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Sunday Slugfest: Detective Comics #854

Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2009
By: Thom Young

Greg Rucka (both stories)
J.H. Williams III (Batwoman) &Cully Hamner (The Question)
DC Comics
"Elegy, Part One: Agitato"

Batwoman hits the streets to track down the new "pope" of the Crime Bible cult--a Rococo-styled white queen named Alice who communicates by paraphrasing her namesake's dialog from Lewis Carroll's wondrous novel.

"Pipeline, Chapter One / Part One"

The Question investigates the disappearance of an illegal Mexican immigrant that leads her to a sex slave video porn operation.

Shawn Hill:
Paul Brian McCoy:
Dave Wallace:
Thom Young:




Shawn Hill

I wonder if the similarities in Rucka's two tales in Detective Comics #854 are meant to be noted. Both feature strong women pursuing their courses in the shadow of male forbears. Kate's Batwoman persona owes more to Batman than any of the Batgirls we know, and Montoya took on The Question's mask after following him on a quest to his death.

Both also have patriarchal mentors who function behind the scenes. Kate's is her actual dad, an ex-military officer who now covertly supports her vigilante activities. Renee's is a retired lighthouse keeper who does her intel--including sifting through the bogus questions that come her way to get to real callers who need help.

Both stories also put a lot of visual emphasis on the treads of the women's boots, as they both tend to kick open locked doors and whatever else gets in their way. Makes sense, as women's legs generally have greater fighting strength than their arms, but I think it would pay to be aware of these patterns because assertive superheroines are prone to clichés more than almost any other type of comics character.

We don't need any more lesbians who choose to butch up and date women after men abuse them--not that we have that here. However, we also don't need two leads who are so similar it's hard to distinguish their personalities.

Rucka seems to pick up Batwoman where he left off in 52, which makes sense, I suppose, as the intervening Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood miniseries focused mostly on The Question and the Religion of Crime that emerged in 52. Here our focus is finally on Batwoman herself, though we only get a few tantalizing glimpses of her personality--which Williams makes up for to a large extent with his stunning visual design sense.

Williams's elaborate panels are fragmented like art deco stained glass--making him a great choice for adventures set in Gotham. He tries a variety of styles, from painted watercolor effects to stylized linework, and he differentiates the Batwoman of the night from the tattooed goth Kate of the day.

Rucka lets us see an awkward brunch with an unsatisfied lover, and hints in a discussion with her father at a past more traumatic than any we've imagined thus far. Williams does two-page splashes like many other artists today, but they're not wide-screen voids that waste space. Instead, they're visual puzzle pieces that add nuance and drama--and the last one, soaked in red, certainly prepares us for the new nemesis, a Rocky Horror reject who spouts surreal aphorisms and is in every way a visual alternative to the red and black Batwoman. With her kewpie doll face and clownish gear, you might almost think she were a sort of joker.

Finally, The Question feature is another examination of the drug-related problem of sex slavery--a popular theme in superheroine comics these days. I don't know if the divergent threads will link together, or if Renee and Kate are meant to become an item again. However, this issue is very good start in making Batwoman a character rather than a stereotype.




Paul Brian McCoy:

This is my first foray into Greg Rucka's World of Lesbian Crimefighters, so forgive me if I don't quite love it yet--especially since the stories in this issue are built on previous stories that I avoided like the plague. I didn't avoid them because of the lesbians--I'm pro-lesbian--but because I thought the idea of a Religion of Crime sounded kind of dumb.

Well, after researching it a bit so I could write as informed a review as possible, I'm still not sure what it was all about beyond the fact that Intergang has a prophecy about the death of Kate Kane (Batwoman) and they also don't like Renee Montoya (The Question) because she refused to lead them (or something like that?).

So I'm not really all that informed after all, and really don't have time to track down all that stuff from 52, Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood, and Final Crisis: Revelations.

The good news is it's not really necessary to read all that to know what's going on in this comic, even though it directly refers back to some of those previous events. Sure, it would help, but it's not necessary.

