Thursday, 19 May 2016

Batwoman Book 2: To Drown The World (#6-11)

"God I hate that woman" - Kate Kane

If there ever was proof that I was mainly reading Batwoman for the art it's how much I found my interest dropping and my attention wandering when during this arc within an arc J. H Williams III steps away from art duties and just writes it with his co-writer W. Haden Blackman.  And I guess Greg Rucka's run, collected as Batwoman: Elegy, set such a high standard for the character but I find the writing here muddled and somewhat dull.  I'm being unfair on Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy who are arting this arc, because they're pretty good by any normal measure, but how does anyone measure up to one of the finest sequential artists currently in the business?  And their main problem is that they try hard to duplicate the complex layouts JHW3 executes so effortlessly but whereas he knows how to draw your eye round the pages in the correct order, several times I found myself unsure of what order to read the panels in.  Not good.  Also the whole six issue arc is told in "anarchronic" order, ie: it's all over the place, flashing backwards and forwards in an attempt to put some life into the story but instead makes it frustrating and confusing in equal measure.  This is like having a three course meal, but it's been cut into tiny portions and you're fed your starter and dessert in bits between your morsels of your main. It probably would be a pretty bland meal eaten in the normal order but now it's indigestable.  Anyway,  the story arc continues the larger arc of Batwoman Kate Kane and her girlfriend Detective Maggie Sawyer looking for missing children who have been kidnapped by an organisation called Medusa.  Batwoman is being blackmailed into working with the D.E.O - The Department of Extranormal Operations and her handler is a very angry woman called Cameron Chase. Her cousin Bette Kane who is also a costumed hero called Flamebird was gutted by a man with a talking scythe for a hand in the previous book and now lies in a coma on life support.  Now we're all caught up, lets begin.

Now: Batwoman is fighting the hook-handed man, he attacks and knocks the wind out of her as the leader of Medusa, Falchion, looks on.  One Month Ago: Kate's father Jacob is visiting Bette in hospital because she is his niece.  She is still comatose.  The nurse tells him she might respond to his voice, so although dubious it will help he starts reading "You Only Live Twice" to her.
Batwoman vs. Mr. Hookhand.
One Week Ago: Maggie is being yelled at by the mother of two of the missing children.  She says she doesn't think her detectives are doing enough because they aren't working 24/7 on it.  As she departs she says to Maggie:

Ms. Lopez: "With respect, detective Sawyer.  I don't think a woman like you has any idea what it's like to have a child.. then have that child taken away."

Once she is gone, Maggie takes a photo out of her desk and regards it sadly.  Four Months Ago:  A man called Maro is drowning Maria's (see book one) children.  This will cause Maria to become The Weeping Woman, "with the deaths of Maria's childen, Maria's story has begun". Falchion is dubious as to why they bringing folk tales to life.  But Maro says that with La Larona "Gothan will start believing in monsters again".
Maro drowns Maria's kids.
Three Weeks Ago: Maggie is round at Kates looking for where her badge fell after a vigourous bout of love making (which we aren't shown dammit!).  Maggie notes a bruise on Kate's shoulder, Kate says she has taken up boxing again because her father taught her to keep in shape.  Maggie says that's the first time she's bought up her father, but Kate says she is not going to talk about the past, she kisses Maggie saying "this is the only place I really want to be".

Two weeks ago: Batwoman is out with Chase, they have taken down a man but Chase says he is not a full member of Medusa and he won't know anything.  Someone opens fire on them and Batwoman blocks the bullets with her body, protecting Chase.  Chase asks if she likes the new outfit.  "I'm a damn superwoman" says Batwoman.  It's nanotube armour invented "yesterday", one of the perks of working for the D.E.o.

Now: Batwoman gets up and manages to get the hook-handed man in a chokehold.  She gets a hold of where the hook joins his body and says, "I'm going to make you cry for your mother". She keeps him in the chokehold and yells at him for hurting Bette, he responds, "So warm... can still feel her insides on me".  Batwoman hurls him aside in disgust then rips the hook off his arm. The man cries "Aaaauagh my hook!"  And the hook cries "My body! My Body!".  Somewhat taken aback Batwoman turns and sees Falchion summon "all of my monsters".
Batwoman rips off his hook.
Three Weeks ago:  Jacob is visiting Better again.  He tells her about Kate and her twin Beth (see "Elegy").  How different they were growing up.  He caresses Bette's cheek and asks if she can hear him.  Two Weeks ago: Maggie and Kate are having a meal in a fancy restaurant when Kate spots the were-man Abbott lurking outside and goes to confront him. 

