Friday Favorite: Alice

Some of the best characters are villains, and one of my favorite villains is Alice. That is, Kate Kane’s thought-to-be-dead twin sister Elizabeth, who was actually kidnapped in childhood and tortured by terrorists, eventually becoming the Religion of Crime’s High Madame.

Her alternate personality is a beautifully twisted version of Alice Pleasance Liddell of Wonderland fame. Continue reading

DC Sends Flowers Via J.H. Williams III

While V. and I celebrated the news that J.H. Williams III will write and illustrate a regular Batwoman comic, it occurred to me that reading comics is a bit like dating. The sheer variety is exciting, but once you really connect with a title (or five), it’s like magic. You’re positively giddy on the Wednesdays that it ships, and you can’t wait to curl up and spend time with it.

Then, inevitably, things get all weird. Maybe the creative team changes and there’s a steep decline in quality, or a larger event gums up the works. Pissed off and confused, you start talking about breaking up and seeing other titles — maybe even other publishers. Call me a sucker, but the Williams announcement is the equivalent of a beautiful flower arrangement or a Tiffany charm bracelet sent just in the nick of time. Maybe it doesn’t completely atone for Rucka’s departure and the Power Girl craziness and the iffy Wonder Woman announcement, but it’s still pretty wonderful.

Together, Rucka and Williams created a stunning series of Batwoman stories in Detective Comics, and Williams’ illustrations were so beautifully and thoughtfully executed that they set a new standard for the comics medium. With Rucka out of the picture, it’s a huge relief to know that Williams will stay on as Kate Kane’s caretaker, so to speak. He struck all the right notes in an interview with Comic Book Resources, showing appreciation for Rucka’s vision while making the case for his own. Plus, his enthusiasm for Batwoman and her supporting cast members, including cousin Bette Kane (Flamebird), is palpable. As Williams himself put it, “I just kind of felt like, ‘OK, if anyone can do the character any justice, it would be me.’ ” It’s a bonus that current Madame Xanadu artist Amy Reeder will provide her considerable talents on the second arc.

DC, consider your telephone number unblocked. For now.

Best of the ’09 Pull List: Batwoman in ‘Detective Comics’

She's a ride-or-die chick.

As far as my comic-shop file is concerned, 2009 was a good year overall — and it really didn’t have that much to do with lantern rings and cape-baiting zombies. DC’s “Blackest Night” and many of the tie-ins have been perfectly enjoyable, but the books that stuck with me this year were more about individual characters than cataclysmic events. From the brilliant-while-it-lasted pairing of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on “Batman and Robin,” to the nifty surprises of “Wednesday Comics” and “Superman: Secret Origin,” to the thank-God-it’s-still-good re-launch of Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” my pull list generally gave me a lot to look forward to on Wednesdays.

But no title rocked my world in 2009 quite like “Detective Comics” as conceived by writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III. I expected Rucka’s writing to shine, but Williams’ visual storytelling has been extraordinary. In each of the seven issues (#854-860) this team has produced so far, Williams has executed pages that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic book. Brought to life by Dave Stewart’s expert coloring, Batwoman is frankly terrifying the first time she appears in issue #854, all pale skin, flame-red wig and shiny black bodysuit. Even her crimson lipstick is intimidating. (Dear M.A.C.: Consider making Batwoman the face of your next Viva Glam campaign.) If you’re up to no good, you do not want to meet this woman in an alley, period. That’s how it should be when someone wears the bat symbol.

Fortunately, the artwork serves a mighty good origin story. [Spoilers ahead] What motivates a privileged person, one who isn’t named Bruce Wayne, to put on a costume and stalk criminals at night? After the brutal loss of her mother and identical twin sister, Kate Kane follows in her military father’s footsteps rises through the U.S. Army ranks. But when she’s outed as a lesbian and refuses to lie about being gay, Kate is forced out of the service and becomes a woman adrift — at least, until a chance encounter with Batman inspires her to start taking a bite out of crime herself. Their wordless first meeting is one of my favorite visuals in this series, and though Kate is clearly in awe of Gotham’s dark knight, she didn’t need his help to whip her would-be attacker’s ass.

In Rucka’s hands, Kate has emerged as a truly interesting, complicated figure. I particularly like her kindred-spirit relationship with her dad, who uses his high-level military connections to support her crime-fighting. There’s tension between Kate and her wealthy stepmother, and it’s clear that she’s not entirely over Renee Montoya, aka The Question. A recent discovery about her twin sister, Beth, is a doozie. And of course, there’s that lingering issue of having been stabbed through the heart by a Religion of Crime crackhead.

Word is that Rucka and Williams will reunite in 2010 to continue Batwoman’s adventures in her own title. I’m going to file that under “Please, Please Be True.” After all, Gotham City needs all the help it can get, and I’m pretty well hooked now.