Recent Dorkiness

Blow Up Yer Batwoman!

Batwoman #14
World's Finest, Part III: Heart of Stone
by JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman

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I've made no secret of the fact that I'm buying this book about 90% for the art, and that cover is a prime example of why. Nice artwork nestled in a striking bed of graphic design that incorporates the imagery of both this issue's lead characters. The lightning bolt motif is Batwoman's thing, of course, but it's been rendered in Wonder Woman's colors and stars. The v-shape actually looks like a stylized impression of her crotch, now that I think of it. A subtle nod to the sexual tension between them, perhaps? Plus, the outer edge of the lightning is embroidered with those little Greek filigree things (I'm sure there's a name for them, but damn if I can think of it right now). There's also a slight Confederate flag feel to it, of course, perhaps enhanced by the dude in the cowboy hat. But he's more story-related, and honestly? At this point, I'm barely following the story. After skipping the issues not drawn by Batwoman mastermind JH Williams III, I've gotten lost in the proliferation of new bad guys and I'm having a little trouble making sense of everything. But, really, I don't care. I like the base premise, and that's enough: all these figures out of folklore and urban legend that Batwoman's been dealing with in the first year of the series have been gathered together by Medusa as part of a master plan to make the world safe for mythological creatures. That, I can dig. But the details... Well... The details are maybe better left amorphous to me. Because when I go digging past "Bloody Mary is a cool Bat-Villain," or start asking questions about the whys and wherefores of Medusa's plan... Things start to fall apart a little bit. So far better, I think, to just absorb the surface, and allow myself to be dazzled by the pretty pictures. Which brings me, finally, to the whole point of this review: the pretty pictures. JH Williams' two-page spreads have been a hallmark of the series to date, and this issue is entirely composed of them. Here's one now:

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Pretty stunning work. The giant scaly hand gripping the heart is the overwhelming element, of course, and it's pretty metal. But what makes the whole thing work are the details: the blacking out of Batwoman's face as Wonder Woman fulfills their informant's wish for death, and the softer, more painterly use of the reds in the final panel that give the execution a touch of melancholy. But the kicker, for me, is inside the heart: Gotham City, with Kate Kane's crazy-ass tree house right smack in the middle, literally bringing home the extent to which this crazy mythological master plan affects Our Heroine. That's the sort of detail that makes Batwoman sing when JH Williams is on the art, and which is sorely missing when he's not. So I thought I'd concentrate the rest of this post on details. Small parts of the larger spreads blown up big so they can be better-appreciated. So yes, tonight we're blowing up Batwoman. Some of these picture files are pretty big, so I'm putting them after the jump so as not to retard the loading of the front page. Click on through to enjoy, and make sure to embiggen all of these for full impact...

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Pardon our seam. One of the drawbacks of the two-page spreads is that some of the art is inevitably printed over the page break. Doesn’t hurt this one, however, which illustrates Williams’ love of rendering different characters in slightly different styles. Batwoman, for instance, is generally rendered with as few hard black lines as possible, giving her something of a realistic sheen. The guy she’s tending to there, however, is Pegasus, who’s been messed up pretty bad by another of Medusa’s children.

No, I’m not sure why Pegasus is a man instead of a horse. The story’s better-left unquestioned here, remember? I’m also not sure why Williams decided to cast him as Michael Madsen’s character in Kill Bill. Regardless, he’s turned the flying horse into a flying cowboy (note the severed wing-bones in his back). And since he made Pegasus a cowboy, Williams has of course (of course!) drawn him in a style reminiscent of Moebius‘ work on Blueberry:

That’s maybe more pronounced here:

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I dunno. Maybe I’m off-base with the Moebius thing. But something in the heavy linework, and in the way Williams has drawn the desert floor there, just put me in mind of it. Note, also, that we’ve got three characters in that panel, each drawn in a slightly different style. Wonder Woman’s more or less in Williams’ “regular” style, rendered with traditional line-drawing and color, not so slick as Batwoman but also not nearly so… meaty? …as Pegasus.

Speaking of meaty things, though, here’s a fantastic drawing of a buzzard:

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That took up nearly half a page on one of the Pegasus spreads. Buzzards circle all around those pages, appropriate considering the fate we’ve already seen him meet.

These next three all come from the same spread, a scene back in Gotham, where Medusa and her urban legend minions are wreaking havoc while Our Heroines interrogate the horse. First up, it’s Harvey Bullock…

…a super-cool neon movie marquee tossed in, apparently, just ’cause Williams likes to draw that kind of thing…

…and a really fantastic Sinbad poster (partially obscured by a tentacle).

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All of that’s spread out around this scene of chaos:

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I’m really struck by the weirdly disconcerting sense of scale when looking at that one full-sized. Because you’ve got so many characters in the fore- middle- and background, it’s not immediately apparent that Medusa is a giant. Then you take a closer look at her hands, and suddenly it all snaps into perspective. Weird.

Her hands themselves are also a revelation, of course. The scales betray her true nature behind all the glowing white flesh, and I particularly like that they fade in around her hips, as well. It hints at something far more primal lurking in her pants. Which would be a neat undertone regardless, but considering how very much Williams plays with Batwoman’s own sexuality in the art, little details like that are double-good.

And speaking of double-good… As much fun as it’s been blowing up my Batwoman, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t share at least one more two-page spreads with you. This one’s pretty SPOILERIFFIC, but… What the hell.

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What I like about this one so much is that, on the surface, it uses the two-page spread in a far more conventional way than Williams generally does. Which is to say, it’s a BIG image of a BIG monster wreaking BIG havoc. It’s Kirbyesque without actually being Kirbyesque, if you know what I mean. And if you don’t… I’m sorry. I’m getting tired here, and that’s the best I’m going to be able to do.

And, as long as I’m summoning up the ghost of one of the funnybook’s greatest innovators, I might as well bring up the other one and talk about how much those panels drawn on the sides of the buildings across the bottom of the spread put me in mind of Will Eisner. But he’s not doing the trick in quite the way Eisner would have, I don’t think. I’m particularly taken with the way the panels sort of stay in the same perspective as the buildings they’re drawn on (though I fully admit that might be an optical illusion caused by my tired brain).

Oh, and also: what’s up with that weird four-headed roof ornament?

Aaaannnddd… That’s all. A typical issue of Batwoman, with a story not quite firing on all cylinders, but art that more than picks up the slack. Even just slightly better writing would land this one five stars, but as it is…

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About Mark Brett (432 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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