He tells her the Religion of Crime has nearly been wiped out by Medusa and that she'll need his help fighting Falchion their leader.  But Kate tells him to get lost and tell "your freaky werebeast cult to stay the hell away from me". When Maggie joins her Kate says it was just a piece of her past trying to crawl out of the gutter.
Maggie and Kate's meal interrupted.
Two Months Ago: Maro is bringing the "Bloody Mary" urban legend to life.  He calls her via the incantation into the mirror, then binds her by knowing her true name and offers her three captured teenage girls as a sacrifice to her.

One Week Ago:  A much mutated Killer Croc, now with the head of a crocodile is rampaging around killing off The Religion of Crime, the police are there as well although they are not sure what is going on.  A woman called Sune, working for Medusa lets some members of the Religion of Crime go, saying she'll tell Falchion they're all dead and Abbott has gone to ground.  Then Maggie surprises her, arrests her and tells her she is going to tell them everything she knows about Medusa.
Even more mutated Killer Croc facing down GCPD.
One Week Ago: Chase is showing Batwoman some new gadgets.  Which include a dart that is self propelled, voice activated and has a rudimentary A.I.  Batwoman is dubious about using it, but Chase threatens her father with prison if she doesn't play along.  Batwoman is also given a hypodermic full of tranquilizer and laced with Scarecrow fear gas.  Batwoman is to go and grab Sune, who they have just been notified of the arrest of, and bring her to the D.E.O.  Oh and handling the transport of Sune is Maggie.

Now:  Batwoman is facing down La Larona and Bloody Mary.  Falchion says Gotham has provided him with such monsters.  Batwoman replies "This is getting ridiculous.  Falchion!  Let's get on with it!"  Facing Killer Croc, Bloody Mary and an apologetic La Larona (Maria was exorcised at the end of Book 1, doesn't seem to have taken) she unleashes the flying dart at them.  It shocks the Croc, slashes Bloody Mary's throat and sets Maria on fire.  But Falchion holds a sword to the throat of one of the kidnapped children and so Batwoman shuts the dart down.
Batwoman ordered to grab Sune.
One Month Ago: Maro slices the hand off a man called Rush who appears to be a serial killer.  He attaches the talking hook - The Ashoth - to the stump and transforms him into another of his monsters.

One Week Ago: Chase is showing Kate photos she has of Maggie looking like she is thinking of leaving Kate, and Chase wants them to stay together at least until the Sune transfer happens.  Kate says they are not breaking up and is outraged when Chase tells her to mine Maggie for information on the Medusa case.

Chase: "Oh don't pretend you haven't already crossed that line.  Frankly I don't know whether she is dating Kate Kane or Batwoman.  Maybe you don't know either."

Chase leaves and Kate reluctantly phones Maggie to get together that night...

Six Nights Ago: Maggie is handling the transfer of Sune to a safehouse via boat.  Batwoman leaps aboard and Maggie sanctions lethal force against her, but the bullets bounce off. Batwoman knocks them all out and heads to where Sune is, armed with the fear tranquiliser in case Sune proves difficult.  But then Maggie grabs her from behind and without thinking Batwoman jabs her with the drug and is horrified when she realises what she has done.
Two Weeks Ago: Jacob is sitting by Bette's bedside.  He felt her move and is encouraging her to do it again.  The doctor says it was probably an involuntary responds, but says keeping talking to her may help.

Six Nights Ago: Chase fights her way across the docks to where Batwoman and Sune are.  Batwoman is furious that she was put in the position of harming Maggie and her people and won't do it again.  Sune asks if the drug was meant for her, Chase says yes and that they have plenty more if she doesn't cooperate.  Sune says she didn't hear the magic word - "Immunity".  Chase says they can figure something out as they escape via helicopter.

Now: Falchion tells Batwoman she will never find out why he took the children.  They begins to fight, Falchion slashes Batwoman saying no armour can protect against a sword forged by "The Mother".  Things look bad for Batwoman, then suddenly a volley of arrows fire by Sune hit Falchion in the head and chest. "The Mother crafted arrows, too" says Sune.
This only makes Falchion angrier as he attacks her shouting "betrayer" and "traitor". He says she "can't hide your secrets from my God's eye" as he gets ahold of her.  She uses a "Blackout Bomb" and plunges the area into darkness, escaping his grip.  She gives Batwoman some goggles so she can see.  Sune wants to kill Falchion, but Batwoman says she can't let her murder him, so Sune says she let him live, "for now".