Technically, there's not a lot to complain about with the main thrust of the story--which I rate at three and a half bullets. Without devoting a distractingly large chunk of the text to exposition, Rucka does a good job of giving just enough about what's come before to keep new readers from being too lost. On top of that, we also get dropped right into some action, which is always a good way to get the ball rolling.

I'm not sure I really care too much about the story, though--not having invested any time with this character before now. There's an interesting dynamic between Batwoman and her father. However, without any background to go on, I'm not sure I really buy the relationship. It's strange and very convenient, providing Batwoman with her very own version of Oracle. Ultimately, though, it has enough going for it to keep my interest up.

And am I right in assuming that this father with covert military connections is a new revelation?

On the other hand, the brief scene with Kate's girlfriend was pretty bad. Again, maybe this is a relationship that has been set up and developed other places, but here, with no background, it's ham-handed and stereotypical. The girlfriend, Anna, really only seems to serve as a way to fit some character description in for us newbies, and I really didn't like the way it was handled. Their conversation isn't really a conversation; it's essentially a monologue that is unreasonably hostile and unpleasant.

There's no reason for me to care about this Anna person, and she seems like a one-dimensional bitch in this scene; is she a loose-end that Rucka wants to tie up before getting on with this new story? If she's new just for this scene, then I'm even less impressed. I can't tell. Regardless, the scene doesn't work for me since there's not really anything in it that serves the larger story. I'd rather not be told what kind of character Kate is. Show me.

Batwoman's eventual confrontation with the new baddie, who I'm assuming is actually called Alice (?), is strange, too. Alice's continual quoting of lines from the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is annoying and doesn't always work in just the few lines used here. It seems more like an affectation than a personality trait, and it's already worn out after just a few pages.

So the story is functional and vaguely intriguing, but is hampered by a couple of clichés and affectations that really bugged me more than they may you, dear readers. But to be quite honest, I'm not here for the story.

I'm here for the art.

And while it's good--very good, in fact--I'm a little put off by a couple of small things. Actually they're not so much small as they are huge, puffy, and prominent. Yes, I am talking about Batwoman's nipples. They are distractingly prominent and her breasts are rather pendulous and free-floating at times, while more proportional at others. It also seems a bit gratuitous the sheer number of panels Williams is willing to squeeze a huge, puffy nipple into.

Not that I don't like nipples. They're just distracting. Maybe instead of cowardly and superstitious, current Gotham criminals are a horny and juvenile lot.

Aside from the obsessive porny vibe, the artwork is beautiful--but I really expected nothing less. Williams is one of the best artists working in comics today, and he's firing on all cylinders with this comic. The action sequences are clearly orchestrated and dynamically laid out on the page. I like how he distinguishes the change between the Batwoman pages and the Kate Kane pages--moving from the big, two-page spreads and ultra-stylized panel designs for the former to the more traditional square-paneled layouts for the latter.

I'm also very impressed with the amount of realistic detail in the faces, body languages, costuming, and set designs. There were even hints of classic Paul Gulacy in some of the faces, and that's always a plus. The use of light and shadow really works well--creating an almost photo-realistic quality that is only enhanced by Dave Stewart's colors. Keeping the Batwoman pages almost black-and-white with vibrant bursts of red also helps make this comic stand out as one of the best-looking books on the stands.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There's a two-bullet back-up feature--also written by Rucka, with art by Cully Hamner--featuring Renee Montoya as The Question. It's only eight pages and is a fairly simplistic opening chapter. The art is good and functional, but doesn't really do much to draw attention to itself.

I was a little surprised to see that Rucka has also paired The Question up with an older man who works the computer and does her tech work. Maybe if these two stories weren't by the same author and in the same book it wouldn't be so obvious, but do we really need to have both lesbian crimefighters teamed up with older men who look out for them and work their tech? It seems a bit redundant. Actually, it doesn't seem redundant; it is redundant.

This book is very much worth your money, if only for Williams's art. The back-up feature, while slight, does at least make it seem that DC is giving you more value for your $3.99 price tag. All in all, though, it's not too impressive of a start to either story.

