Comics / Comic Reviews / DC Comics

Detective Comics #856

By Andy Frisk
September 16, 2009 - 12:03

Abbot, a shape shifting werewolf, who declares himself to be a true believer in the Dark Faith, and therefore a heretic to Alice, the Religion of Crime's (Dark Faith) current leader, saves Batwoman and her father from Alice's clutches. Later, Kate goes to the 129th Annual Gotham City Police Department's Charity Ball in a tuxedo, which is supposed to be semi-shocking, until Maggie Sawyer, Gotham's head of The Major Crimes Unit, shows up in one as well. They dance, but the flirtation is cut short when Abbot cuts in, and Kate figures out that Alice is going to use a WMD to destroy Gotham...kinda like Ras Al Ghul was planning on doing in Batman Begins...


Only three issues into Batwoman's headlining role in Detective Comics and her stint hits rock bottom in storytelling. Several plot missteps signal that this story needs to wrap up soon , and Rucka needs to move on a give us a better crafted tale involving his lead hero. Batwoman in Detective Comics is about to seriously go from poor to just plain bad. As mentioned, several plot missteps are derailing this series, but the two biggest are as nearly inexcusable. One is showcased in the name of plain sensationalism, and the other is simply a tired plot convention.

Kate Kane is a lesbian, and there is a long history of gay and lesbian characters in comics. In our society today, bigotry still exists against homosexuals, and part of this bigotry extends from the fact that many gays and lesbians are still seen as “the other” in society, rather than a part of society. Dressing Kate up in a tuxedo and parading her in front of everyone, including the readers, and putting Maggie Sawyer (one of those gay characters with a long history) into a tuxedo as well, and parading her in front of everyone, including the readers, comes off more as a gimmick to draw attention to the fact that Kate is a lesbian, not to demonstrate that gay superheroes aren't out of place in society. Their portrayal seems constructed in order to simply draw attention to a book whose storytelling is lacking, by placing a heavy and unnecessary emphasis on Kate and Maggie as being unusual, while giving us a full two page spread of their dancing. There is nothing wrong with asserting one's individuality, and Kate and Maggie's choice of dress for the ball actually does demonstrate that Kate and Maggie are comfortable with their sexuality, and aren't afraid to show it, but making such a big display of it artistically in the book's layout still reeks of sensationalism rather than acceptance. I may be totally off the mark here, and I'm sure Rucka and Williams aren't intending to make Kate's sexuality such a blatantly sensationalizing factor of the book, but I don't think I'm completely wrong. I really looked forward to Batwoman/Kate Kane headlining Detective Comics when we learned that we were going to be forced to endure Bruce Wayne's hiatus, in part because having a gay character headline a book, where her sexuality wasn't sensationalized would go a long way to promoting tolerance.

The second major plot misstep involves Alice's plot to destroy the city using a WMD. How many times has this plot device been used? Was there not a similar plot in Batman Begins? Rucka is a much more talented writer than this...It's understandable that Kate/Batwoman faces a serious challenge and overcomes it on her own to establish her as a strong lead, but the old “destroy the city” plot is quite tired at this point.


One aspect of this current string of Detective Comics issues that definitely isn't tired, and that I'll never tire of, is Williams' art. He continues to create a classical Gothic feel to this title through his dark and moody art. Panel layouts and images of Abbot's sensory perception of the poison slowly killing Kate are outstanding and really quite original to a mainstream superhero title. If this book could be judged on its art alone, it would be a perfect 10. The art is so good, and its background autumn setting is so well created that you can almost smell the autumn leaves and the cool wooded air that one would experience on a beautiful fall night. The art and Stewarts colors invoke an almost sensory response in the reader.

Unfortunately, art alone cannot carry a book, and as talented as Williams is, a strong story has to compliment great art, and vice versa. Right now Detective Comics is starting to show a lacking in quality storytelling. The Second Feature story, featuring The Question, itself plods along and is such a basic crime story that it barely needs mentioning. Greg Rucka is a talented writer and has produced some great quality stories in the past. I have no doubt that he will again in the future. Maybe he's still warming up to the task of portraying Batwoman in Detective Comics?

Rating: 4 /10

Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:45

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