Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adventures in retrolesbomodernism

Been letting the blog slide a little. Partly because of the thumb, which is an annoying distraction. Right now I have (ICK ALERT) a flap of loose skin hanging on the tip, raw dermis underneath. So I should have a fully functional opposeable thumb soon.

Just doing a quick comics post now. Today I picked up a copy of Detective Comics #854. This was the first issue to feature Batwoman as the lead character, while Bruce Wayne is majorly in absentia as Batman. There was basically one factor determining my purchase. The character of Batwoman (a gritty update of a Silver Age femme) hadn't made much of an impression on me. Writer Greg Rucka has always struck me as okay/middling, and reading one of his novels hadn't helped my opinion.*

Then there's the artist. JH Williams III may have a name that smacks of mediocre political appointee, but he's one of the true artists in mainstream comics today. His work shows the influence of predecessors like Gil Kane and Neal Adams, but he has also absorbed lessons from classic illustrations and fine art. He was about as much of a selling point on Promethea and Seven Soldiers as their celebrated writers. Which is a roundabout way of saying that at least there was a guarantee of pretty pictures.

It's better than that, though. Rucka has upped his game. There's no half-assed attempt at realism here. Kate Kane's world is dramatic, expressionist, and not afraid of its own silliness. In place of Alfred she has her father, an old soldier who's never taken off his uniform and could work as Aldo Ray's double. And Batwoman is a wonder at work, scary and seductive. Williams is key here. In his hands the character is not just hot in the J-cups and wasp waist way. She's achingly beautiful. And that spills over into the civilian scenes as well. A lunch with a new girlfriend goes badly. It's an obvious irony--Kate has to put on basically the same spoiled playboy act as Bruce Wayne--but it's poignant in its presentation.

The weak point is plot. No one can, or at least usually does, tell a story in fifteen pages anymore. So it's basically just shake up a witness, talk to Dick Grayson as Batman, and track down a(nother) freaky Lewis-Carroll-themed villain who doesn't get a chance to do anything. But it's fun to read nonetheless.

The Question back-up--featuring Batwoman's ex--only has about seven pages to get started. It essentially establishes that there are a lot of tough, mean Hispanics out there. It too has good art from Cully Hamner, though. And it's nice to see that Renee Montoya is making Web 2.0 pay.

*If you crave unlikeable cardboard heroes facing off against ridiculous cardboard villains, Smoker will be a treat.

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