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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Batwoman: Elegy

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H.Williams III
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics

What's it about?
Batwoman is the latest person to take on Batman's mantle.  Real name Kate Kane, this is her first set of solo stories and is really a two parter - the first story introduces us to Alice, a psychotic woman who speaks only in prose taken from Alice in Wonderland, and the second story is Kate's origin - what events made her the way she is now, how and why she chose to put on the bat mantle.

Kate is a new and rare character, introduced a few years ago she is an out and proud lesbian from a military background.  She has suffered some tragedy but this is not what drives her.  In the costume she's confident and dangerous, out of the costume she's dedicated to the cause and is trying to balance her night pursuits with her personal relationships.

What's good about it?
When I first read this book it knocked my socks off.  It's a brilliant spectacle of colour and design.
The art is sexually charged but not necessarily sexy.  In the costume, Batwoman is all teeth, lips and danger.  The pacing of the book is excellent and covers a lot of ground.

Kate is set up as a character of integrity - we get to know her through her investigative work around the villain Alice and we see her family and work background.  Rucka works hard to introduce us to all aspects of her life, building up her personality and character traits to make her real and believable.

For fans of LGBT characters Kate is a godsend.  A large part of the book deals with her sexuality, either in terms of the effect being gay has had on her life, or featuring her girlfriends and relationships.  Kate has to deal with the ridiculous Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy of the United States military, and the book makes sure to look at the long term ramifications DADT has on her life.  There's a wonderful section where Kate attends a black tie ball, in a tuxedo, meets another woman in a tux, and they dance.

As mentioned further above, the villain Alice is mad and believes she is the title character from Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland books.  She speaks only in lines from the book (both Alice's and others) and yet somehow this is not annoying or obvious, instead it is blended seamlessly into the rest of the dialogue.  No sentences seem out of place and all of it fits the context in which it is spoken.  It takes a few pages for the reader to even recognise the prose used.

Rucka shows an excellent understanding of the characters (whom he created) and Williams' art is captivating and intoxicating.  There's a richness and depth there, no feeling of despair, but of passion and power and life.

What's bad about it?
Looking through a new reader's eyes, I don't think there is anything to criticise about this.  A few fans have complained about the sexuality of Kate in costume but these criticisms mostly only make sense when you consider the history of the character and the use of the Bat symbol over time.  For the new reader, I doubt their usefulness.

What's the art like?
J.H.Willams III lays out his panels in a symmetrical manner which heightens the impact of the art.  There's a lot of double page spreads and the panels are imaginatively put together, particularly when Batwoman and Alice are compared.  The colours are vibrant and eye catching even when they are mostly greys and blacks.

For the second story the style of art changes (although it's still J.H.Williams III doing the art).  It becomes less gothic and more appropriate to the time and settings it is depicting.

The body types are varied,the characters are built realistically, they are given expressions and moods... Honestly, I could pick out so many glorious examples from this book but I think it would be best to leave you to discover it for yourself. 

This book is simply excellent, in so many ways.  The story is intoxicating, the characters pull you in and demand your respect or your fear.  Due to the art it's quite unlike anything else I have read this year.  Luckily for you dear readers, this collection is the best format to read it in.

Other Information
Price: £18.99 for the deluxe hardback edition, but currently Amazon is selling it for £13.29.  The paperback is due to out June 2011 and will be cheaper.
ISBN: 1848567944

If you like the sound or look of this book, you may want to try Promethea, written by Alan Moore and drawn by J.H.Williams III or other books written by Greg Rucka.  If you want to read more about the characters in this book try The Question: The Five Books of Blood, centering on Batwoman's ex girlfriend Renee Montoya (The Question), or you could try 52.

52 was a weekly series published by DC comics and focusing on less well known characters in the DC Universe.  There are 4 volumes available (you do need to read them in order), and while Batwoman and The Question have large roles within the story, it may be a little too complicated for new readers to follow.  It does tend to require some knowledge of the DC Universe, but on the other hand, it could be a great way to immerse yourself in the universe as you do get to meet lots of different characters.

If you just want a Batman story, try The Long Halloween or look at the other Batman books we've featured on here.


  1. You've convinced me! I think I've said before that I'm not really into superhero books, but this sounds amazing. I'm going to get it and explore Bat-territory :D

  2. I loved Batwoman: Elegy. I actually quit buying single issue comics for probably almost a decade, but after reading 52 and really liking Batwoman, and after reading Elegy, I'm going to start reading the Batwoman monthly comic.

  3. i'm glad it's a popular suggestion!