I think I'd be happier with a $2.99 price tag and just the Batwoman story. Even then, though, if it weren't for Williams I don't know that there'd be anything to keep me coming back for the next issue.




Dave Wallace:

Detective Comics #854 sees Greg Rucka and JH Williams III collaborate on the first chapter of their long-in-development Batwoman story. It's an issue that accomplishes several things, setting up a magic-based criminal plot whilst also (re)introducing the character to an audience that might have missed her previous appearances in 52 and Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood.

Whilst that summary might not make it sound like the most exciting issue in the world, the story is executed with so much style that it's impossible to not enjoy reading it.

An impressive opening sequence sets Batwoman up as an accomplished and imposing superhero, also suggesting that she's almost as smart as Batman through her demonstration of an awareness of details of the criminal underworld that even he doesn't know about. There's also an amusing irony in Batman's advice on the length of her hair, as the panels that immediately follow this exchange make it clear that this Batwoman is a more practically minded superhero than her flamboyant appearance might suggest.

After these opening pages, Rucka introduces us to the woman behind Batwoman's mask, Kate Kane, crafting a sympathetic and multi-faceted character whom I look forward to learning more about as the story progresses.

Considering the heavy focus on Batwoman's sexuality when the new character was first announced a few years ago, it's pleasing to see that the fact that she's a lesbian isn't made the cornerstone of her personality here (after all, heterosexual characters don't spend pages and pages going on about how they're attracted to the opposite sex, do they?). Instead, it's merely a part of her characterisation, acknowledged in a scene that highlights her doomed love life before the book moves on to other equally important matters.

Rucka gives Kate some interesting character qualities that make her more than just a female Batman knock-off. Her younger, more modern perspective on life is established, we get some hints as to her apparently violent backstory, and there's an interesting twist on the usual Batman dynamic with a still-living parent who assumes the "Alfred" role in her life.

There's also some religious imagery in the background of one panel (a Menora, and a slightly inaccurate poster of the Kabbalistic tree of the ten Sefirot) that suggests an interest in the more mystical aspects of the Jewish faith, which may tie in to her interest in the more magical aspects of Gotham City's underworld. I wonder whether these religious elements are just throwaway details (perhaps a callback to artist J.H. Williams III's work on Promethea?) or whether they'll become more significant as the story develops.

One aspect of the plot on which I'll reserve judgment for now is the story's villain, Alice. Magic is a slippery subject in superhero comics, and although I have no problems with Rucka's presentation of it here, that might be because we're not given much to go on in terms of the villain's motivations or powers in this first issue. Having said that, her gimmick of speaking only in lines from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an interesting one, even if we don't know what it signifies for the character at this point.

However, despite the strengths of Rucka's writing, the most impressive element of the issue (and, in truth, the main reason that I bought the book in the first place) is the artwork of J.H. Williams III. I've been a fan of Williams's art for a while now, enjoying his work on Promethea, Seven Soldiers, Jonah Hex, and Batman--and he turns in equally strong work here.

The stark, arresting black-and-white-and-red colour scheme used for Batwoman's in-costume appearances (for which credit must also go to colourist Dave Stewart) instantly creates an impact, immediately making the character visually interesting and distinct from other Bat-characters. I also love the way the artist uses jagged, unorthodox panels for the sequences that show Batwoman, but reverts to regular square-edged panels for the scenes in which Kate Kane is out-of-costume--subtly reinforcing the change in personality that occurs when she adopts the Batwoman persona.

Williams's take on Batwoman is sexy without being exploitative. Her smile is just as seductive as her tight-fitting leather, and Willams uses her bright red lips on her pale white face as a recurring graphic element that's bound to become as much of an icon for the character as her chest logo or flame-red hair.

I also love the attention to detail that's evident in his artwork, whether it's the varying textures on Batwoman's gloves, arm-gauntlets, and boots; the different looks for Kate that are established within the space of just one issue; or the cutaway shot of her apartment that's executed with just as much care and attention as most artists would devote to an image of the Batcave.

