Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 12.23.2009 – Detective Comics #860

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833
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Avg Rating: 4.7
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 48.7%
 
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Size: pages
Price: 3.99

Whether or not this is Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s final issue working together on Detective Comics we shall put aside for the purposes of this discussion.

The only thing that really matters is that this comic book fucking rocks.

The way in which Detective Comics rocks is not always overt and bombastic, which is what one assumes when something is said to “rock.” No, Detective Comics tends to rock in subtle ways; in ways you really have to pay attention to notice. Although, as subtle as those ways are (usually) they become much more apparent when you have a seat on your couch on a cold and blustery Wednesday and make your way through a stack of comic books that is 25 deep. The good comics, the ones that really do something different, the ones that really challenge the format, tend to stand out in such a stack. That’s not to say that the other comic books in the stack are bad or don’t attempt new and interesting things, but after you’ve read 10 or 15 pretty standard comic books in a row, when you get to Detective Comics you get a big red boot heel to the face.

Detective Comics #860 is the third and final chapter in the Batwoman origin story, of which the first was also my Pick of the Week. That should tell you how great this arc has been, and how much I’ve really enjoyed learning about Kate Kane. In the first chapter we saw how childhood tragedy changed the course of Kate’s life in an issue that was a straight-up clinic in both comic book writing and art. In the second issue we saw how the echoes of that tragedy affected Kate’s adult life and set her on the path to becoming a masked vigilante. In Detective Comics #860, Kate Kane makes the full transition to Batwoman.

For many people it seems that the big draw of this series is artist J.H. Williams III, and I’ll get to him and why he was brilliant again, in a moment. But for me writer Greg Rucka has been just as big of a reason to love this book as Williams is. This story arc in particular has been fantastic. We’ve got Batcharacters coming out of our ears in the DC Universe and what Rucka has done here with Batwoman is create a character that is completely fresh and new. She feels totally unlike every other Batcharacter. Yes, she had a parent die, but that is pretty common for most superheroes. What sets Kate apart is everything that happened after she lost her mother (and also the fact that she has an evil twin sister archnemesis).  She’s an army brat. She was kicked out of the military for being a lesbian. She has a high ranking military father who, upon discovering Kate had stolen a ton of high grade military equipment from his base to aid in her nascent vigilante career, decided to not turn her in or even get mad at her. Instead he became her Oracle and set her on a course of full scale vigilante training by his ex-special forces buddies. This is not a costumed vigilante who has jumped into her life of crime fighting willy nilly. Batwoman has come prepared to kick your ass.

Throughout most of his time on this series, and in this arc in particular, J.H. Williams III has, for the most part, showcased two distinct art styles. Batwoman in the present has been shown in an almost painterly style that is heavy on the blacks and reds and features those crazily unique page layouts. The flash back scenes with Kate in her younger days have been done in a simpler style that recalls (appropriately) David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman: Year One. Detective Comics #860 opens with Kate awkwardly beginning her vigilante career in military gear and a gasmask and the brilliant thing that J.H. Williams III did was that he began the issue in the simpler art style and as Kate began to transition into Batwoman, so too did the art style change into the more painterly modern style. And it wasn’t an abrupt change, either. The first section with Kate Kane out on her own fighting crime features the simpler art style. And then when her father joins up and sets Kate out into the world to properly train (while he sets up her base of operations), the art style morphs into a hybrid or the Year One-esque style and the modern painterly style. And then when Kathy Kane puts on the costume and becomes Batwoman the art style morphs into the full on, black and red heavy art style that we have seen through most of this run. It was a brilliant way to graphically show the change in Kate and her world.

Almost as good, and for completely different reasons, is the co-feature starring The Question. I have been really enjoying this story so far. The first arc was a very Queen & Country-esque tale of The Question dismantling a human trafficking ring. In this second arc, The Question and The Huntress have teamed up to do more damage to international organized crime. There were a few things that I really liked about this chapter. I loved the interplay between Rene and Helena. As two characters that are kind of similar but also very different, they play off of each other really well. I really like that they were able to commiserate over Vic Sage and how much he meant to both of them. That was a really nice scene. I also really loved the cliffhanger which well executed from a craft standpoint and left me more excited for the next issue than the ending for the main story did.

No matter where Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III end up telling more takes of Kate Kane, I will be there. What they have been doing together has been innovating and exciting and reminds me every month why I love comic books that dare to push the boundaries of old conventions and why I love comic books that dare to be great.

Conor Kilpatrick

I can't wait to see what Jock has in store for us next month!
conor@ifanboy.com

 

Comments

  1. So what you guys are saying is that Detective Comics is pretty okay.

  2. I think this is the POW literally every four issues or so.

  3. Interview at word balloon says that the rest of Kate’s story will be told in her own new series.
    Also said that they’re going to write a new first arc for that series and follow it up with what was intended to be the last arc of her 12 issue detective run.

