Ramble: I know most of you don’t read comic books, and aren’t going to start. But if you’d like, just once, a taste of what I’m having, go buy Batwoman #0.
A perfect book.
First off, the cover. All of the covers for the issue 0 books feature their superhero busting through a greyscale comic book page. My other superheroes strike typically heroic poses, but Batwoman is all FU Kung Fu. This is the pose I plan to adopt next time I walk into Market Basket. Out of my way, motherfuckers. I need some motherfucking organic skim milk NOW.
The thing I love about J.H. Williams – his art is smart art. He also writes Batwoman, with W. Haden Blackman, and his art speaks to me like writing speaks to me, which is saying something. I’m all words. I think in words and when I view art at a museum, I almost always need verbiage to bridge the gap between my alphabet-filled mind and the abstraction at which I’m looking.
Comics have been, on the visual front, a challenge. As I’ve written before, my instinct with a comic book is to jump from word blurb to word blurb, like a frog navigating a lily-pad covered pond. Earlier in my comic book journey, I had to force myself to slow down, to tear my eyes from the text they adore and consume the pictures, too.
For once, I listened to my wiser self and now I crave the art in both Batwoman and Wonder Woman (Cliff Chiang). Thank god, because all comic book artists are saying something with their pictures, and the best comic book artists brilliantly succeed.
The 0 issues DC released this month feature backstory on each superhero. A typical Batwoman book features genius, unique framing and her signature black-grey + red-orange palette. The narrative hip-hops around, sometimes too quickly for my liking, but always in engaging and original fashion.
For Batwoman #0, Williams created a very linear format that, at comic book’s start, is employed to present a very linear narrative: Kate Kane and her twin Beth share a special bond, Beth protects Kate from her darkest self even as a child, Beth and Mom are killed, Kate attends West Point and then leaves for refusing to hide her sexuality.
Pushed by her father, who is no doubt tormented by the same demons fighting for his daughter’s soul, Kate dives into darker and darker territory, growing stronger and more alone. As she transforms into Batwoman, the paler, lighter colors of the early pages are replaced with the darker fire-punched palette we associate with this book.
The second-to-last page takes the simple format Williams employs for much of the book (six rectangular panels per page) and busts it wide open, shoving Batwoman and deranged Beth into the linear format that no longer fits their violently heroic and violently villainous selves. They literally spill out of an ordered world that no longer holds space for them.
Sandwiching the story are two typically Batwoman, typically beautiful Williams pages featuring the Batwoman we’ve come to know – as much as she will ever be known – and, in my case, to love.
This book is triumph. Go buy it.