Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Batwoman Begins Is Half Of A Fantastic Puzzle

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Ah, Batwoman Begins. I’ve been waiting to dig into this one since October! There’s been a sort of de facto tradition within Batwoman comics that we’ve been blessed with. Namely, that the art is nothing short of phenomenal.

Ben Oliver’s work here, with his dynamic yet minimalist linework and an almost smoky color scheme, is no exception. Everything is rendered with a striking sense of quiet contemplation. Even the action scenes are somber, in a way. If he and Steve Epting want to alternate on Batwoman Rebirth, I will not complain. I’ll clap.

Of course, being the absolutely massive Batwoman fan that I am, I’m sure some of you are wondering if I’m going to address the timestamp on the first page, which was supplied in the issue preview. And I am.

At first, I found it rather alarming, as it appeared to me that Tynion and Bennett had made Kate younger than she’s always presented herself as: around 30 years old. Of course, that decision didn’t line up at all with their intimate understanding of her character nor their pure adoration of her and everything she represents.

Naturally, I did some digging. After reading no less than three completely separate interviews released within a day of each other, I realized that this “change” in her personal timeline, if one can truly call it that, was something I could really get behind. In fact, the more I mulled it over, the more perfect it felt.

While this does diminish Kate’s operational time as Batwoman over all, it doesn’t lessen her effectiveness. We already know just how good she is; We’ve seen it. However, this pushes something about her past to the forefront that I hadn’t considered.

There was a stretch of time after Kate’s dishonorable discharge where she was aimless. Drinking and sleeping her way across the planet with near limitless cash. To me, it makes sense that this was an uncomfortably large chunk of her life.

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It makes her decision to return to Gotham, and finding her way to serve, all the more powerful. The hole she had to pull herself out of was far deeper than we’d all initially believed, and that’s all kinds of awesome. And, it just so happens that that is a big part of what Batwoman Rebirth is going to be about! All the crappy mistakes she made along the way, and all the people she hurt.

But, even if I didn’t like this decision, the reference it makes, in tandem with the second page, is more than worth the price of admission.

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Almost didn’t catch it. Almost.

Batwoman Begins, indeed.

Back to Basic(s)

Out of all of the relationships in Kate’s life, the one with her father Jacob has always been the most important to her. Even after the events of Elegy, where it’s revealed that Kate’s twin sister Beth didn’t die that day in Brussels. The bodies were switched, and Jacob could never find her. Until she found him, moments before falling to her presumed death.

The first Batwoman solo title dug into that as well, ending with Beth’s “resurrection” and establishing the Kane family into a place where they could finally begin to heal. Of course, one creative team change later and most of that appeared to have been largely forgotten in place of, well, questionable narrative decisions.

Rise of the Batmen, Tynion’s first arc on Detective Comics, went to great and successful lengths to re-establish the animosity Kate felt towards her father by revealing another big lie of his. I doubt I need to get into that all over again, so we’ll skip ahead to the here and now. Or, rather, the then and there.

Keep in mind, though, that the only thing that’s changed since the day Kate first put on her uniform is, well, what she knows.

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Batwoman Begins opens with a flashback of that old relationship dynamic between Kate and Jacob as she attempts to track Batman while he does his thing. Jacob is portrayed as the same man he’s always been: supportive, confident and proud of his daughter. They discuss something I’ve gone into at great lengths in the past: what makes Batman and Batwoman different?

How, exactly, is Kate different from Bruce? What can she do that he can’t? And it’s a question I could answer all over again here, but it’s not exactly necessary. I’m confident that Tynion and Bennett are going to do that themselves far more effectively than I ever could.

Big Trouble In Little Monstertown

After the Bat Family Crossover event Night of the Monster Men, the final kaiju collapsed at the docks. ARGUS took over quarantining it, but have yet to dispose of it yet. So, there’s been this forty-story tall giant monster corpse festering at the edge of Gotham for about a month or so now. Which, all things considered, isn’t too strange. Relatively.

