Creator Spotlight! Greg Rucka: Batwoman Retrospective

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Posted October 7, 2013 by Stuart Kirkham in Comic Books

Full disclosure: I’m not a big DC guy; my collection is about 100 books mainly consisting of Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. Before the New 52 came along I was just following a handful of DC writers: Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka. I love Gotham Central, but it ended prematurely when Brubaker left the book and Rucka didn’t want to carry it on without him. As a result there were some dangling plot threads that were picked up in other books, mainly Allen’s unsolved murder and Renee Montoya’s journey to become the next Question.

Rucka was able to continue telling Montoya’s story in his sections of 52 (which turned out to be one of the most compelling parts of the whole event), followed by The Question: Five Books of Blood, and lastly Final Crisis: Revelations, which gives Crispus Allen some closure. All of these stories come together to form something of a follow-up to Gotham Central, but also act as a springboard for a promising new series: Batwoman

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This new version of Katherine (Kate) Kane was introduced in the pages of the year long weekly event ’52’ and served as a supporting character to The Question since then. We’re shown bit by bit that Renee and Kate have a tangled history, the two characters are similar in some ways and different in many others, which makes their relationship all the more interesting. Rucka saves some time by carrying the primary threat over from The Question, leaving room to develop the supporting cast and flash back in time to some key moments in Kate’s life. As a result of this we already know a fair bit about Kate by the first issue, and by the end of the first volume she’s fully realised.

The art is expertly handled by JH Williams III, who uses panel arrangements and effects to create some of the most unique page layouts I’ve ever seen. He really is one of the most creative storytellers of our generation, and he backs it up with lifelike, detailed and precise line work. Dave Stewart provides colours, and both of them change their style to make the flashbacks feel retro in a way that’s appropriate for that point in the timeline.

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This is an example of Williams using unconventional panel layouts in a painted style; he’ll often go for double page spreads to give him room to be more elaborate. The coloring is in a painted style, which really adds to the mood when Kate is in costume and makes it look almost dreamlike in places.

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When we skip back in time he switches to a more traditional grid layout on a white background and uses thicker lines. The colors are muted and flat which makes it feel slightly dated which is a nice visual cue that the story has gone back in time. This isn’t a revolutionary technique as several artists have used it in the past, but it’s done really well here.

Rucka uses the flashbacks to show the impetus for Batwoman’s crusade against crime, which is more than a typical origin story as there are multiple life-defining events that coalesced to build her character. The supporting cast all play important roles in Kate’s life, her relationship with her father and the new figurehead of The Religion of Crime are especially interesting. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything but suffice it to say that by the end of the story the flash backs have more relevance to the story than you might have initially thought.

Greg Rucka was almost solely responsible for my interest in The Question and Batwoman, unfortunately as the characters grew apart so did Rucka and DC editorial, and after the New 52 reboot he was no longer on the book. JH Williams continued his fantastic art and took on the role of co-writer with W. Haden Blackman, but even though it looks just as it always did, it’s never been the same since. Some people are still enjoying the book, but it just doesn’t feel like the same character to me anymore. The New 52 undoubtedly did a lot of good, but I count this as one of the few casualties it was responsible for.


About the Author

Stuart Kirkham

Stuart is a comic book collector, film and TV enthusiast, and video game crackerjack. Unfortunately these pursuits are occasionally interrupted by having to go to work and do real-life things.