Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology

Batwoman, Volume 1:  HydrologyThere is a woman known only through whispered stories to superstitious children. She is La Llorona, the weeping woman who, as she drank the afternoon away, never noticed as her children drowned in the turbulent ocean. After giving in to her grief and sorrow, she now steals children from their parents to live with her under the water. But Batwoman, along with her cousin Bette, aka Flamebird, is determined to stop her ghostly ways and find the lost children before they are lost to the waves forever.

Batwoman isn’t Batman’s wife or girlfriend or sister or even his friend. Her name is Kate Kane and she’s a crime fighter. After being tossed out of West Point, Kate took on the identity of poor little rich girl whose only question in life is which girl she should take home from the club tonight. But in the shadows, it’s a different story — there’s a cape and a mask and a beautiful wig of vibrant red hair. Batman might think he has her pegged, but Batwoman doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, especially his, and when Batman asks her to be a part of Batman, Incorporated, she not only says no, she joins a rival group. Yup, Batwoman is pretty awesome.

In this first volume of Batwoman for the New 52, which collects issues #0-5, the terrific story that Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III started in Batwoman: Elegy is continued with Williams now both writing and illustrating the book and W. Haden Blackman also contributing to the story. And what a wonderful, gripping story it is. It includes mystery, ghosts, a weird man that has a skull as a face, intrigue, Batman, and a sex scene that is pretty tame and tasteful after reading Catwoman, Volume 1. The major mystery of La Llorona is interspersed with other stories that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Not only is Batwoman fighting to save the lives of the missing children and training her cousin Bette to be her new sidekick, she’s also trying to stay one step ahead of that skull man and his organization, the Department of Extranormal Operations. Just what do they want with Batwoman, and why are they so hell-bent on knowing her real identity?

Batwoman, as a written character, is very well developed. I feel like I know so much about her from even the short time I’ve spent with her so far, which differs from experiences I’ve had with other main female characters in the New 52 (I’m looking at you, Catwoman). She seems so real, so human, and her development under the thoughtful pen of Williams shows that female leads in comics can be thoughtfully well-written.

In addition to the super story, there are also incredible illustrations that are dark and fantastical and just plain beautiful to look at. They show terrific examples of movement and action;  the fighting scenes are realistic and artistically drawn in a way that brings to mind dance. Water, which features heavily in this story, shows up well, and background scenes include much detail. Even in darkness and shadowing, every piece of each illustration looks like it was scrutinized and perfected over a long length of time. The depth of the drawings is unbelievable, almost to the point of looking three dimensional. Many different and unusual panel styles are employed throughout the book, although traditional speech bubbles are used throughout. The coloring in this book is dark, yet vivid. Kate’s redness is so strikingly bright in relation to the darkness that she often experiences in Gotham City, readers will be transfixed by her otherworldness. Characters are realistically drawn and are easy to recognize and tell apart. I mean, wow. Just wow. A great book with a female lead – well written, beautifully drawn. A sure bet for Bat-lovers.

Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology
by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III
ISBN: 9781401234652
DC Comics, 2012

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