ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AUGUST 24, 2010
Apologies for the lateness. Last couple of days I’ve been kinda busy.
Sunday in the Comics with Christopher – Batwoman: Elegy
Something that I probably should’ve mentioned in my first review is that I love hardcovers. Really, really love hardcovers. Not just because spending the extra money on a book of refined art and witty dialogue in a harder and less-damageable format makes me feel fancy (which it does) but because having a hardcover to read, as opposed to a trade paperback, just feels much better in my hands. The pages are easier to turn, the cover is easier to open without bending and damaging it, and I get a sense that a hardcover can sometimes deliver far more story-wise to the reader than some trades can. Given the extra money being paid, one would expect that a hardcover might contain more bang for your buck, as it were, when giving you the story it contains.
Batwoman’s first graphic novel, Elegy, certainly achieves this goal.
Penned by Greg Rucka and containing some of the most beautiful comic book art I’ve ever seen by J.H. Williams III, Elegy acts first as an adventure story and then a hybridized resolution to the adventure story alongside an origin tale. In reality the book contains two stories – being Elegy and Go – but reading them in this format I prefer to think of them as one big tale that bleeds together seamlessly, which it certainly does.
Elegy follows Kate Kane as she begins her journey as Batwoman in earnest. Following on from one of her past adventures where she was almost sacrificed by a bunch of whacky crime cultists (which, while understandable enough through the book’s prologue, left me scratching my head a little and wondering if this was indeed a legitimate Bat-verse story) Kane doggedly pursues the new High Madam of Crime in Gotham, being a woman who is so big a fruitcake that she believes she is Alice Liddell from the eponymous Lewis Carroll story. Of course, Kane eventually saves Gotham and stops Alice in her tracks, which seems standard enough.
What is not standard, however, is both the manner of Alice’s defeat and the revelation she imparts to Kate before her demise. Let me tell you, it’s massive. It’s so massive I literally went back over the couple of pages before it and read the last passage again, to make sure I hadn’t died or started a microsleep complete with lucid dream. It was a twist worthy of a Geoff Johns or a Grant Morrison story, and after going back and reading it again with this fact in mind it puts a whole new dynamic on both Batwoman as a character and on the interactions she has with Alice.
Another non-standard feature is Kate’s origin story, interwoven with the resolution of the main Elegy storyline. Having a superhero with a truly militaristic upbringing certainly alters the “normal man can change the world” dynamic that Batman has, and while on paper that may seem a little jarring, given the history of almost all of the Bat family coming from relatively mundane beginnings (with the exception of people like Cassandra Cain), but in practice the origin is executed beautifully. It was so immersive for me, in fact, that even though I knew it was coming I still felt quite sad when Kate’s mother was killed near the beginning. Not enough to cry (seeing as the only comic that has ever made me cry is the New X-Men issue where Beast gets the crap beaten out of him by Beak) but still to feel real sorrow for this character. That kind of immersion in a storyline, eliciting that kind of sympathy, always scores high points from me.
I experienced disappointment that this was the only Batwoman story out currently – and was indeed led to believe that her current feature in Detective Comics was now superseded by Batman returning to the title – but was quickly elated by the news that we’ve got a strictly Batwoman comic coming up. I really hope it upholds the epic awesomeness that Elegy embodies.
As an aside to my readers, can anyone recommend a bad comic for me to review?