Off The Shelf – Batwoman: Elegy

Greg Rucka's definitive origin of Kate Kane shines brighter with the stunning art of J.H. Williams III.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Batwoman: Elegy

Before the New 52 started, my only thoughts about Batwoman were that she seemed like a pointless knock-off written obnoxiously melodramatically in the weekly 52 series. Once the New 52 began, I realized through the talents of the amazing artist J.H. Williams III that I couldn't have been more wrong. However, Williams was building on things established prior to the New 52 (the Bat-verse got to keep a lot more of their stuff than others did), and if I'd ever read Batwoman: Elegy before that DC stunt, I'd never have been so foolishly mistaken. That's because Williams was able to get even more amazing with his artwork because the script duties were handled by none other than Greg Rucka, whose writing is so well-respected that he even got Rachel Maddow to give this book a foreword. I knew she was nerdy, but I didn't know she was our kind of nerdy – the funnybook kind.

Of course, one of the story elements of Elegy could be the reason Maddow chimed in, as it deals with the absolute ridiculousness of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' a dumb law that has thankfully been repealed since Rucka's story was originally published in Detective Comics #854-860 in 2009/2010. There is no better illustration of how completely detrimental that policy was than when Katherine Rebecca Kane – daughter of career soldier  Colonel Jacob Kane, who witnessed her mother and twin sister's death at the hands of terrorists at age 12, who devoted her entire live to service in their memories, who reached the top of her class at West Point and who so valued that institution's code of ethics dictating that "a cadet shall not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do" over her own personal well-being that she wouldn't lie to save her career – is forced to leave the military because she would NOT break that code of honor it had instilled in her when it stupidly asked that of her. Kate Kane was a hell of a loss to the United States military, and so were the many volunteers who were drummed out of service for this stupid reason in the real world. That injustice is called out superbly in Rucka's story.

Kate's origins are truly compelling stuff – her family tragedy, her devotion to honor over convenience, and her simple and silent run-in with the Batman that inspires her post-military career in public service are all things we feel right along with her. They elevate the present-day proceedings dealing with the disturbing return of her long-lost twin sister that stumble here and there because they also involve ludicrous werewolves for some reason. Any askance look you may cast at things like that, though, are completely alleviated by the absolute master of his craft that Williams is. His painted artwork is as breathtaking as ever, his layout work is highly imaginative and Dave Stewart's colors are stunningly beautiful. The kicker, however, is something that floored me as I was reading through it, noticing a complete change in style in the flashback portions of Elegy, reminding myself that I needed to check who handled the art on these chapters. Eventually, I realized that Williams is still the only credited artist, meaning not only is his ONE style completely flawless, but he's also able to completely change that up and still remain amazing.

Kate Kane, despite the technicality of being created in 1956, is one of the best characters of the 21st century. Williams and Rucka show us why in Batwoman: Elegy, a must-read for any fan of comics.