  4. Again? Seriously? Well, I cant blame you since this was my favorite book as well. Also, the main Batwoman story has always overshadowed the Question co-feature since its a hell of a tough act to follow but this was the first time that I felt the Montoya co-feature was probably just as strong as the main story.

  5. @incredibledave: Yes, we know.

  6. It never surprises me when Detective is the Pick. It’s a great series and imo Rucka has really been bringing it latley to keep up with Williams in the talent dept: the last few issues have been fantastic as far as art AND writing goes. It’s one of the best series out there, and it puts to rest any reservations anyone should have about paying $4 for a comic. Combined with its originality and uniqueness of character and plot…just one look at that artwork and you GOTTA be convinced that an issue of this is worth $4. Every issue is like 22 pages from the sketchbook of the modern day equivalent of a Renaissance master artist.

  7. i’ll be honest, it’s a very depressing time of year to be on a  comic book forum… alone

     but, god damn, that’s one hell of a comic

  8. that was a joke by the way

  9. This was definitely the best issue of the Rucka/Williams run so far.  Sadly, I still can’t say I’m enjoying it story-wise.

    I haven’t finished my books yet, but so far Fantastic Four is in the lead for POTW.  I have a feeling Chew will have something to say about that, though. 

  10. Can I have two PsOTW? I choose this and Northlanders.

  11. This book was definitely fantastic and yet again proved to be POW worthy. this second arc has drawn me in competely, which is something i couldn’t fully say about the opening arc. the art also has me contemplately dropping 100 bucks on Absolute Promethea

  12. I will say it again. This is The Best Book DC is putting out, far and away.

    I want this is trade like *crazy*.

     

  13. I fully support this choice. Excellent issue of an excellent series.

  14. The DC collections team should all get fired if they can’t put all 7 issues in a nice deluxe hc. The last page here was really full circle to the end of the first arc.

    This was simply amazing!

  15. Finally finished my stack and Fantastic Four actually kept its POTW spot.  For a week with Fantastic Four, Green Lantern and Chew, I was pretty underwhelmed.

  16. Once again an excellent issue and a great POW Conor. This has been a book I look forward to every month and always a first read. I’m really looking forward to this new Batwoman series as well as Jock on the next arc.

  17. Wish I could read this…I’m at home for the holidays, so it’s no new comics for me until Monday.  This series has been so solid, and it’s always great to see it get that POW love.

  18. I quit this series because I couldn’t stand the crime bible nonsene in the first storyline regardless of the art..however because of ifanboy I came back to it for the ORIGIN storyline.  Glad I did.  This has been  an incredible story and I agree with the QUEEN & COUNTRY comparison.  Just please Rucka, stay away from the supernatural crap.

  19. Anyone else hear that the Question will become the main story, and that the book will drop back to 3 bucks?

  20. …Then again, Blackest Night #6 was pretty damn awesome too. *whistles in self-satisfaction* Especially the part with Luthor, which I saw coming a few pages before it happened. Yep, yep, damn good week for comics.

  21. When are they gonna come out with the trade. I feel i have missed to much to pick up just this issue.

  22. Im away for the holidays and this was sold out at the only comic book store in town : /

  23. this christmas i realised ‘family fun’ is an oxymoron

  24. This was awesome, no question. It IS one of the best books on the shelf but for me The Last Days of American Crime blew this out of the water. Having been POTW twice already I’m kind of surprised Detective was picked over Last Days. My 2c.

  25. is it josh’s pick next week? i hope he doesn’t screw it up by picking something stupid

  26. @edward-I see what you tried to do there.

  27. @Chardsoul:  If they do, they won’t get my three dollar!!  The Question sucks.  Now a Huntress starring in Detective I could fucks with…

  28. @DRAKE: "tried?" i think it worked pretty well, don’t you?

  29. @edward-It would have, but Conor ruined it. He hates fun.

  30. What if Blackest Night doesn’t win the POTW next week? The free calendar wins?

  31. i am going to write the shit out of that Blackest Night 6 review!!

  32. This book is my pick of the week every week it’s out, and it usually comes out the same week as Blackest Night or Green Lantern.

    I don’t know what it is about the series, I always go in thinking there’s no way it can be as good as the last issue, but it always is as good if not better.

    I have only just discovered Jock, by reading Green Arrow: Year One (a Christmas present) and the 1st 12 issues of the Losers that I found at a Con. I’m excited to see what he brings to this table. I’ve seen the varient cover he’s done for next issue and Kate looks as beautiful as ever.

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