Comic book review

The best place to start reading… Batwoman (and Renee Montoya!)

This is part 2 of my 24-part-series “Super-Heroes: Best Place to start” [Link to complete list… here!].

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You’re interested in Batwoman [Link] / Kate Kane [Link]?

To me, the best place to start is:

“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka (Writing) and John H. Williams III (Art), a trade paperback collection [Link: review] published in 2010.

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What’s the appeal of… Kate Kane?

A socialite, a military brat, a proactive, aggressive vigilante with a personality, every bit as intense as Bruce Wayne…

Ever since Kate Kane was introduced in 2006, she provoked great character moments and raised smart questions on the nature of morality, duty and loss. A mature, charismatic hero – and the first high-profile lesbian protagonist in superhero comics.

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Kate’s main storyline starts in „Elegy“. But her foes, friends and romantic foils were introduced in other, earlier „Batman“ series.

For the whole picture, please read:

…as well as „Gotham Central“, a Greg Rucka / Ed Brubaker series that (co-)stars Renee Montoya, the most important side character / romantic foil in „Batwoman“:

after this – lengthy – backstory, the Batwoman character gets introduced in an important ensemble story (co-)starring Renee Montoya:

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both Kate’s and Renee’s story continue in:

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If you’re okay with missing *some* details, I recommend you skip these more peripheral and / or weaker volumes:

for a complete list of Kate’s appearances, please see [Link]

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common problems / grievances in “Batwoman” books:

  • Kate’s family has seen much drama, and Kate’s love life is equally complex. Since most „Batwoman“ characters bottle up their feelings *very* hard, it constantly feels like important conversation just… fails to happen: The comic has many cold, angry and bitter character moments.
  • Both Kate and Renee are fan favorite characters. Still, months can pass without either of them making an appearance. Where *is* Renee, right now? What is her status?
  • Introduced in 4 different books and drawn by too many different artists, Kate’s main foes, the cultists of the ancient „religion of crime“ have been a part of DC comics for 10 years… but still don’t feel conceptually strong or well-realized.

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Is the current monthly “Batwoman” book, launched in September 2011, any good?

Yes. Even though Greg Rucka, the writer who created Kate Kane in 2006, has left DC Comics, the current „Batwoman“ storyarc, „Hydrology“, is even better-paced and more complex than „Elegy“. It’s a busy story with lots of side characters and backstory – but it still works as a starting point, and draws you in very quickly.

Update, 2014: The first 4 books of the new „Batwoman“ series are excellent and tell one continuous and exciting story. Collections 5 and 6 are pretty bad and can be ignored.

Interested in other comic book heroes / heroines?

I’d recommend the character „The Huntress“ (Helena Bertinelli), „Manhunter“ (with vigilante attorney Kate Spencer) and „Starman“ (Jack Knight), another artful, atmospheric and more mature series.

Plus: the 1990ies DC cult series „Chase“, drawn by J.H. Williams III, has story connections… and seems to have a similar tone / appeal.

Here’s my full list [Link]!

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related Links:

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my German comic book journalism:

The best place to start reading… Superman!

This is part 1 of my 24-part-series „Super-Heroes: Best Place to start“ [Link to the complete list… here!].

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You’re interested in Superman [Link] / Clark Kent [Link]?

To me, the best place to start is:

„Superman for all Seasons“ by Joeph Loeb (Writing) and Tim Sale (Art), a trade paperback collection [Link] published in 1999.

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What’s the appeal of… Clark Kent?

Clark won a Pulitzer for his work at the „Daily Planet“. He’s a self-aware, fiercely idealistic advocate. A loving husband. And a constant, smart reminder that we can change our worlds… once we harness our power, and work towards our best.

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3 other books, good for beginners:

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good books for advanced readers:

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sub-par or disappointing books:

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common problems / grievances in „Superman“ books:

  • …endless fistfights / brawls with brutish, one-dimensional monsters, mutants and aliens.
  • …extremely likeable side characters… who have nothing to do and hardly change or evolve.
  • Every month, „Batman“ has nearly one dozen of interconnected, complex titles with a variety of fully fleshed-out bat-characters working in Gotham City. „Superman“ does not have that kind of editorial attention / worldbuilding / energy.

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Is the current monthly „Superman“ book, launched in September 2011, any good?