Batman calls Kate down to the aptly named Monstertown, as something needs investigating.

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Shortly after they arrive, giant mutated screeching seagulls attack them. No, really. They fight them off, because of course they do, but ARGUS swoops in to clean up the mess before things get too distracting for our heroes. Enter: Dr. Victoria October. ARGUS consultant, trans woman, and the world’s foremost expert in Post-Human Bioweaponry.

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I love the fact that Bruce actually sent her a card after she transitioned. That’s so perfect and just genuinely sweet. Because of course he’d take the time do that! He’s Batman, after all.

Anyway, Dr. October explains that the Monster Venom is too dangerous to be disposed of quite yet. Mainly, because it could be weaponized into what is effectively a next-generation suicide bomber that doesn’t so much as explode as it does transform the user into an unstoppable twelve-story tall monster with blood that creates more of itself just through skin exposure. 

And then she drops two troubling bombshells. One, that this could potentially become another Cold War-style arms race for the next fifty years—which is right up my personal alley—and two…

Cobra Commander? Gray Fox? I wouldn’t mind more Metal Gear Solid in my Batwoman.

The Colony is back in Gotham.

The Prodigal “Son” Returns

I can’t get over this. I mean, I know that the whole “Jacob might have a secret son” thing got resolved in Batwoman Annual #1—well, more that it wasn’t Mr. Bones—but wouldn’t it just be kind of perfect if Simon turned out to be that man? Kate would never believe either of them, I’d assume. It’s not like she can trust a single word out of her father’s mouth anyway, but another secret sibling?

“Don’t you do this, young man! Don’t you dare hurt your half-sister!”

Just throwing this out there: What if Simon didn’t even know? Considering how Jacob speaks to Simon here, well, I can’t help but wonder if Tynion and Bennett are bringing that back. It would certainly be an interesting and messed up look at sibling rivalry since this guy, Colony Prime? From interviews, we know that he’s the soldier Jacob’s been training much longer than Kate to take his place.

But since Kate became an option again, that position has been closed to him thanks to good old fashioned nepotism. Colony Prime does not seem to like Kate very much, and starts ranting about how he’s studied all of her and Batman’s moves—even though Kate’s primary mentality isn’t any more nuanced than to close the distance and strike to cripple—and can counter all of them. Sorta like Prometheus, with his fancy helmet. Which the Colony has something similar to, if you recall.

“Simon says, McClane and the Samaritan will go to the subway station at 72nd and Broadway. I will call you in 15 minutes on the payphone outside the station. No Police. Failure to answer will constitute noncompliance.”

However, I’m guessing that the programming spike that Simon shot into the Belfry’s batcomputer is far more threatening than he himself is. We never did get to see the full extent the defensive systems Tim built into the Belfry, so something tells me that will be a far greater danger to Kate and Bruce.

Of course, we also know, thanks to interviews, that Jacob is still in the Belfry after this mini-arc concludes, so the interesting part isn’t whether or not Simon will succeed, but rather how effective he is. After all, he seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t train with the rest of the Helmet Troops. Simon seems like the kind of soldier Jacob would send to hell and back.

Just like he did with Kate.

Final Thoughts

If Batwoman Begins is meant to get me pumped and interested about Batwoman Rebirth more than I already was, then it has absolutely succeeded. This is very clearly the first half of a two-parter, but I’ve got a good feeling that the second half is going to hit hard, fast and pull quite a few twists. Once again, I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s pretty much everything I could ever want in a team book, or Bat book for that matter, and…

Well, considering the rather huge marketing push DC is using for Batwoman Rebirth, this can only help those numbers. There’s already been a huge spike in interest for Kate since Rebirth began, which continues to grow even now. If Batwoman Begins doesn’t seal the deal on those on the fence, I’m not sure what will.

But there is one thing I do know for certain: February 15th can’t come fast enough.


Writers: James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett

Pencils/Inks/Colors: Ben Oliver

Letterer: Marilyn Patrizio

All images courtesy of DC Comics

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