COVERGIRL: I miss the sea-green of the previous 3 cover palettes and in general, this one’s too busy for me. I like a bold cover without too many details. While Flamebird superimposed atop Batwoman neatly addresses both Flamebird’s defiance and Batwoman’s presence watching over her, the flaming bird (Phoenix) and hooked hand are, in my opinion, visual overkill.
But then again (and I say it again), I’m new to the genre. This might be standard practice, this excess of detail, and if so, in time, I won’t notice.
INSIDE STORY: Flamebird, full of piss and vinegar, takes out her anger at Batwoman on Gotham thugs, but ends up lying bloody in the snow, hooked in the gut by a messy slob of a minor villain. Agent Chase picks her up, impersonating a nurse. After correctly identifying the superhero as Batwoman’s sidekick, Chase coaxes Kate Kane’s name from Flamebird’s near-death lips
Sawyer and Kate have sex, and while Kate fully enjoys the experience, Sawyer’s distracted by thoughts of Llorona and her victims. Kate puts on her Bat-duds and returns to work soon thereafter, discovering Llorona is likely the spirit of Maria Salvaje, an alcoholic whose neglected children drowned under the boathouse. Maria took her own life, descending beneath the waves after her dead children.
RAMBLE: Another gorgeous issue. For me, the most powerful sequence of pages comes at book’s beginning. Flamebird, fierce in maroon with a yellow-orange flame of cape billowing around her, takes center stage as she goes it alone. Everything around her is muted and dull: dirty snow, grey buildings, bad men in black and mustard and khaki. Flamebird burns brightly, a stark contrast to her surroundings whether she’s kicking ass or bleeding unconscious, the blood-red of her outfit seamlessly melding with the bloody red snow.
This is Flamebird's moment, and the action and images speak beautifully and sharply to her inner turmoil. Flamebird (Bette Kane) wasn’t prepared to leave Batwoman’s side, but her cousin forced her out. She’s determined to remain in the game, and so she goes it alone. She allows her anger to rule the day. While she proves a fierce and worthy opponent for a typical street-roaming thug, she’s not nearly ready to battle the bizarre darkness at the heart of Gotham’s underworld. Her foolish bravado, born of a grudge, may cost her her life.
Black-and-white frames of Kate Kane having sex share these pages. The juxtaposition tells a third story, beyond Flamebird’s injury and Kate’s ecstasy; a quintessential superhero tale in which the job comes first and the superhero sleeps alone.
Kate, a seeming control freak, finally lets go. She accepts bliss and loses herself. But Kate’s a superhero, and letting her guard down means letting Flamebird down. At least that’s how Kate will likely read it when she finds out Bette’s been hooked.
The use of color (credit due, I assume, to Eisner Award-winning Dave Stewart) and the final panels in the opening series — Flamebird bleeding above, Kate climaxing below — amazed me. As the red seeps from Flamebird, Kate’s previously black-and-white self tinges pink. Life flows into Kate as it flows out of Flamebird.
Regarding Kate’s relationship with Sawyer and the life of the villainous hooked thug – I’m predicting both are short-lived.
Sidenote: I’ve never written about sex before. I feel a little bit the giggling girl in junior high. I had best get more comfortable with it, because Catwoman’s in the queue.