Detective Comics #855

Batwoman in Wonderland.

Batwoman in Wonderland.

“Elegy Part 2: Misterioso”
Author: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Variant Cover Artist: J.G. Jones

“The Question – Pipeline: Chapter One/Part Two”
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

It’s official: Detective Comics is the best Bat-book on the shelves at the moment.  Who would have thought that Batwoman would amount to anything more than a media publicity stunt?  Well, the media don’t really care anymore, but I sure as hell do.

So many great Batman staples make their return here: Carroll-inspired villainy, Gothic castles, mad monks, and bad opium dreams [see Arkham Asylum, The Cult, Gothic, Batman and the Mad Monk, and Venom].  It’s Rucka’s respect for these hallmarks that makes us accept Batwoman into the Bat-family, and as a worthy successor to the World’s Greatest Detective.

Batwoman’s new foil Alice is chilling and off-kilter to say the least.  In fact, she’s quickly establishing herself as Batwoman’s Joker, and honestly I think she’s interesting enough to pull it off.  Her exclamations are just like original Alice, but it’s her pragmatism and emotional detachment under the guise of curiosity and innocence that makes my skin crawl.

All of this is augmented by Dave Stewart’s striking colours and J.H. Williams’ beautiful pencils.  Williams’ panel layouts are once again experimental yet easy to follow, and their “otherness” only fuels the drug-induced surrealism that dominates the issue.  “Beautiful, like broken butterfly wings” is the best way I can think to describe it.  Batwoman’s flowing red locks, Alice’s running mascara, the falling autumn leaves, the psychedelic vines that cloud Kate’s memories: this comic is a visual feast.

Suffice it to say, Kate Kane’s beginner’s luck has run out and Alice – new leader of the Religion of Crime – shows her true colours.

A very strange cliffhanger is followed by The Question backup feature, with Cully Hamner ably assisting on pencils.  His art is like Weet Bix and warm milk; the cartoony style can’t prepare you for the gritty brutality that follows.  The Question teaches her adversaries a very valuable lesson: don’t bring a weapon against someone more proficient in that weapon – like nunchaku for instance – it’s just a liability.  After some persuasive interrogation, Montoya shifts back into detective mode, but finds more trouble than info.  The Question’s street-level view helps ground an otherwise fantastical cape story, which again begs the Weet Bix and warm milk analogy.

Once again, Detective Comics has cemented itself as the most beautiful, value-packed book on store shelves.  Issue 854 was a great new start to Detective with very little background required, so why not jump in while the time is ripe?

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