Finally, I have to commend both the writer and the artist for maintaining a satisfying ambiguity about exactly how this story fits into current Bat-continuity. Despite the "Batman: Reborn" banner on the cover, the book has clearly been written in such a way that readers can choose whether to accept Batman's cameo as an early outing for the new Batman, Dick Grayson, or an out-of-continuity appearance from Bruce Wayne. We don't really get any hints one way or another from Batman's dialogue, and that's something that will enable Rucka and Williams's story to remain timeless and readable long after the status quo of Bruce Wayne as Batman has been re-established in the rest of the Bat-books.

One thing that might make readers hesitate to buy the issue is the increased price tag. However, you get a pretty decent package for your $3.99. In addition to the enjoyable 24-page lead story, there's an eight-page backup story (or "Second Feature") starring The Question by Rucka and artist Cully Hamner. Whilst I'm not a particular fan of the character--and the first chapter of this story didn't do anything to really grab my attention--I know that some readers are, and it's laudable to see DC attempt to provide an outlet for their secondary characters, even if it has to be as a backup feature in another book.




Thom Young:

Whenever images from Detective Comics #854 were released on the Internet during the past few months--as part of DC's promotional campaign--much praise was rightly given to J.H. Williams III's depiction of The All-New Batwoman. Now that the issue has finally arrived, it's obvious that Williams has drawn some exceptional panels that reveal a great deal of detailed line work.

I particularly like how Williams and colorist Dave Stewart were able to get the highlights on Batwoman's costume to look exactly the way that light plays off a lycra and nylon blend. There's no doubt what fabric Batwoman's leotard and tights are made from--at least 10% lycra and at most 90% nylon.

However, what impressed me the most is that Williams's page designs and panel layouts force the readers' eyes to move from left to right--in other words, in the same direction in which we read a page and turn the pages. Many illustrators working in comics today don't pay attention to the natural left to right flow of stories published in the western hemisphere.

One example of an illustrator who doesn't seem to know which direction stories flow is Tony Daniel, who laid out the second page of Batman #678 in a way in which he has Tim Wayne (nee Drake) look up from a book he's reading because he heard something outside. Tim suddenly looked up to his right, which was our left.

In other words, Tim looked up and back to page one rather than to page three--which is where the two characters who made the noise suddenly appear as the reader turns the page (there was a page of advertising between pages two and three). A better layout would have been for Daniel to reverse the images on page two so that Tim was facing left and then moved his eyes to his right (our left)--toward page three.

Fortunately, J.H. Williams III understands that stories flow from left to right--and that the only reason to reverse the direction is to create an effect for the sake of the story (which was not the case in the example from Daniel's work in Batman #678).

Beyond understanding the natural flow of western storytelling from left to right--and how the illustrations need to flow with the direction of the text unless for a specific reason--Williams has also provided some very detailed illustrations in the first nine pages of this issue (the rest are detailed, too, but I want to focus on the first nine in particular since they constitute the first scene of the story).

My one qualm with those first nine pages is that while Williams has the images flow from left to right, most of those illustrations are void of action. The first two panels of the first page show a man running from left to right, but that's just about all the action there is in the opening scene.

Twenty-eight of the other thirty-one panels in the next eight pages are static panels (though there is one that shows Batman firing his grappling hook gun--so I guess that constitutes movement of the hook). The other three "movement" panels are:
  • Panel five of the two-page spread on pages 2-3, which shows Batwoman's left boot coming straight at the reader's face (from the point of view of the man who was running from left to right on the first page). This panel breaks the left to right flow of the story (coming through the fourth wall toward the reader), but it does so for a specific effect.

    Here the action is straight at us, and time seems suspended as we see Batwoman's boot come toward our collective face. It's a perfect example of Williams knowing how to layout a page in a way that seems to escape so many of his contemporary peers.

  • Panels four and seven of the two-page spread on pages 8-9 shows Batwoman riding her motorcycle from left to right. In fact, panel seven shows her riding the cycle across the double-page layout--from the first panel over to the eighth panel, which shows her at home and out of costume. Thus, we can see that she rode her motorcycle home after she left the rooftop that she was on in the first panel.

