Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Detective Comics #854 Review

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams and Cully Hamner

I've been looking forward to reading Greg Rucka's and JH Williams's Detective Comics since their tenure was announced and took a little extra time to let the issue sink in before reviewing it. While one could argue this is a fairly simple story in terms of execution, the level of detail and beauty of the art and layouts warranted a second read through before actually reviewing it.

As such, to start things off, I want to talk about the most immediate and, quite possibly, my favourite part of the book - the artwork of JH Williams. I'm not one to typically gush over the artwork and typically give most artists the shaft in terms of credit for my enjoyment of a comic. My usual feeling is that art is secondary to the story and it's either doing its job or so bad it brings down the book.

In regards to Williams's art, it's absolutely stunning. The layouts are dynamic and something you rarely, if ever, see from other artists and the use of colour, particularly the crimson red permeating the book, is visually striking. I also enjoyed the dual art styles used in the book - one for the Batwoman scenes and another, lighter tone used for the civilian, Kate Kane, scenes. The civilian scenes almost look as if they were not inked, or inked a great deal less than the Batwoman ones, but I'm not an expert on art techniques, so can't tell if that is the only difference or not. I know there are a lot more earth tones and lighter colours than the Batwoman scenes and the red is used far more often for Batwoman related scenes. All in all, it was a visually stunning read and worth picking up just to see Williams's art - something I rarely, if ever, say about a book.

Thankfully, the art is not the only good thing about this book. Rucka more than carries his own on this book and I, as a person that didn't overly care for Batwoman coming out of 52 (didn't hate her, just didn't see a reason for her existence at that point), am enthralled by the character. I honestly want to know more about her, her motivations and just plain see more of the character and where this storyline is going.

The plot seems to be picking up on threads from 52 and the Crime Bible and I have no problem with that. It's a solid concept, but I felt they didn't do a good enough job filling people in on the 52 subplot. It is like we're expected to know who Kate is (I don't think she's even called by her full name in this issue, just Katherine by her father), what happened to her in 52 (they mention her being stabbed, but no real explaination for new readers) and any other pertinent information. I know these things, but it's worth mentioning that it's anything but reader friendly for people expecting an easy jumping on point for Batwoman's new starring role in Detective Comics.

My one major complaint about this issue has nothing to do with the Batwoman part of the story. In fact, it's entirely to do with the Question co-feature. While I don't think the co-feature was a bad story, it felt like, well, a back-up story. I know that sounds odd, as it is a back-up story, but I'm talking those useless back-ups from the 90's that added cost to a book and no one wanted to read. To me, this felt like a non-story. It was 8 pages of the Question walking around with no depth or characterization or explaination as to what she's been up to. It's only the first part of her back-up, so it might get better as more time goes on, but it felt, to me, like they cut up a story, added some fluff to try and make it work in an 8 page format and then shipped it off. It's an incomplete reading experience to me and I hate that. Put it out in a miniseries if you want to tell me a story. Don't butcher it into little pieces and try and put it out in 8 page snippets.

Verdict - Must Read. Disappointment over the co-feature aside, the actual Batwoman related story was just about as good as I could have possibly hoped. I don't say this often, but you almost owe it to yourself to buy it for the art alone. The excellent and engaging story is only going to be a bonus to Williams's art.

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