Detective Comics #858
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
“The Question: Pipeline – Chapter One, Part Five”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: J.H. Williams III/Adam Hughes (variant)
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Given the level of the talent that’s contributed to this latest stint on Detective, it’s been a memorable run on the title thus far, but this latest issue stands out as the best yet, at least as far as the main Batwoman feature is concerned. The plot of the first Batwoman story arc was surprising conventional in tone, featuring what turned out to be a standard hero-versus-crazed villain story. And when one reads a comic book illustrated by J.H. Williams II, you don’t expect to find that art paired with something conventional. Rucka’s latest script is far superior to those that came before, and Williams demonstrates once again the skills that have made him one of the great modern masters of the medium. This issue is also noteworthy in that it features the conclusion of the first arc of the Question backup feature. With that piece, Rucka offers up a predictable though satisfying ending. Like the main feature, it’s the art that steals the show.
Go: Rucka offers up an origin story with this latest arc, not only for Kate Kane/Batwoman but her entire family. Most of the story is set in flashbacks, but he connects them to a story set in the present that further explores the relationship between the heroine and her father. Rucka plays to his strength with this new story, as it involves military operations, terrorism and international intrigue. He plays with points of view, offering only snippets of the action from a particular character’s perspective. It reinforces a realistic tone, and it further allows the reader to connect with the little girl who’s being traumatized.
J.H. Williams III’s work is always incredibly attractive, but what’s really impressive about his work in this issue is how he diverges from his usual style. He employs a looser, sketchier approach for the flashbacks featuring the young Kane twins that’s reminiscent of the styles of such artists as Michael (Daredevil) Lark, Paul (Potter’s Field) Azaceta and Cliff (Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality) Chiang. Williams returns to his incredibly detailed style for the military-ops scenes and the modern Gotham sequences as well, complete with his challenging, unconventional page layouts. He distinguishes between those sequences by titling familiar panel layouts for the military scenes while reserving his more fluid layouts for the Batwoman segments. It’s another milestone performance that demonstrates the inventiveness and versatility of a comic artist without equal. He even incorporates the divergent-style approach with his art for the regular-edition cover.
Question: Cully Hamner’s artwork has been the real star of the Question’s show from the start. He choreographs the action quite well, and he and colorist Dave McCaig collaborate well to capture the faceless nature of the character’s mask. The dark, cool blues and blacks establish an appropriate tense, noir atmosphere.
This backup serial hasn’t read all that well because the shorter nature of the segments has really messed with the flow. It’s hard to remember what’s come before. That being said, I found it interesting that the storytellers opt to take the new Question out of the suit-and-fedora look that we usually associate with the character, making the mask the entire costume. It seems to work with any clothes, and the track suit the protagonist dons in this chapter makes perfect, practical sense for someone who’s expecting plenty of action. Some might be disappointed that the vigilante ends up relying on conventional authorities instead of saving the day on her own, but given the character’s history as a cop, it makes sense that she’d go this route. Mind you, the scripts have been silent on her history throughout the serial. 8/10
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