    From the look of that double page spread, I'm not certain that Greg Rucka's script actually called for Batwoman to ride her motorcycle across the two pages. It would appear Rucka's script called for her to depart on her bike in the fourth panel, and that Williams added the "free panel" of her riding across the pages because he was aware of how static most of the scene had been up to that point.
Anyway, I was a bit disappointed to see that only five of the first 34 panels in the issue showed movement--or six of the first 34 if we count Batman's grappling hook. However, the lack of movement appears to be the fault of Rucka's script rather than Williams's own artistic choices.

There is another panel that seems to show movement--the first panel of page four. However, that panel is essentially static since it's actually showing Batwoman pressing her boot against the chin of the man whose point of view we had in the last panel of the previous page. She is pinning him back against the wall with her extended left leg and boot as she stands motionless while balancing on her other leg.



It's really a rather awkward panel in terms of believability in Batwoman's fighting prowess. If the man had his wits about him (which he clearly doesn't), he could simply grab Batwoman at the ankle and topple her over without much effort. Her body would be unstable as she holds the static pose that forces her to balance on her right leg. I suppose that's the image that Rucka called for in his script, though, and it's fortunate that the man she's facing doesn't have his wits about him and isn't a more accomplished fighter.

My other problem with the first nine pages--in fact, with all the pages--is . . . the coloring. Well, I sort of have a problem with it even though it's exemplary work.

I don't hate the coloring by any means. Indeed, Dave Stewart's colors are astounding throughout the issue. However, the choice of how to color the pages (most likely in coordination with Williams) simply doesn't match my personal taste--though I'm certain the coloring will please at least 90% of the readers.

In other words, I completely understand that I am in the minority here--as the reviews by my colleagues above have proven.

Aside from a single splash of red at the bottom, the first page of the story is in black and white, and I don't have any problems with the way it's colored. However, it's the first page, so that's where I'm starting.

The first panel is not only in black and white, it's nearly chiaroscuro save for some gray tones on the exposed masonry of a wall. The second panel then abandons the chiaroscuro look as we move in for a close up of the man who is running; there are gray tones in his hair, his shirt, and the wall behind him.

The third and final panel is the first to introduce color to the story with the appearance of a red bat emblem that appears behind the man. Oddly, that red bat emblem is clearly not on Batwoman's chest. It seems to be a red bat emblem that forms spontaneously within the man's own shadow.

I suppose it's a symbolic image that shows that the man is being "shadowed" by Batwoman. On that level of symbolic imagery, it's a highly effective illustration.

As we turn to the double-page spread on pages 2-3, we get a bit more color--and it is here that my qualms about the coloring begins. Not only do we now see the bright red of Batwoman's chest emblem, belt, boots, cape lining, hair, and lipstick, we also get some sepia-like brown tones in the man's shirt and in the pigmentation of his left hand. This color scheme of black, white, gray tones, bright red, and subtle brown tones is then continued through the issue's first nine pages.

In fact, that color scheme is carried out nearly through the entire issue--though we also get some muted greens, yellow, purples, and blues in the scenes in which the protagonist, Kate Kane, doesn't appear in her Batwoman costume.

Overall, it's really a masterful coloring job, and it is very effective in matching Williams's illustrations and setting the tone of the story. My problem with it is that Batwoman looks like she fell into the same vat of chemicals that The Joker fell into years ago when he was the first Red Hood.

She has the same chalk-white skin and ruby red lips that The Joker has. However, instead of the chemicals turning her hair a bright green, her hair became a bright, unnatural red. Yes, I know it's all for affect, but I see it as unnecessary affectation.

It's later revealed, though, that her bright, unnatural red hair is really a wig that is attached to her cowl. Yet, that fact doesn't actually explain the unnatural color since her genuine hair under the wig is the exact same bright red color.

Later, as Kate, she's shown wearing a second wig--a page boy hairstyle that makes her look like Alan Moore and David Lloyd's protagonist from V for Vendetta--albeit a V (or Evey) who has bright unnatural red hair.

