and engaging, is the darker, tough and gritty world of Batwoman.  There is no hiding Batwoman’s role in the DCU–she is Kate Kane, a lesbian who was kicked out of the military because of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  When we met her again in Issue #1 of the re-launched title she was trying to mentor sidekick, Bette aka Flamebird, but in Issue #2 Batman warns Kate that she is endangering Bette and she as kicks her out of the sidekick business in Issue #3.  Writers W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III walk a fine line between a caricature of a modern gay single person, in the realm of Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia.  She uses poor judgment, frequenting gay bars and going home with whomever she ends up with and going on binges.  Did she, or the writers, learn anything from the 1980s?  Are they setting her up for another AIDS story?  Hopefully not, as that was done with Mia aka Speedy in the Green Arrow series.  

In every aspect of her life Kate is dangerous and cocky–she is dating Detective Maggie Sawyer, the very woman on the police squad who is trying to uncover who the vigilante in the black and red suit really is.  On the one hand Kate herself is not a role model, yet Blackman and Williams have written her as a tough woman fighting the good fight every day like everybody, only in the depths of Gotham, her place is getting down and dirty.  To balance out the series, we find Kate’s true enemy is the federal agent, Cameron Chase, and we learn in Issue #3 she is partnering with the creepy skull-headed villain behind the dark doings of Gotham.  The best part of Batwoman?  Despite her own inner doubts and less experience at the hero business, Batwoman stands on equal footing with Batman in their secret meetings–we see a mutual respect there.

On the other side of the globe in Italy is Helena Bertinelli, the heroine of the Huntress title.  Like Barbara Gordon, Huntress spent some time gaining her crime-fighting sea-legs in the Birds of Prey.  In Issue #2 of the current Huntress limited series, Huntress has tracked down a trafficker of girls in the sex slave industry.  Huntress is a character who simply has a job to do.  Unlike Batgirl and Batwoman, we see no emotional obstacles with Helena.  She knows her job and gets the job done.  As her own flavor of dark knight detective, she is a true sleuth in the ongoing whodunnit of each issue.  And like all the superheroes in the DCU, she has her alter ego life.  Bertinelli would fit in fine with the characters of the BBC’s Zen series, tasteful and stylish, she seems to have adopted Italy as her home turf.  It is refreshing to see a character establish herself in a non-English speaking locale, and the word balloons even feign a translation via dialogue in carets.  A clever comics story device.  Unlike Batgirl or Batwoman, Huntress’s targeted villains are rooted in the real world, and in Issue #2 she is honing in on capturing the man behind the trafficking operation, as she liberates all the victims.  A woman saving women.

In an even darker realm we encounter Zatanna, magician of backward incantations, in Issues #2 and #3 of Justice League Dark.  The Enchantress has unleashed an evil that even the Justice League itself cannot stop, and she must use a spell to save herself.  Only John Constantine understands the magic enough to use her own language to free her from her protective state.  And tarot card reading Xanadu appears to be working alongside the ultimate villain of this series–the Enchantress, on a quest to capture June Moone, who has been seeking the aid of Deadman.  Deadman is complex yet entirely weak, he slips in and out of other people’s bodies, himself a ghostly spirit.  Deadman is driving his girlfriend, Dawn Granger, the character Dove from the Hawk and Dove duo, nearly mad with his switching from body to body.  Dove drives off in anger as Deadman tries to protect June Moone from the Enchantress, but we get the vibe she can pull away from the witch’s curse when she will need to.  We hope to see more of Zatanna and Dove in future issues, but as new characters are added, like Mindwipe in Issue #3, Justice League Dark is bordering on a soap opera-sized cast that may be too much for a monthly title.

Not only do these titles stand out as key stories focusing on strong female characters, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, and Justice League Dark, with both good writing and art, continue to stand at the top of all of the 52 main titles of the New 52.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Batwoman is a bit of an enigma. To one extent she is historically just another Batman in women’s garb.  If you really wanted to bring Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl up to date in a new universe, the logical way to do it would be to drop the dated “girl” reference and finally give the adult Gordon her due as the “woman” superhero.  By way of background, Batwoman was originally brought into the DC universe to show fans that Batman was straight, several decades ago.  With Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, she was virtually extinguished from the DC timeline.  She was only brought back a few years ago as part of the DC series 52.  To diversify readership DC made her of Jewish background and a lesbian.  So she is unique in the DC universe for several reasons, but her alter ego as Kate Kane was so interesting and integral to the storyline of 52 that DC left readers begging for more.

The new Batwoman #1 (written and drawn by J.H. Williams III, with co-writing credits to W. Haden Blackman) is so good, as was Batgirl #1, you’ll easily push any reservations you may have aside and embrace this fully realized, modern superhero.

Batwoman has a lot going for it.

A driven, smart, savvy, sexy heroine?

Check.

Stunning visuals, including two-page spreads with a floating trio of story panels that carries you across the pages, and a truly unique storytelling style that you won’t see in other books?

Check.

A great costume, highlighted by Dave Stewart’s eye-popping choice of colors?  And a redheaded superhero that wears a red-haired wig?

Check.

Romance–Batwoman’s love life–her relationships–are one focus of her ongoing story.

Check.

Women in all the leading roles, from the superhero, to the sidekick, to the police detective who is after Batwoman.  And we get one brief scene with Commissioner James Gordon for good measure.

Check.

I had flipped through recent graphic novel pages of J.H. Williams’s work on Batwoman and was bothered by the strange, unique art style.  I couldn’t place it but it was almost like someone wasn’t using enough black ink on the artist renderings.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for me.  The new Batwoman doesn’t have that.  The style is not only unique it is stylish, from the covers to the flashbacks in black and white to the fight scenes and bridges between the main plot points.

For those new to the character, Kate Kane has a few pages that give us some back story–to bring us up to speed with her world from the 52 series to the present.  Kane has past relationships and current ones, both of the friend and romance varieties.  In the first issue she is after a criminal element that is taking the children of Gotham.

As Batwoman she appears as an equal to Batman.  She is no longer a secondary character relegated to fill-in roles in crossover series.  By making her not just a woman version of Batman, it seems to have opened up storylines and possibilities for this character.  Along with Batgirl this is at the top of the new DC series, for both its design, story and colors, to its interesting storyline.

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