Just in time for the end of Pride Month, e_galston reviews the GLAAD Award winning Batwoman: Elegy, by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written by Greg Rucka
Art and Cover by: J.H. Williams III
Page Count: 192 pages
Published by: DC Comics
In her first hardcover, collecting tales from DETECTIVE COMICS #854-860, Batwoman battles a madwoman known only as Alice, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, who sees her life as a fairy tale and everyone around her as expendable! Batwoman must stop Alice from unleashing a toxic death cloud over all of Gotham City - but Alice has more up her sleeve than just poison, and Batwoman's life will never ever be the same.
When Batwoman was announced many fans were upset over the fact that the ONE defining characteristic of the character was her sexuality. Press releases and articles all kept saying she was a lipstick lesbian. When the character made her debut reaction was mixed. It's been a few years since her debut, and after many false starts, Batwoman took over Detective Comics. And I must say the first hardcover, entitled Batwoman: Elegy was well worth the wait. Collecting issues 854-860 of Detective Comics, this hardcover picks up where Greg Rucka left the character and also gives her a much needed "Secret Origin."
Still recovering after being stabbed in the heart by the High Madame of the Religion of Crime, Kate Kane is hot on the trail of the next High Madame. Wanting to stop the Religion of Crime from taking over Gotham, Kate pushes herself a little further then she should. Not listening to her father, an accomplished Army Colonel, Kate soldiers on. Finding the location of the new High Madame, Kate is attacked by Alice, who sounds a lot like the Mad Hatter when she talks. Kate is poisoned by Alice and has to retreat. Instead of pursuing Alice the following night, her father convinces her to go to a Gotham Police Charity Ball. While there Kate sees her cousin Bette, and is introduced to Maggie Sawyer of the Gotham PD. Kate's off night is interrupted by a call from her father, who was kidnapped by Alice. Alice plans on using Colonel Kane, to steal an Army Aircraft and disperse a chemical agent over Gotham City. Kate is able to save her father with the help of former Religion of Crime follower, Abbot. Kate stops Alice's plan but isn't able to save Alice herself, as she plummets to her "death," but not before telling Kate, "you have our father's eyes." Curious, Kate gets a DNA test and finds that they are related.
In a series of flashbacks the reader learns of the "secret origin" of Kate Kane. In a flashback to 20 years previous, the reader finds out that Kate Kane has a twin sister, Beth. The reader also finds out that on one birthday, Kate, Beth and the twin's mother were kidnapped and when the police found them, only Kate survived. In the next flashback to 7 years previous, the reader finds out that Kate was a student at West Pointe on the fast track into the army, until she is discharged for being a lesbian, and refusing to lie about it. The last flash back is to 3 years previous, where it is learned how and why Kate became Batwoman.
This book was a VERY good read. Once I started the book I couldn't put it down until I was finished. Greg Rucka really knows how to write an incredible and thought provoking story. To his credit, he took what was once said to be Kate's only defining characteristic, and put it almost to the back burner. Sure the book dealt with Kate's sexuality, but it dealt with it in a realistic way. She had realistic relationship problems, but the relationships weren't the only thing defining the character. Rucka really turned what was once thought to be a one dimensional character into a fully developed character, that through the course of the story, became a character the reader cares about.
J.H. Williams III's artwork was astonishing. I have never seen such amazing storytelling in the 15+ years I've been reading comics for. William's page layouts were astonishing, instead of using typical straight boxes, he varied up the layouts with shapes like bats, and lightning bolts during action scenes. I also love how he updated the Batwoman costume, to make it more functional for Kate's war on crime. The cover for the hard cover is very striking and really pulls the casual reader into looking under the cover.
What I really liked about this was having the introduction written by Rachel Maddow. As many know Rachel Maddow hosts a talk show on MSNBC, she's also a very well educated woman. The introduction brought a bit of both to the book. It was witty and funny, what one expects from Maddow, but it also showed how Rucka really tried to make Kate's world believable. Maddow commented about Kate's sense of honor while being kicked out of the Army, and the connections to the Lt. Choi case of last year.
This storyline was also awarded with the GLAAD award for Outstanding Comic Book. I totally agree with this award. The comic showed Kate and her various "romantic relationships" in a very positive "normal" light. It really did a lot to show that being gay isn't the defining characteristic for a character, its just one aspect of a character.
I HIGHLY recommend this book. This book had amazing art and story. The hardcover is definitely worth the money one would spend on it. This is one collection I would definitely share with everyone I know, regardless of comic knowledge or not.