As I looked at the first nine pages of the issue that were primarily black and white and bright red all over, I was reminded of a passage from John Clellon Holmes's 1977 introduction to his seminal 1952 Beat novel, Go:
Go is, in every way, a young man's book. . . . It is mostly painted in reds and blacks, which are the colors of youth after all. . . .
Similarly, Rucka and Williams's Batwoman is a young person's protagonist. However, I'm not immune to the desired effect of the imagery even though it's been a couple of decades since I was a youth with a black and red worldview of my own.

Anyway, as Batwoman, she looks like The Joker's long-lost twin sister. The real problem with that depiction is that she doesn't have the same chalk-white skin when she's out of costume. With one page that is the exception to the rule--the page with her father in which she is wearing the page boy wig, looks like V, and gets a new gun--she actually has pigment in her face when she appears as Kate Kane.

I guess I want consistency in her pigmentation regardless of whether she's in costume or out. However, as I contemplate it, I know that it would look even odder for Kate Kane to have chalk-white skin when she's out of costume. Similarly, I know that the intended effect would be lost if she was to have a hint of subtle tan or pink pigmentation when she's in costume.

In the end, I guess this is just a convention of this particular story that a reader has to accept.

Thus far, I've said little about Rucka's story save that I believe some of Williams's layout choices were either dictated by the script or (in the case of the motorcycle ride across pages eight and nine) were in reaction to the static images dictated by the script.

I enjoyed Rucka's work years ago when he was the regular writer of Detective Comics #739-54 from late 1999 to early 2001. However, I haven't liked the most recent efforts of his that I've read--such as the Final Crisis: Revelations miniseries and the Final Crisis: Resist one-shot.

I'm glad to say that I have nothing particularly negative to say about Rucka's current story. It doesn't bother me, but neither does it thrill me. I can add that the dialog sounds natural in relation to the otherwise fantastic characters and situations--and the plot and action are logical in that same relative manner.

While this Batwoman story elicits a reaction that is somewhat closer to my feeling about his Batman stories from nearly ten years ago, it did have a few minor things that kept me from being thrilled. One is the scene that Paul mentioned in his review--the apparent break-up between Kate and her just-introduced girlfriend (at least I don't recall seeing her before, though I didn't read the Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood miniseries).

If her girlfriend had been a long standing character within the Batwoman canon, then this scene would have been fine. However, as Paul indicated, this out-of-the-blue girlfriend appears to have been brought in merely so that we can acknowledge that Kate is a lesbian (or at least is bi-sexual, as I recall some mention during her introduction in 52 of her having dated Bruce Wayne--though I could be misremembering as I no longer seem to have my 52 issues).

Additionally, not only can we acknowledge Kate's sexual orientation, we can then put it aside because after this scene she's no longer going to be sexually active for the foreseeable future. The scene was of absolutely no use other than it showed that Kate wears a lot of eyeliner and mascara, and that she has at least two tattoos--one on her upper right arm, and one that appears to have left creases on her back after it was stamped into her skin over her spine.

My second problem with Rucka's story was also something that Paul mentioned. I've not been a fan of Rucka's concept of the "Crime Bible" and the cult of villainous followers of that religion. However, I can see the reason for making it a part of this story as a continuation of Batwoman's minor arc in 52 that resulted in her being stabbed in the heart near the end of that series.

Bringing in the Crime Bible Cult gives Batwoman a reason for existence beyond being yet another female character in the Batman Family. It distinguishes her from The Huntress and the various Batgirls, and I didn't react as negatively to the Crime Bible concept here as I did in Revelations.

I didn't bother to read the Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood miniseries because I don't care for Rucka's execution of supernatural concepts--nor his use of Christian mythology in opposition to the "evil religion."

Fortunately, nothing supernatural occurs in this first issue of his Batwoman story. Instead, the Crime Bible Cult appears to be more secular in its deeds (if not in its beliefs)--more akin to any of the religious cults in the real world (such as David Koresh's Branch Davidians or any of the various Adventist cults).

