Robot 6

Women of Action | Batwoman

Women of Action is an experiment exploring superhero series starring and named after women. Which are worth supporting, which aren’t, and why?

Batwoman (by Amy Reeder, who is also awesome)

Batwoman’s blessing and its curse is its stunning art and design by JH Williams III. I know it’s weird to call it a curse, but in my case, when every mention I hear about a comic begins and ends with the art, it gets me wondering about the story, and not in a good way. Pair that apprehension with a start date that got pushed back several times and I was downright skittish, so it took me a while to check out Batwoman. I probably never would have except for my decision to read more comics starring and named after female superheroes.

I don’t know why more people don’t mention the story in Batwoman (well, I do – see: The Art – but the story’s still not mentioned as much as it should be), because it’s amazing. Williams’ contribution to the comic is more than imaginative page layouts and long, flowing hair. Everyone knows that he’s also a co-writer, but I’m not talking about that either. It’s how the mood of the comic perfectly matches the gothic, spooky tone of the ghost story that Williams and other co-writer W. Haden Blackman chose for their introductory arc. It’s one thing to say that comics are a mixture of story and art; it’s quite another thing to see those two elements work together as well as they do in Batwoman.

As for the character herself, I suspect that a lot of the hard work on her was done by Greg Rucka (I haven’t read Elegy yet, but I’m going to now). Even if that’s true though, Williams and Blackman are worthy successors and present Kate Kane as a complicated, torn, but so heroic woman. The way Williams draws her plays into that too, making her look stoic, but tortured; as much a part of the darkly romantic look of the comic as Gotham’s architecture or the fluid panel borders. Colorist Dave Stewart also adds to this by giving Kane supernaturally pale skin, something I hear is explained in Elegy, but doesn’t need to be understood to appreciate how stunning and moody it looks.

Seriously, Batwoman’s not just one of the best female superheroes with a comic right now; she’s one of the best superheroes period. She’s mature in the true sense of the word – no scare-quotes needed – and that makes her comic grownup too. No decapitations or blood-spitting or fan service; just a multifaceted woman having complex relationships as she helps people and fights some crime.



the one dc book i buy…

I passed on this, figuring it would not be that good without Rucka. Yeah, it would look amazing, but Kate seemed to be Greg’s child. To my utter surprise, this might be the single best received New 52 title. I don’t regret skipping it (because I can wait to see the collected version). But this goes to show that writers besides Greg can give us well rounded, intelligent, capable, strong women as leads in pop fiction.

A few thoughts:

How is it not jaw-droppingly obvious to Kate Kane’s police detective gal-pal that she is Batwoman? Red hair, pale pale skin, wealthy enough to afford all the necessary super-hero toys? How bad of a cop is Maggie Sawyer?

And in response to the Rucka reference, he writes strong female characters but frankly they all feel like variations on the exact same theme. Tough, full of emotional scars and/or personal problems, don’t dress feminine, could be/are a lesbian, yep, that’s a Rucka female for you.

It should be noted that the Batwoman art accompanying this article is by Amy Reeder, not JH!

D’oh! That’s embarrassing. I made a note under the picture. She’s fantastic too.


February 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm

This is probably the only “modern” super hero story I can get in to whole-heartedly. It doesn’t pretend to be “gritty” and “realistic”. It knows fake but still chooses not to insult the reader’s intelligence by telling a good story. They know that just because there’s Were-people doesn’t mean the characters can’t have solid personalities!

I still just can’t get into Kate Kane. I have almost every comic with her in it since 52 and I still just shrug my shoulders. JH Williams art is the driving factor for me.

I can’t remember a reason for Kate’s alabaster skin, would someone remind me? I assumed she overdid the Wayne Foundation.

I assumed she overdid the Wayne Foundation.

If there was a way I could tip you for that, I would.

Cheers – fab piece, by the way.

The reason given in the comic for Kate’s skin being so pale is that she rarely goes out during the day. She tends to sleep in a lot as her nights are kept pretty busy. Williams has said that he wanted her to look pale because most natural redheads are pale in real life, but when they started drawing the character there were coloring issues that made her skin look even whiter than it should have.

Also, some people wonder why she has long hair as Batwoman and short hair as Kate Kane: its because she wears a wig while in her Batwoman uniform. This was shown in Batwoman: Elegy but I don’t think it was specifically touched on in the current book.

I love this book. The art is gorgeous, the story is strong and Kate Kane is one of, if not THE, best character to be created in the last decade or more.

Amy Reeder takes over the art for 6 issues (starting with #6) to give Williams a break while he starts on the art for the third story arc. Batwoman: Hydrology (the first arc from the current series) is coming out in June, I believe, and will collect Batwoman #0-5.

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives