Batwoman 23

Alternating Currents: Batwoman 23, Drew and Shelby

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Batwoman 23, originally released August 21st, 2013.

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Drew: At the end of Batwoman 22, Kate asks Bones for thirty hours to prepare for her planned takedown of Batman. We all suspected that that request might not be entirely on-the-level, assuming that Kate would use that time to set-up her own counter-plan. Issue 23 reveals that we were only half-right — Kate does use that time more for her own personal ends than for preparing for her mission, but how she uses it is entirely unexpected.

Still feeling guilty over having injected Maggie with fear toxin, Kate makes a grand gesture of injecting herself, spending twelve of her last eighteen prep hours tripping balls. It’s the kind of big, dumb stunt you might expect in the final act of a romantic comedy, but it manages to restore some trust. Maggie tells Kate to propose again, and this time, Maggie doesn’t hesitate with a “yes.” Meanwhile, Bette, with the assistance of Jacob and his cronies, capture and interrogate a D.E.O. agent about Beth’s location. Of course, he’s been trained not to crack, even under the worst torture they can throw at him, so Bette tries a different tack: appealing to his ego. If they successfully extract Beth, she argues, Bones and Chase will be fired, leaving a power vacuum this agent could take advantage of. This seems to work, but you can never trust secret agents. As the issue concludes, Chase has released a number of Batman’s rogues gallery into the streets of Gotham, and Kate rides off to reel Batman in.

The final hours of preparation before a challenging mission may seem like a strange time for Kate to focus on Maggie, but as we saw at the end of the medusa arc, Kate draws a great deal of strength from her relationship with Maggie — hell, she seems to draw a lot of strength specifically from proposing to her. It’s a touching moment, and artist Trevor McCarthy sells the holy living hell out of it.

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This is perhaps the most expressive art I’ve ever seen from McCarthy, though it comes at the cost of some clarity — I’m honestly not sure what some of the lines on Kate’s arm are meant to express.

As moving as Kate’s gesture might be, it was still profoundly stupid. Sure, it effectively conveys her commitment to Maggie, but it also compromises her perception at a time when she needs to be at the top of her game. After twelve hours of nightmares, she might be up for quiet cuddle time, but trying to bring down Batman — someone we know she’s kind of intimidated by, anyway — is another story. Maybe Kate’s not pulling for success — it looks like the B-team is getting ever closer to getting Beth without delivering Batman — but it seems like she’d be better able to fake it if she actually had all of her wits about her.

Speaking of the B-team, it looks like Bette finally did something everyone can approve of. I’m not entirely sure I believe a government agent allowing a known terrorist to walk free in some sort of power-grab, but I’m also not sure I believe that he’s actually helping them. That he needs a GPS device to show them is kind of neat, but couldn’t he just give them a longitude and latitude verbally? The fact that Bette puts a smartphone in his hands makes me a little suspicious. The guy’s a secret agent — shouldn’t he be able to turn that into a bomb, or something?

The other big piece of the puzzle — the release of several villains into Gotham — is perhaps the most distressing. Chase is oddly confident that they’ll follow the rules, but it doesn’t seem like it would take much for things to turn sour quickly. Indeed, I half expect Kate to need to work with Batman to stop these rampaging baddies, but since it was never clear that she was actually trying to capture Batman, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

Shelby, I have to admit a bit of disappointment at what felt like the second set-up issue in a row. There were solid character moments to be had, for sure (and Kate’s drug trip was incredible), but it was a bit of a letdown when I came expecting high-flying action. Were you thrown by the decision to focus on those thirty hours, or did the character focus satisfy your Batwoman itch this month?

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Shelby: I feel a little torn about this issue. I agree with everything you’ve said. I am super excited for the inevitable twisted family reunion between Kate and Beth, plus cousin Bette, Papa Kane, and Director Bones. What a weird, twisted, hilarious family portrait that would make. I want to get Beth in the picture so badly, and it does feel like this prep/training montage is dragging things out. And I totally agree that a 12-hour psychedelic drug trip is a really dumb way to prepare for a major tactical battle. It’s beautiful as a gesture, and is completely appropriate as something Kate would do for Maggie, but it’s ill-timed.

Despite my reservations about this issue, though, I can’t help but like it. It was great seeing Bette so confident and capable. She didn’t hesitate to stand up to her uncle’s friends, black ops soldiers who do shit like this for a living, and tell them they were done and it was her turn. It’s interesting how different Bette is compared to Kate when it comes to superheroing. They were both trained by the Colonel, but Kate is so much more about relying on her strength to get her through. When things get tough, she just buckles down and gets tougher; if she was interrogating that guy, she would have just kept punching him until something happened. Bette doesn’t have that strength, so she makes up for it with more out-of-the-box thinking.

But what really sold me on this issue was Kate’s drug trip. McCarthy is in rare form as he lays Kate’s deepest fears out on the page for us.

wake upJust that split image of Alice and Batwoman in the upper left would have been enough to make me love this issue. The smudgy charcoal texture really contrasts the crisp, more graphic background of veins and Vertigo-esque swirls. All of the drug-trip pages seem a combination of Williams’ design eye and Dave McKean’s eerie textures. I love, too, seeing Kate’s fear of her sister, of what she’s become and how that reflects on their relationship. Even though the timing of this issue seems a little off, and it just serves as another set up to the main event that I am impatiently waiting for, between the character work with Bette, the touching re-proposal, and McCarthy’s stunning pencils, I can’t help but love this issue. Just like how Kate can’t help but love her sister, despite the fact she is an insane murderous criminal. Hopefully things turn out better between me and Batwoman than they are inevitably going to turn out between Beth and Kate; that, I assume, is going to go pretty poorly. 

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

3 comments on “Batwoman 23

  1. What do you guys make of the imagery in Kate’s nightmares where it looks like Alice tears off her father’s face, effectively turning him into Bones? Does Kate blame her sister for making Batwoman subservient to the DEO instead of to Jacob Kane?

  2. I don’t think that’s it, Kate originally got roped in with the DEO to protect her father; she was entangled with them long before Beth came back into the picture.

    I was thinking it was a subconscious clue to Kate that Bones is her half-brother; I forget, does she know that yet?

    • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing–I don’t think Bone’s identity has been outed yet.

      I gotta admit, I am totally happy reading this title every month regardless of any forward momentum in the story–the art and character work are awesome and so far have been more than enough for me. I love seeing Bette’s development and Kate and Maggie’s relationship.

      I don’t know where y’all went to college, but ingesting mind altering substances in preparation for major life events seemed a good way to prepare for almost anything amongst folks I knew (can’t say many actually graduated college, though…). And who knows, getting juiced up on fear toxin may just be the perfect approach to getting ready to face Batman–get that shit outta the way before facing one of the scariest dudes out there ;).

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