This review contains some minor spoilers.
DC’s Rebirth is proving to be a phenomenal success. Now, one year into the era, the company is preparing a second wave of comics – ranging from the new Justice League of America to Super Sons. Batwoman, too, is one of the second wave – but DC has been building up to this one for quite some time.
Kathy Kane’s Batwoman was originally created back in the 1950s as a love-interest for Batman, largely to deal with allegations that Batman was homosexual. There’s a real irony in the fact that, when the character was reintroduced into mainstream continuity in 2006, DC chose to make the character a lesbian. She’s been one of DC’s flagship lesbian characters for years, albeit with a troubling history – at one point, writers J. H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman quit the book because DC wouldn’t allow them to marry Kate to her long-term partner Maggie Sawyer.
But Rebirth has brought a new degree of popularity to Batwoman. She’s become a core member of Batman’s team in Detective Comics – James Tynion IV’s arcs have often practically revolved around her, right down to a confrontation with Batwoman’s father. That’s clearly been setup for Marguerite Bennett and Tynion’s new Batwoman series, and now DC has set that up with a Rebirth one-shot.
Now, let’s be clear; this isn’t the best of the one-shots. Most of them are focused on establishing a character’s new status quo, setting up the context for a new adventure. Instead, Batwoman: Rebirth is largely a beautiful character profile, a glorified fact-file with gorgeous artwork from Steve Epting and Jeremy Cox. It showcases the whole gamut of skills the creative team possess; we’re taken on a whistle-stop tour of Batwoman’s history, from the deaths of her mother and sister through to the present day. Sometimes the narrative is told with the traditional grids; as you get nearer to the present-day, though, Epting becomes ever more creative with his artistic style, giving us some stunning splash-panels.
The truth is that Bennett and Tynion know that Batwoman simply isn’t as familiar to most readers as, say, Batgirl. So this one-shot is dedicated to setting the scene, to ensuring you have all the necessary context to understand the series and get your head around the main character. It’s a basic approach, but it does feel like a necessary one.
More exciting for long-term fans, though, are the hints of where this story’s going. A small piece set in the present day establishes that Batman is giving Batwoman a mission in the wake of the “Night of the Monster Men” arc; from there, though, we’re given a glimpse of the future, with “Commander Kane” ordering a squad of soldiers to open fire on Gotham. In a brilliant move, the comic then switches to show us four scenes of what’s going to happen in the pages of Batwoman; we see old friends, old lovers, and a fearsome enemy. Most fascinating of all, the comic immediately promises to rewrite the history of the character.
All in all, I can’t lie; this book is hardly essential reading. What it is, though, is a useful primer for what Bennett and Tynion aim to do in the Batwoman ongoing. New readers will want to pick this up just to get their heads around Batwoman, while more familiar readers may find some of the nods tantalizing. Either way, the book certainly serves its purpose, which is setting up the new series, and does so beautifully.
More than most Rebirth one-shots, this is essentially a beautiful advertisement for the ongoing Batwoman series. It features a few tantalizing hints, but is otherwise just a gorgeous character-profile.