Writer: J.H. Williams III and J. Haden Blackman
Art: J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, and Dave Stewart
To say that the last major appearance of Batwoman, Elegy, made an impression on people is kind of like saying that Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal are kind of tall. In other words, it would be a serious understatement. So when it was announced that Batwoman would finally be getting her own stand-alone series instead of piggy-backing in Detective Comics, there was much jubilation throughout the land.
Then it was announced that Greg Rucka, the man who wrote the aforementioned story, would not be involved in the writing of the new series and many, including myself, were suddenly left in doubt as to the future of this character that seemingly come from nowhere to be a tour de force in the world of Gotham City.
Then came the announcement that J.H. Williams III, the artist behind Elegy, was announced as the man who would be writing the new series and... well, I can't speak for other Batwoman fans, but for myself, I was left dubious. Yeah, the man is a magician when it comes to artwork, but can he write?
So this brings us to Batwoman #0, an issue clearly designed to bring new readers up to speed on the character (or at least enough to be able to jump in) and also a chance to see just what Williams can do without Rucka's writing. The answer? Somewhat surprising.
The newly returned Bruce Wayne is scoping Kate Kane out to determine if she is, in fact, Batwoman and whether or not she has a place in his new Batman Incorporated scheme. This takes the form of following her and her family using various disguises, as well as watching her do battle with her long-time enemies in the Religion of Crime. In much the same way as was done during the Bruce Wayne: The Road Home series of one-shots, he gives a point-by-point analysis of Kate, her motivations, and her performance. While acknowledging that she is not exactly the same as himself or any of the heroes that he had a direct hand in training, she is nonetheless more than capable of performing her mission.
At this point, the most outstanding element of this issue needs to be addressed: the artwork. Anyone who read Elegy knew that Williams more than had the chops to make this book look pretty, but even knowing what you are in for does not necessitate being unable to appreciate just how great something is. Williams in on his game in both the Batwoman and the Kate Kane scenes, with some help from Amy Reeder and Richard Friend to help bring some distinguishing between the two angles. But again, it's all about Williams and his layouts. The man can do things with a page that very few others can do and certainly not many working today.
Now that the elephant in the room is out of the way, there's the small matter of the story. Now, as I alluded to above, going into this I wasn't entirely convinced that Williams was going to be able to pull this off as a writer. And at the end of the day, I'm still not. While the story was entertaining and his juxtaposition of Bruce's following of her both in her role as Kate Kane and as Batwoman was well-executed, it didn't strike me as really selling anything. And to be blunt: this was a new-reader intro issue. Frankly, it didn't seem like anything in this issue would have been that difficult to mess up. I'm still unsure.
So at the end of the day, this is a gorgeous book. One of the best-looking books I've seen all year. But I'm still not 100% sold on whether or not the man responsible for that art can also carry the writing load, even with the assistance of a co-writer.
Art: 9.9 out of 10
Story: 6.8 out of 10
Overall Score: 8.35 out of 10