Yes. Grant Morrison’s „Action Comic“ is a faced-paced, engaging starting point for new readers. „Superman“ is a little wooden, talky and old-fashioned… but likeable, too.

Interested in other comic book heroes?

I’d recommend „Supergirl“, „Wonder Woman“ and „Green Arrow“.

Here’s my full list [Link]!

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related Links:

my German comic book journalism:

Dcnu / New 52: ALL new series, reviewed (updated)

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This September, DC Comics has relaunched their super-hero comic book line and started 52 new series (Link), with 52 easy-to-enter starting points.

On Twitter (Link to my profile, smeschmesch), I collected the buzz about each new series.

So here they are: very short Twiter statements about DC’s 52 new September comic books.

The surprises. The disappointments. And the must-reads!.

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Recommended:

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#dcnu #actioncomics: Liked ‚Smallville‘ and/or disliked normal, confident Supes? you’ll enjoy this. Clark = alienated, insecure, kinda jerk.

#dcnu #animalman: @JeffLemire might be DC’s best current writer. Buddy B. & family = great chars. Horror vibe, good art, great cliffhanger.

#dcnu #batgirl: @GailSimone has done it again: Interesting villain, nice psychology, sharp 1st issue. Old / new readers sound VERY pleased.

#dcnu #swampthing: everyone who’s ever cared about the horror concept or writer Scott Snyder sounds CRAZY happy/satisf. But buzz/new folks?

#dcnu #batwing: violent, gorgeous art, some complicated flashbacks… but lots of atmosphere & a good sense of Africa. Pleasant surprise!

#dcnu #staticshock: almost NO buzz about this: good art, nice concept, pleasant teen book. maybe comparable to ‚Blue Beetle‘?

#dcnu #batwoman: gorgeous art, tight narrative, lots of female chars: even with previous author @ruckawriter gone, hopes are VERY high. buy!

#dcnu #demonknights: medieval, good-natured, surprisingly funny. Colorful cast of chars, charming concept. Plus: cool females!

#dcnu #frankenstein: quirky, off-kilter, fun and exciting! more light-hearted than fan-favourite #animalman, but another @JeffLemire win.

#dcnu #greenlantern: BAM! interesting new conflict, good starting point, character development for hero Hal Jordan. everyone’s pleased.

#dcnu #resurrectionman: great writers, but not much buzz. old fans + nerdy readers loved it a LOT. so… very likeable. but not exciting?

#dcnu #greenlanterncorps: good art, smart writing, nice friendships and – Tomasi’s favorite – gore and horror. Not for kids. But excellent!

#dcnu #ivampire: vertigo-like, dark, smart and sexual. HUGE horror, but rooted in the DCU. not a girly or romantic or Twilight-like book.

#dcnu #allstarwestern: seamless transition for old fans of #jonahhex… AND one of the best books for new readers. atmosphere! charme! plot!

#dcnu #furyoffirestorm #firestorm: political! global! nerdy! violent! a cerebral, interesting reboot. plenty suspense (& race relations).

#dcnu #flash: tons of personality! AWESOME, lush retro art. some romance. some psychology. lots of charme. instant classic!

#dcnu #aquaman: ideal starting point, good writing/art. not very complex or original… but a rock-solid revamp. high expectations!

#dcnu #wonderwoman: great art, smart writing, break-out success: it’s a horror book with mythology, gods and gore. stylish & nightmarish!

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good, but some problems:

#dcnu #justiceleague: simplistic, boys-only, lots of inside jokes… but good art, dynamic banter and a cool first look at Superman.

#dcnu #justiceleagueinternational: old fans are happy / aflutter / enthusiastic; August General Iron has great scene. But new readers: meh.

#dcnu #menofwar: 2nd feature seems subpar. but everyone’s surprisingly engaged / happy with militaristic war comic. Deserves closer look.

#dcnu #hawkanddove: @SterlingGates did wonderful things with ‚Supergirl‘. High hopes! people annoyed over bad art + dorky concept, though.

#dcnu #superboy: new, fresh start/origin. clone drama! surprisingly well-written. and: new supporting chars from #gen13. problems: bad art.

#dcnu #grifter: dude comic about con man / old #wildstorm character running from alien conspiracy: fast-paced, violent, mediocre. no humor.

#dcnu #batmanandrobin: great creators (tomasi/gleason), fun psychology, fast start. but: gore + could be too convoluted for new readers.

