It’s weeks like this that make me so happy to be a comic book reader. All three titles that I pulled stuck the landing (My Batman and Robin #1 review is here) and marked the beginning of exciting new eras. We’re not just talking DC, either. Let’s get it started with:
Batwoman #1
There’s a point at which discussing J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman art is like weighing in on “Pet Sounds.” How many ways can you say something is awesome/stunning/glorious, especially when colorist Dave Stewart is on board?So it will surprise absolutely no one that Batwoman #1 is, from a visual standpoint, perfect. But can Williams write? He’s doing double duty this time, not only illustrating but also crafting the story with co-writer W. Haden Blackman. The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes.” The transition from Greg Rucka’s Detective Comicsrun to this long-anticipated solo book is seamless, and the first chapter of the five-part “Hydrology” arc stands on its own as a fine piece of work.

The ethereal La Llorona (or the Weeping Woman) is revealed after all those teaser images last year. She’s a mythical creature of water bearing tears of death, and she’s coming for Gotham’s children. Bat-books are often full of gruesome villains who take pleasure in maiming their victims, but the she is a beautiful mixture of terror and melancholy.

Williams and Blackman show many facets of Kate Kane’s life without the story feeling disjointed. Little things convey a lot, like the way she stares at a photo of ex-girlfriend Renee Montoya while visiting Gotham P.D. Her longing is apparent, and even if you came in knowing nothing about their history, you’d get it instantly.

There are a number of interesting subplots: Kate’s crime-busting partnership with her younger cousin Bette (aka Flamebird), a potential romance with a detective who’s working on the missing children case, and her refusal to reconcile with her father, Col. Jacob Kane. I liked the close relationship Kate and her father once had, and the family secret that blew it apart may prove unforgivable. I hope not. Their common bond as soldiers and Col. Kane’s complete acceptance of his daughter as a woman and a superhero was touching.

And now let us praise Stewart, whose color work is immaculate. Just look at those liquidy blue tones in the beginning, as the Weeping Woman works her tearful, dark magic. His striking color choices make Batwoman every bit as intimidating as Batman, especially in those moments when she’s standing in the shadows with only her blood-red hair and the points of her mask visible. Stewart is just as spot-on in the daytime panels, giving ivory-skinned Kate a softer, almost vulnerable look.

This is not a comic to be rushed through. You could spend several minutes poring over a single image and marveling at the intensity of detail.

Some things are worth waiting for, and Batwoman earned every minute of her hiatus. Grade: A+

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1
You know that feeling of digging a book so much that you wish it were several pages longer? My only quibble about this new beginning for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is that it felt like far too short a visit with Miles Morales. But what a lovely visit it is.

Longtime writer Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t miss a beat as he formally introduces us to Miles who, like Peter, is a smart, working-class teenager. Unlike Peter, though, his mom and dad are very much alive — at least for now. It’s obvious that they love their son dearly and would do just about anything to safeguard his future. The tension is palpable (and almost unbearable) as his parents wait to find out whether Miles will win a lottery for admission to a charter school.

He does, but he’s immediately aware of the dreams that died after his name was called. It’s a poignant moment, and Sara Pichelli’s illustrations pull you right into that emotionally charged auditorium. Many talented artists, most notably Mark Bagley, have worked on Ultimate Spider-Man, and Pichelli is easily one of the best. Her characters are so well-defined, right down to their body language and facial expressions. She’s a rock star, as is Justin Ponsor, whose vivid color work I’ve enjoyed for a long time.

So how did Miles get those powers he displayed in Ultimate Fallout #4? Some may find the explanation contrived, but I applaud Bendis for keeping it simple and keeping it moving. No need to gum up the works, though there is a nifty unexpected twist at the end.

I loved Ultimate Peter Parker and spent several happy years following his adventures. But believe me when I say that this feels like authentic Ultimate Spider-Man, despite the persistent theories that this a diversity-for-diversity’s-sake switchup. Ultimately (chuckle), it’s Bendis’ job to persuade us and to make Miles into a convincing teen Spider-Man, not a clone of his predecessor. I’m confident that he is up to the task, and that readers will want to follow Miles as he learns the price of great power. Grade: A

2 thoughts on “Comic Judgment: Best in Show

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