11th October. 2011

Batwoman: Elegy

Words: Greg Rucka | Art: J. H. Williams III

Review by Bernice Watson

Released in single issues between August 2008 and February 2010, Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka represents significant changes for DC in a number of respects. First of all, after making her debut in 52, it was decided by the powers that be at DC that the new Batwoman (Kate Kane) should not only have her own series but that she would replace Batman as Detective Comics’ main character after Batman’s apparent demise at the end of Final Crisis.

But Kate Kane doesn’t just step into Batman’s hard-to-fill boots, she also represents a move at DC to add diversity to their line-up of superhero characters. In an attempt to break the classic heteronormative, phallocentric, predominantly white mould in which superheroes have traditionally been cast, DC have introduced a number of new characters and fresh takes on old characters. Kate Kane, lesbian socialite by day and bat-themed vigilante by night, is one such re-imagining.

Batwoman: Elegy introduces the reader to a Batwoman who is already very much an active and accomplished crime-fighter but it does also include some handy flashbacks that detail her origin story and shed some light on her motivations. The story revolves around the arrival of a mysterious individual known only as Alice to Gotham City. Apparently there to take charge of the bizarre Religion of Crime cult, Alice is determined to wage war against The Batwoman and all that she represents.

Greg Rucka is clearly a veteran not only of the comics medium but also of Batman in particular. He brilliantly captures the gothic vibe of Gotham city and its denizens. His writing of the madwoman Alice is masterful and lends her an almost Gaiman-esque quality that is so fantastic to read. The fact that Alice is based around the Lewis Carroll character and spends the entire story quoting Alice in Wonderland at Batwoman just makes her all the more unnerving as a villain. Certainly she makes a fitting addition to the long list of unhinged and creepy bad guys that have plagued Gotham City over the years.

What is truly striking, however, and what really makes this story what it is, is J. H. Williams III’s artwork. His panels are unbelievably rich in detail and incredibly evocative. Like Rucka, Williams III has beautifully captured the spirit of Gotham in his work but his illustration also has a lyrical quality that is both deliciously gothic and somewhat feminine. His style and panel layouts can sometimes be a little hard to follow but it’s well worth the extra effort just for the overall impact.

Batwoman is one of the few DC titles that will remain largely unaffected by the controversial re-launch. Issue 1 (out now) continues the story started in Batwoman: Elegy although readers should be aware that there is an issue #0 that precedes the re-launch #1. Interestingly though Rucka is not returning as writer on the re-launch issues. Instead writing credits will be taken jointly by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Only time will tell whether the new creative team will prove as successful as the old.

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