Detective Comics, the title for which DC Comics is actually named, is no longer headed by Batman, at least not for now. No, for the next few months, Detective Comics will be led by the mysterious Batwoman. It’s a risky move, but if Detective Comics #854 is any example of what we can expect from future issues, it’s one that should work very, very well.
Introduced in 52, Batwoman drew a lot of ire from a lot of fans as being just another token minority character (in this case, a lesbian). That said, her appearances as a supporting character in the interesting relationship between Vic Sage and Renee Montoya didn’t exactly give her too much screen time in which to flourish, and the complaint came at a time when DC was introducing a rush of new characters to the scene, almost every one of which was met with similar complains. Despite constant promises for the last three years that the character would be fleshed out in her own mini, DC (perhaps) smartly waited until now to do so. A mini starring a female character is a risky proposition at best in today’s market. But put that same character headlining in their oldest title in place of the missing Batman? Well, we’ll see how that works out… but it’s certainly brought the character back to the spotlight in a big way.
So, now that Kate Kane is there, how does she fare? Quite well! To no one’s surprise at all, Rucka delivers a quality opening issue working with J.H. Williams III, one of the most talented artists in comics. The pair offer up a tense, action packed issue that fulfills the promise to begin fleshing out Kate Kane as a character while continuing the ongoing saga of the Crime Bible. A new villain is introduced, and a supporting cast is started. Not a bad beginning for a character who was, coming into the issue, largely a blank slate. There is one worrying moment in the issue, dealing with a potential motivation for Kate, in which it is hinted that Kate has the most trite origin imaginable for a modern female hero, but the remainder of the issue is of such high quality that I am willing to wait and see where Rucka takes this.
The real star here, though, is Williams and colorist Dave Stewart, who’ve given the book a rather haunting look in its frequent contrasts of white, red and black and its absolutely stellar panelling. By now, you’ve likely all seen the preview pages that have been posted on every comics site in existence. Suffice to say, the entire issue lives up to that level of quality with ease. It’s very nearly worth the price of admission to see the art alone.
The second part of the book – and the reason for the dreaded $3.99 price tag – is the backup feature, this one also by Greg Rucka. Cully Hamner (Blue Beetle) is given the unenviable task of following up on the JH Williams III main feature, but he does an excellent job in giving Renee a physical personality and sense of style that easily could have gotten lost in the shortened page count. The story is brief and compelling, every bit as good as the excellent backup from Streets of Gotham. It’s a more-than-worthy addition to an excellent first issue.
– Cal Cleary