#dcnu #legionofsuperheroes: no innovation. standard 30th century ensemble stuff, nice art, serviceable plot. could go either way. :-/

#dcnu #supergirl: pretty art, not much violence / exploitation and no need to know anything about the DCU. But too fast, flat, superficial.

#dcn #bop #birdsofprey: Katana? Ivy? Starling? what’s going on? big continuity riddles, much exposition/mystery. could still get good later.

#dcnu #batman: excellent author (Scott Snyder), but boring art and some crasser violence: it’s merely good – not excellent. still: hopes!

#dcnu #thedarkknight: style, motifs, twists AND atmosphere are SO similar to Scott Snyder’s new ‚Bat’series… feels like 2 parallel univ. ?

#dcnu #dcuniversepresents: Deadman story, mostly in continuity with ‚Brightest Day‘. seems stilted / 2nd rate. solid, but not very engaging.

#dcnu #nightwing: throwback to the Chuck Dixon era: good, straightforward, kinda childish Dick Grayson adventure. a little too bloody.

#dcnu #voodoo: amazing art, slow start, explosive cliffhanger. it’s well-written and deserves a look. but did heroine HAVE to be a stripper?

#dcnu #teentitans: no catastrophe (and solid #wondergirl), but not much happened + Marvel atmosphere + Superboy crossover. angry teens! meh.

#dcnu #superman: soft reboot, many character moments, likeable art, nice retro feel. FANS loved it. Newcomers found it dull and dated.

#dcnu #hawkman: painterly art, whiny hero, blood / gore, no Hawkgirl. Solid atmosphere & good set-up, but indeed very… savage + somber.

#dcnu #jldark #justiceleaguedark: eccentric, trippy, tons of cool characters. it’s a good start, but it’ll be a cult fav, no mainstream hit.

#dcnu #thedarkknight: style, motifs, twists AND atmosphere are SO similar to Scott Snyder’s new ‚Bat’series… feels like 2 parallel univ. ?

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mostly bad reviews:

#dcnu #tec #detectivecomics: business as usual, and not much love for writer Tony Daniels. Serviceable, but meh.

#dcnu #greenarrow: simplistic plot, Justin-Hartley-like de-aged Ollie, new supp. cast + more ‚Robin Hd‘ and ‚Million. Playboy‘ tropes: meh.

#dcnu #stormwatch: murky art, murky plot? new readers sound pretty insecure… but fans of @Paul_Cornell still have trust / high hopes.

#dcnu #misterterrific: VERY bad art, technobabble, murky. will change artist with 2nd issue, hasn’t found footing yet. #powergirl romance?

#dcnu #redlanterns: violent, silly, nonsensical. even #greenlantern fans not impressed. possible underdog / cult fav. bc of writer Milligan?

#dcnu #newguardians: weaker than GL & Corps. subpar art. not much plot: could get better later on… and #kylerayner still very likeable.

#dcnu #legionlost: murky, cookie-cutter, not very engaging. premise is good, execution isn’t. everyone: „will give it 1 or 2 issues, tops“

#dcnu #captainatom: okay art, okay concept. JTKrul is a simplistic, boyish, simpleminded writer, Atom a bland person. so… no sparks. 😦

#dcnu #bluebeetle: big disappointment. everything that was charming / unique about Jaime & friends now crass, shrewed, loud, flat, joyless.

#dcnu #catwoman: sex! sex! handjobs for Batman! nice art, but no taste, no style, no psychology. Selina deserves class & grace. trainwreck.

#dcnu #redhood: lovely colors, interesting team dynamics. But Starfire acts like hussy & there’s too much titilation / „totally radical“ bs.

#dcnu #blackhawks: #checkmate for stupid people! a covert ops team with a bright logo? eccentric, unprofessional soldiers? no humour. meh.

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sad and bad:

#dcnu #omac: big Kirby homage, much brawling/action + derivative art: seems like a 70ies comic. People disliked technobabble / Brother Eye.

#dcnu #deathstroke: worst comic so far? Slade is cruel, evil and snappy. art / writing / sensibility like bad 90ies book. crude. lazy. lame.

#dcnu #suicidesquad: inferior to #secretsix. bad writing. idiotic costumes. brain-dead changes. people feel embarassed: sub-par book.

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So that’s the collected buzz on Twitter and the comic book sites.

Please see my (more personal) recommendations of all new 52 books here (Link, TBA).

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in the meantime, please read: