Written by Margurite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Art by Steve Epting
Colours by Jeromy Cox
Published by DC Comics
Cover price: $2.99 USD
I don’t think its wrong to say that Batwoman has stumbled a bit over the last few years. Her solo stories in Detective Comics and Batwoman started strong, but then J. H. Williams III wasn’t allowed to marry Kate and Maggie Sawyer and rage quit the series, and DC rushed to find a replacement lest they take their time and screw up their precious numbering, and the result was Marc Andreyko’s thoroughly disliked run. After petering out, Batwoman would be banished to comic book limbo, only making occasional guest appearances in larger Bat-stories like the two Eternal series, and even then she barely did anything. But then she got tied closer to the Bat-family in James Tynion IV’s mostly good Detective Comics run, and they decided to launch another Batwoman ongoing under up-and-coming writer Marguerite Bennett (Animosity, Bombshells). Since a lot of people probably aren’t familiar with Batwoman’s history — since she was barely affected by the 2011 reboot — this Rebirth one-shot could have been used to catch new readers up on her backstory, while also setting up new stories. It only does the latter well.
The flashbacks are where the problems begin. Now, I’m familiar with Batwoman’s history, because I read all of her solo stories up until the Andreyko run, but if you’re not, this will only give you the basics. You get the bare bones of Kate’s history — that her mother and sister were killed by terrorists (though this may have been retconned into some nefarious organisation in this issue) and she was a cadet who was kicked out for being gay and refusing to lie about it, then went around as a party girl and dated Renee Montoya before a run-in with Batman made her rethink her life. She then had her father use his black ops contacts to train herself into Batwoman. But stuff like the return of her presumed dead sister is only lightly touched upon (though I don’t think it was ever explained in full), as is her relationship with Maggie Sawyer — which doesn’t even get a single line of dialogue to explain how it came about or who she even is — and her father. Instead, you just get some nice splash pages. Bennett and Tynion also jump around in time a bit, using frequent time skips. And while this is essential given Kate’s origin story, and it creates some good transitions between scenes, it also feels a bit too rushed, and getting rid of some of the aforementioned splash pages and letting the story breath a bit more would have helped things.
The story used to set up Kate Kane’s future follows up on the thoroughly mediocre Night of the Monster Men crossover as well as the events of Detective Comics, where Kate is still trying to discover what she does better than Batman. The focus is on black market bio-weapon sales, which is a good thing for Kate to tackle, given her history with the military and fighting monsters. It ties back into the theme of this issue, which is that Kate needs direction in her life, but it’s pretty heavy-handed and doesn’t feel right for the character, at least to me. There’s also some inconsistencies with Detective Comics, which is weird given Tynion co-wrote the issue. A “missing year” is also retconned into her origin, which features a new past love-interest for Kate, but the entire scene really didn’t interest me at all, though the location is obviously where Kate will be going in her series. There are some stories teased on the last page, and only two of these interest me, and that’s not a good thing when five stories were teased.
The dialogue tries a bit too hard to me funny in that nonchalant way, and it can feel a bit try-hard in that respect. It’s not too terrible, but it’s much better when Bennett and Tynion are going for profound moments, but even then it’s a bit too heavy-handed.
Steve Epting’s art is surprisingly varied in this issue. I mostly only know his art from Captain America, FF and New Avengers, but he’s proven a versatile artist, one who favours lots of shadows. While there’s definitely some thick shadows in this issue, Epting really varies things up, from the brighter, softer lines in Kate’s early twenties to the darker atmosphere I expect from him in “the missing year”. Epting’s posing is also much more dynamic than it used to be, and instead of using mostly stiff, normal-looking poses, he seems to be embracing the superhero genre a bit more with some great Bat-poses, though they do still look a bit off. Also, Epting seems more willing to let loose with his layouts, though thankfully he restricts these to his spreads, since I’ve found his work to be a mixed bag when it comes to actual reading the stuff.
Oh, and as a random aside: I am so glad that Kate’s back to having non-porcelain skin when out of her Batwoman gear; the fact that it was makeup added to the costume’s practicality, and making her skin chalk-white like that if anything made it too obvious is was her.
Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is a competent comic. Its problems are a result of it being rushed and heavy-handed, and some of the stories set up I can’t really be excited for. But it also has some nuance as a result of its structure, and some of the other stories it sets up I can’t wait for. Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is a mixed bag, and I really hope that Bennett straightens things out without Tynion’s influence, because I know she can do better, and I think Batwoman is a character who definitely deserves better than she’s gotten in recent years.
2.5/5 – Average