One Week Ago: Jacob is in Bette's room as her hearts stops.  As the nurses usher him out he yells to her that he is here for her and not to go.  He can only numbly watch as the doctors work on reviving her.  Two Weeks Ago:  Maro is on the beach and summons Maria's spirit, he tells her if she doesn't come back to Medusa her children's ghosts will be damned and "wander the spirit world alone forever".  So Maria becomes La Larona again.
Jacob watching over Bette.
Three Nights Ago: Maggie is attending a party on Falchion's yacht.  She sees Kate and Sune together, and when Kate returns to her she asks who Sune was.  Kate says she is just "some entitled musician" who chatted her up in the queue for the toilet.  Then Maggie gets a call saying there has been another kidnapping and she has to leave. She and Kate kiss and Maggie makes her promise not to "take a ride from an entitled musician".

Four Days Ago: Sune has told them Medusa's headquarters are in the Gotham harbour.  A deep underground lair, cloaked with protective spells.  Chase wants to send in combat subs, but Sune says that would doom the children.  When she prevaricates about knowing Falchion has a secret entrance, Chase dangles her out of the helicopter.  Sune says the information will be on Falchion's yacht and handily Kate has been invited to a gala aboard it the next evening.  Chase tells Batwoman to attend with Maggie and Sune will be there as well, which means Sune will know Batwoman's identity.  Batwoman agrees if it means the children can be saved.

Three Nights Ago: Sune and Kate are at the gala and have snuck off to look through Falchion's things.  They find an ornate box and between them manage to get it open and find what appears to be a map.

Now: Falchion wounds Sune and knocks her to the ground.  Before he can kill her, Batwoman jumps on him and jams one of the arrows into his eye, which then burns off half of his face.  Batwoman goes over to check on Sune who is gratified Batwoman saved her life and in return, kisses her. There is a long moment, then Batwoman recoils, asking Sune what the hell she thinks she is doing. "I craved a little taste of you" Sune says rather creeepily.  Then Sune grabs Falchion's sword and impales him with it.
Eighteen Hours Ago: Maggie is at a crime scene with Commissioner Gordon.  They have found the body of a girl.  Gordon says she reminds him of Barbara at that age.  He tells Maggie to imagine the girl is hers and catch the killer.  Maggie walks off and phones someone she calls "Pixie" saying she just needed to hear her voice.

Thirty Five Hours Ago: Bette is still alive but comatose.  Jacob tells her the story about how he euthanised a terminally pet cat of theirs with a gun (the bullet is one he has on a necklace round his neck), both the girls saw him.  Beth cried for two days, Kate grabbed a shovel and helped him bury it.  He finally admits that he loved Beth more than Kate and has a bit of a breakdown.

Two Hours Ago: Chase with some D.E.O operatives, Batwoman and Sune are fighting Killer Croc.  He gets away, but Batwoman and Sune know where the secret passageway is and follow while Chase stays with an injured operative.

Twenty Five Hours Ago: Batwoman appears at the window of Bette's hospital room and observes her father sleeping next to her.  One Week Ago: Maro feeds Killer Croc virgins blood to transform him into a more crocodile like creature.  He says he is the latest in a long lineage of crocodile beings and people's belief in them helps Croc change.
Killer Croc is further transformed.
Now: Batwoman wrestles the sword off Sune.  Sune says only Falchion's sword can kill Falchion.  Batwoman says she won't let her murder him.  Sune then says maybe it is enough that Falchion is "well past dead" and now she can take her rightful place as the head of Medusa.  And her flesh starts to melt and reforms into Maro her "brother". 

Maro: "I am Maro Ito, once Falchion's warlock, now his successor.  And I would be honoured if you'd kneel before me."

