Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Detective Comics #855

Detective Comics #855
Batwoman (24-Page feature):
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III

The Question (8-Page co-feature):
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Cully Hamner

In Batwoman, Kate confronts the new Lewis Carol inspired leader of the thirteen covens of Gotham, Alice. Desperate to know why the covens are interested in her, Kate stumbles down the rabbit hole for answers. It isn't long until things begin to spin out of control. In the Question, Renee confronts Varga and continues her search for her client's kidnapped sister.

Even before Batwoman debuted she was making headlines for one big reason: She's gay. Writer Greg Rucka, the character's modern creator and the major source of a "gay presence" in DC comics (he's also responsible for Renee Montoya's coming out), said before he took Batwoman to Detective Comics that he would not emphasize her sexuality any more than any of her other characteristics. It's for this reason that the early pages of Batwoman disturbed me so much.

Whether written in by Rucka, or drawn in by Williams there is undeniable sexual presence in the fight between Kate and Alice. In the fight, Kate disarms Alice-- taking away her various knives and guns-- and the panels are overt close ups of Kate touching Alice's upper ribcage and thighs. In another panel Kate and Alice's faces are very close to one anothers, a rather typical interrogation-type panel, and Alice is licking her lips for no discernible reason.

Depending on the situation, it seems Rucka should either be ashamed or upset. It seems silly in ways to point out something that takes up so little of the actual comic, but the respect that characters like Renee Montoya or Batwoman receive is incredibly important. The demographics of super-hero comics shouldn't be placated to, and the artist/writer shouldn't indulge in whims at the expense of the character. The significance of the fact that one of DC's major titles (their namesake, in fact) features two gay characters is huge, and because it's the first time Marvel or DC has put a gay character in the limelight on an extended run, the care taken is paramount. It sets a tone for not only how the characters themselves are treated, but how any gay characters can be treated for an indeterminate amount of time.

Personal positions aside, the second issue of Batwoman's time in Detective Comics answers very few questions, and does little to help define her character beyond what's already known. Readers are given a handful of single-panel images that allude to the character's past, but largely things are still left unknown. Rucka has promised an origin within the next few months, but until then reading about Kate continues to be somewhat of a detached process, however, an astute reader familiar with Rucka might be able to begin to connect small pieces of her origin already. Reader beware (R.L. Stine reference intended), there's a bit of a WTF type ending to this month's issue.

J.H. Williams' art work is still stunning, and the story is unfolding at as quickly a pace as can be expected, and it's only getting more intriguing at time goes on. Question continues exactly where it left off, and like last month feels somewhat lackluster due to its length. While the co-features are welcome additions they certainly don't do much for character work. The Question continues to play out somewhat episodically like old serials or new-paper adventure comics.

RATING: 7 out of 10
I'd recommend picking up this month, and last's issue of Detective comics not only because I believe Rucka's run will be promising but because I believe it's important to support the characters in the title. Good sales will continue to keep gay characters in comics front and center stage, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the stories seem promising.

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