Batwoman Rises To The Top Level Of Comics Of The Superhero Genre


I’m not a huge superhero-genre fan when it comes to comics, and I didn’t even know there was a difference between Batwoman and Batgirl until recently, but I just read Batwoman: To Drown The World, part of the “New 52” series from DC Comics, and I found it very well done.

The new Batwoman stuff is done by a team of creative-types, headed by scriptors J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, artists Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy, and some great color work from Guy Major.

The most striking part of the comic to me is the color choices.  The red red of Batwoman’s hair and lips is captivating and looks spectacular against her black suit and porcelain white skin.  The rest of the colors are very cool– aquas and watercolory purples,etc– a brilliant artistic choice.  I’m not sure if the contrast between the hot reds and the cool everything else is a purposeful color choice to make Batwoman’s red appear all the more sexy and vibrant, or if it is a side effect of the theme (Batwoman versus some mysterious, elemental water foe), but it really works for me.

Different locations in the story have different palettes (there are some hospital scenes leaning toward greens, for example)– but in most every scene the colors are muted.  That said, I noticed toward the end of the book that the color revved up somewhat and became more vibrant.  I hope the juxtaposition of vivid red with cooler background colors stays part of the Batwoman style.

I also found it rather witty that there’s fish motif running through the book:  everything from seafood meals to fish tossed into an alley.  All part of the water element theme.

There’s also something interesting going on with the attempt to indicate quick movement in a static medium.  The artists have chosen to render some action in a “blurred” manner to indicate movement.  The blurring appears computer-assisted, but may not be.  I applaud the creative stretch, and I honestly don’t know yet how I feel about it.  The stylistic contrast with the rest of the artwork is a little jarring, but on the otherhand, there’s something cool and different about it.  I’m curious to see if the comic book world in general adopts the method over time or if its just a flash– or blur– in the pan.

I find the healthy human form a beautiful and worthy subject for art, and apparently so, too, do our artists here:  Batwoman’s curvaceous body is not shyly framed by any means, and she rocks the skin tight oufit.

The artwork in general– very much in the superhero comic style– is topnotch.  A few panels or series of panels are especially noteworthy.  One such panel is a through-the-giant-fishtank shot (there’s the water motif again).  The angle the artists chose to display was creatively and well chosen– we look through the tank and get to see a bad guy being kicked by Batwoman into a face-plant against the glass.  And the coloration is perfectly altered to account for the through-the-water bluing.

There are several full-page drawings that are not only great art– but we get to see them twice.  Once in color and once again in a black-and-white rendering on the following page.  I thought this a bold and beautiful move– causing the reader to pause and really take a moment just to enjoy the amazing talent involved in this work.

Late in the book, there’s a remarkable two-panel, diagonally split, full page drawing of Batwoman’s red boot coming down near a falling, smoking bullet, followed by a close-up of her saying, with a sadistic twist of red, red lips, “Now it’s my turn.”  Sublime.

There’s also a great tri-panel (one panel is a circular insert) of a Batwoman kiss that is as big and romantic as a Gone With Wind movie poster.

I did have a problem with one or two pages of fight scenes:  I did not find it intuitive what order someone should view the frames.  One two-page spread actually moves clockwise up from the bottom of the pages (I eventually figured out), which of course, can take a moment to discover when the rest of the book is mostly moving left to right and up to down.

Batwoman’s appearance, with the sharp lines, harsh eyes, and pointy nose of her mask– along with her scowls and freakishly white skin– often tilts the sexy heroine image toward the witchlike.  I kinda liked it.

And here’s something that really works and I have no idea why:  there’s a frame of Batwoman being shot by many bullets at once and around each bullet-hit are drawn thick white rectanglish lines…   Why?  I have no idea.  But somehow it works.  It looks great, in fact.  Again, these guys and gals are taking artistic chances, and I applaud it with every hand I have (that is just two, if you’re wondering).

Oh, and there is a really cool, multi-panel, zoom-out shot of Batwoman sitting on a ledge outside the window of her cousin’s hospital room, just watching with what we know is concern and being as close as she can be to the person in the bed.

just like her male counterparts, there happens to be attractive and appropriately aged people populating the comic who serve as potential (or actual, kinetic) sexual interests.  Batwoman’s boss at the Department Of Extra Normal Operations is probably the prettiestly drawn of all the characters– and that’s saying a lot in a book full of pretties.  In one scene, Kate Kane –out of her Batwoman costume and in a lovely evening dress– descends the stairs with another strikingly gorgeous female– and they look like two supermodels entering a ball.

As a beautiful, young, female agent working for a secret government organization, I couldn’t help but compare Batwoman to J.J. Abram’s and Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series, and I wonder if that was any sort of inspiration for the artists.  Just like in that television show, the story of the comic takes the time to explore the social and family network of our heroine.  Also, like in any Abrahms series, there are lies and secrets and revelations to keep things interesting.  Futhermore, the comic’s ending is a nice little domestic scene which strikes me as Abramsesque.  

Lastly, the story is told as a series of time-jumps, which is generally good, but sometimes a little much to process, as the time-jumps are all over the place (from the way-past to the present, back to the not-so-way past, etc) and not only that, but the point of view is also changing, with the backstories of different characters being explored.  Again, this mostly works, but it has its drawbacks as a style.

Wow.  I don’t do that many comics posts, but I’m often surprised at how long I can go on about them.  I guess I’m more of a comic geek than I care to admit!


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