Batwoman is confused.  "Who are you?" she demands.  Maro replies that he is the creator of monsters and slayer of demigods, so in fact "I am a God."  He says he will deliver the children to The Mother and "their blood will drown the world". Batwoman says he is just a shapeshifter.  Maro disagrees, he is a puppetmaster who manipulated Batwoman and the D.E.O into helping him kill Falchion.  They will take the blame for his death.  Batwoman says she's going to kick his ass, so Maro orders Maria to flood her lungs.
Sune was Maro all along!
Now: Jacob is standing by Bette's bedside, he says her parents are talking about organ donation.  He places a hero mask over her face and says:

Jacob: "Open your eyes and I will teach you everything Kate couldn't".

Bette does open her eyes and says weakly can she keep the mask?  "Always" says a relieved Jacob.

Fiften Minutes From Now: Maggie has been called to suspicious goings on at the harbour.  She sees water fountaining up and on the dockside is a coughing Chase who tells her Batwoman "screwed us all".

Now: The children are bathed in light.  Chase arrives on the scene and points a gun at Maro, but for some reason Batwoman electrocutes her with her gloves and Chase's shot just wings Maro.  Killer Croc joins the children in the light, and Maro transforms into a white wolf and jumps in also and they are all teleported away.
What did you THINK would happen Kate?!
Batwoman drags chase outide before Maria can drown them both and leaves her on the dock.  She observes Chase and Maggie from afar as Chase tells Maggie that Batwoman "let that monster take the kids", but Batwoman thinks to herself that she'll find the children no matter what.

The Next Day: Kate and Maggie are sitting together discussing their pasts.  Kate tells her everything bar being Batwoman.  Maggie tells her she has a daughter who she lost custody of to the father and lives in Star City with him and her step-mother.  She says when she thinks of the missing kids it's like losing her all over again.  This upsets Kate and Maggie hugs and comforts her.

The book comes to an end with Wolf Maro telling The Mother that Batwoman and her allies killed Falchion.  The Mother doesn't seem too upset.  The children are there as well.  The Mother says Batwoman "will be devoured by the Mother of all monsters."
Kate and Maggie have a moment.
And the Medusa arc is dragged on for yet another arc, the storyline being clumsily elongated by Batwoman's inexplicable decision to allow Maro to get away with the children. Probably the best parts of the book are Jacob's talks to Beth, it enriches his character and rounds him out nicely.  Otherwise the structure of the arc, jumping forwards and backwards doesn't really flow like a good story should.  And bloody hell, I know I am a fan of decompressed comics, but this storyline isn't strong enough to run as long as it has done, because we've got the team up with Wonder Woman in the next volume still to go before Medusa is finally put to rest.  Luckily JH Williams III is back on art duties for that volume so at least I can squee about how good it looks.  As I said in the intro, Reeder and McCarthy are actually pretty good, but might have benefitted more from a more traditional panel layout rather than trying to ape JHW3.  I did get some enjoyment from the book, some nice conversations take place, I actually wish there had been more dialogue and less action because that was where the writers strength seems to lie. Batwoman is still an appealing character, and does get some badass moments, I just keep coming back to the structure of the book, it really doesn't work for me.  These kinds of stories can work, but only when the underlying structure is rock solid, and with only five issues prior to this, the writers simply haven't nailed things down heavily enough to then get experimental with.  Ah well, can't all be winners eh?


  1. If you're inheriting a series from someone who had a very distinctive style, it's a mistake to try and imitate that style. If you can do your own thing, why do a second-rate version of someone else's thing? If you can't do your own thing, why are you working in the creative industries?

    That's not Batwoman! She has super-huge breasts and she's wearing I-can't-breathe leather and I can see her nipples.

    Batwoman isn't wearing that armour, she's field-testing it. If she dies they'll change the design.

    I like Kate's shell necklace.

    Hasn't Killer Croc always had the head of a crocodile?

    Why doesn't the DEO just ask the police for Sune? They're both on the same side and working for the same government, right?

    ...and all the ickle kids who desperately needed organ transplants died :-D

  2. I agree with you about the thing. I think it was forced on the artists though, that's why Amy Reeder didn't do all the issues, she quit the series over editorial meddling somewhat abruptly.

    Augh, Bat-nipples. I'm having flashbacks to the Joel Schumacher Batman movies!

    Actually Killer Croc hasn't, he has a scaley brutish scaled human head, changing it was the first big conflict JHW3 and Blackman had with the rest of the Bat Office.

    I don't know what was going on with Sune, why she needed to be transported by boat to a safehouse. But if you watch enough US TV the fact that various branches law enforcement would try and stymie each other, that rings true.

  3. this was so confusing!!