Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology is one of the most beautiful comics I’ve read. The art has an art-deco feel, while retaining the thick black lines of the American comic book style. It’s a redesign of the traditional and I love that. I think I haven’t been so entertained by the movement of red hair since I saw Brave. It is a truly lovely book.
Now for the complicated part. I enjoyed this comic a good deal, but it’s not my favorite. It’s a fair distance down my list of favorite comics; no where near my top 5. I can’t emphasize enough that this comic is good, but it’s not great. Writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman suppose too much of the reader’s knowledge Batwoman/Kathy Kane (her history and characterization) and how the DC ‘verse has come to operate pre- and post-New 52. That’s only one point of contention I have, it’s not a big deal at all because I was able to keep up with the story and I feel comfortable enough to keep going through the series. I think what annoyed me a little more was the possible Mike Mignola rip-off happening in the story/ies.
Now, I don’t mind a supernatural bent in my comic books. It would be ridiculous if I had a problem with them. Hell, I dig it when it’s done well. It wasn’t done well in this one because it lacked originality. It was more than a little nod or homage to Mignola and his creations, it was another reliance on the reader. Not a reliance on their knowledge as before, but their ignorance to the mentioned titles and series. I’m a little biased to Mr. Mignola and HB. Personal Revelation: Hellboy was the first comic book series I began reading. So, I’m somewhat protective.
I was a bit annoyed to see a living skeleton man (named Director Bones), the head of a government agency called Department of Extranormal Operations (the D.E.O.), with humans and super-humans at his employ. The parallels to Mignola’s work being: Dr. Bones to Emperor Zombie (The Amazing Screw-On Head) and the D.E.O. to the B.P.R.D. (Hellboy and B.P.R.D.). Not to mention the driving story behind Hydrology is a ghost story about a drowned woman akin to the stories seen in Hellboy, but particularly involving Abe Sapien (including his own title and series). Of course, Lobster Johnson also has his very own skeleton-ghost-man in Lobster Johnson, Volume 2: The Burning Hand.
My biggest complaint, and it’s related to my first one, is I wanted to learn more about Batwoman/Kate Kane, the person and hero. It’s clear that there is that same “battle within” that Batgirl and Batman deal with, but it’s different. More compelling. She’s not only dealing with a personal tragedy, and she’s not trying to figure out who she is (like, “Is my mask my face?” or something). That’s actually what’s very cool about her. She knows exactly who she is, she’s Kate Kane and Batwoman and she balances both individuals extremely well. I love her for that. It’s refreshing. Her turmoil is one with trust and loyalties to those who (believe they) employ her, to herself, ultimately to the victims.
That’s it. I like the art. I like her. She deserves better stories. I’ll try to stay on point next time I talk about her. She deserves more conversation, too.
Next time: “Volume One: Wonder Woman.”
P.S. If my rant above wasn’t clear enough, go read what Mignola has created and written. Start with Hellboy.