Goddamn, Batwoman is a beautiful book.
Every issue, J.H. WIlliams III gives us breathtaking layouts and truly imaginative artwork that would make this one of the best things DC has going for it even if it were all it had to offer. The fact that Williams and W. Haden Blackman are also crafting a very compelling story is what makes this hands-down THE best series on DC's slate right now.
Batwoman #4 opens with a lesbian sex scene between Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer. While many creators would exploit this salaciously, Williams instead illustrates it as a series of photo-realistic black and white snapshots underscoring the color story of her cousin Bette being gutted by a creepy Frankenstein-looking guy with a sickle-hand while she was trying to prove herself worthy of fighting crime alongside Batwoman. This makes everything more tragic, because this is one of the few times Kate allows herself to enjoy herself, especially after the emotional breakdown that resulted in this tryst, and she'll soon find out that while she was rutting, she may have lost the only family she has left as a direct result of her own attempts to drive Bette away.
While this makes for some very taut tension, I have to say that I hope this isn't the end for Bette Kane. If it is, few heroes could imagine a more ignominious demise. Bette has been a peripheral Teen Titan for years, rarely getting much in the way of spotlight – hell, her codename of Flamebird is actually an in-joke from an identity Jimmy Olsen had pre-Crisis when he was stuck in Kandor with a Superman using the alias of Nightwing (since she was created initially as a love interest for Dick Grayson), so even that contributes to how ignorable she seems to be. That has actually factored into her stories, as she had repeatedly tried to land a steady gig as a Titan only to be generally dismissed unless they needed her help for something. Her raised profile in Batwoman was supposed to grant her some legitimacy at long last, but Kate cut her off by claiming she couldn't hack it. So rather than being a redemptive story, if instead she meets her end while belligerently trying to validate herself and inadvertently proving her cousin right – and, as a final kicker as she bleeds out, she even exposes Kate's secret identity to the United States Department of Extranormal Operations – it will cast her off as one of the most miserable failures in comic book history.
She deserves better than that, and the gut feeling is that Williams knows this, too. While it would be a hell of a guilt trip to send Kate through, Bette's story doesn't feel remotely complete.
Speaking of the DEO, their motivations are of particular interest here. In the past, Director Bones, the awesome transparent-and-poisonous-skin dude who runs the office, has been shown to be kinda like the Internal Affairs Bureau for super-types – annoying and frustrating to deal with, but with generally good intentions. However, this is the DCnU, and Agent Cameron Chase seems to have very little in the way of respect for the costumed set. Whether that translates to Bones remains to be seen. Will they try to arrest Batwoman now that they know who she is, or will they try to enlist her to go on missions for them now that they have leverage? What kinds of missions might those be? Morally dubious or just annoying sidetracks from her own cases that come at the worst times? We don't know yet, but it's exciting.
In short, read Batwoman. There's no reason not to.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.6/10