In this case, the new charismatic leader of the Crime Bible Cult seems to share Batwoman's pigment-challenged complexion--a woman with chalk-white skin who is named "Alice" and who quotes (sometimes paraphrases) dialog from the title character of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

With the introduction of this pigment-challenged Alice, we have yet another villain in the Batman mythos who is based on a character from Lewis Carroll's novels. I appreciate this continuation of this long-standing motif in the Batman mythos, and I will be a bit disappointed if Rucka doesn't manage to bring the Mad Hatter and Tweedledum & Tweedledee into this arc at some point.

In fact, in addition to being "Alice," Rucka's antagonist here could also be a type of white queen to Batwoman's red queen--which is an intriguing possibility.

Finally, my third qualm with Rucka's story is that Kate Kane is shown to be living in a penthouse apartment with her father. Their residence has hidden rooms behind secret panels--which, of course, is a convention of not only Batman Family stories but of many masked vigilante stories over the years--going back not only to Zorro but also the swashbuckling novels of Alexander Dumas.

It was established in 52 that the Kanes are a wealth family of Gotham high society, so it's not surprising that Kate could have a penthouse apartment that has all of these fascinating extras. What's surprising is that the Kane family apparently achieved this status with a patriarch (Kate's father) who seems rather rough around the edges despite his apparent West Point education that hints at the probability of old wealth in the Kane family (Kate is wearing a United States Military Academy t-shirt in the scenes with her father in the penthouse).

It's a minor quibble, but I would have expected her father to be a slightly different character--more like an American version of British Field Marshal Alan Francis Brooke rather than General George S. Patton. Uh, wait, Patton was from a wealthy American family but was nonetheless known for being rough around the edges.

Never mind. I guess it's okay for Kate to be a former debutante who is now a tattooed mod who has a retired General Patton as her father and partner in crime fighting--so it's on to the back-up story!

I am a huge fan of Steve Ditko's characters. By my count, he created seven for DC Comics (or four for DC and three for Charlton that DC later bought): Captain Atom, the Silver Age Blue Beetle, The Question, The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, and Shade the Changing Man.

(Actually, Ditko created eight heroes for DC if we count Odd Man, whom DC was obligated to publish in one eight-page story in Detective Comics #487 in the fall of 1979 to prevent Ditko from trying to regain the rights to his creation after the DC Implosion in the summer of 1978 prevented the character's originally scheduled debut. Ditko apparently contested the legitimacy of the Canceled Comic Cavalcade photocopied publication as validating DC's claim of ownership.)

Anyway, of the seven characters that Ditko created, the only ones who are still "alive" are Captain Atom, Shade (I guess, not counting the Vertigo version that was actually a different character with minor similarities to Ditko's), and The Creeper--and to call the latest version of The Creeper a creation of Ditko's is actually ridiculous since the only similarity is the names of the characters and the basic visual appearance.

Thus, as a fan of Ditko's work (though not an Objectivist myself), I was both interested and anxious to see what Rucka would do with The All-New Question. Would she essentially just share the name and the basic visual appearance of the character Ditko created, or would there be more of Ditko's actual concept?

The jury is still out, but I was happy to see the appearance of Aristotle Rodor as Renee Montoya's confidant--the same role he played for Vic Sage when Ditko was writing and drawing his Question stories for Charlton back in the 60s (and, apparently, in Denny O'Neil's Question series in the late 80s, though I didn't read past the first few issues).

There's nothing else in the back-up story that hints at Ditko's creation, but neither is there anything in it that indicates that Rucka won't be adhering to Ditko's ideology for the character. I know very little about Renee Montoya, but I see no reason that she couldn't become an Objectivist-particularly if she reads Vic Sage's journals and has long philosophical discussions with Professor Roder as they live together in a lighthouse somewhere near Los Angeles.

It would be interesting to see Montoya being brainwashed indoctrinated into the concepts of Ayn Rand's Objectivism through her conversations with Roder and her admiration for Vic Sage. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, this first chapter of the back-up story has an adequate (if predictable) plot that is competently illustrated by Cully Hamner--who provides art that "is good and functional, but doesn't really do much to draw attention to itself" (to quote from Paul's review).



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