Friday, 12 June 2015

Batwoman, Volume 5: Webs Review (Marc Andreyko, Jeremy Haun)

In late 2013, JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, the writers of Batwoman since the New 52 began, announced their exit from the title after becoming frustrated with DC Editorial’s last minute changes to planned storylines – which were approved by DC Editorial months in advance! The biggest change DC made was reversing their decision to allow Kate and Maggie to marry (DC however are not anti-gay marriage, they’re just against marriage for their characters), as well as asking for a rewrite on the conclusion to Williams/Blackman’s massive arc, This Blood is Thick.

Williams initially mentioned that he and Blackman would be leaving the title after Batwoman #26 but it seems that was brought forward to #24 as the new creative team of Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Haun began their run, and this volume, with Batwoman #25.

Given the controversy surrounding this Batwoman volume then, I was surprised to find that Webs is actually an ok comic, especially as this book collects 11 issues – usually a warning sign that DC want to get a series out the door and done with (see Savage Hawkman Vol 2!).

Andreyko polishes off This Blood is Thick with the opening issue, a rushed and barmy finale that I didn’t follow as I missed the last two volumes of the series. I’m sure if I was more invested in the storyline, I wouldn’t have appreciated someone else finishing what the original creative team started.

But that’s the thing: as much as I can sympathise with Williams and Blackman being yet another casualty of the near-schizophrenic decisions of DC Editorial, I didn’t think their Batwoman series was that good. It looked awesome with first Williams’ glorious art and then later Amy Reeder’s wonderful work – but the writing and storytelling was always average at best, descending in quality as the series went on, which is why I stopped reading after Vol 2.

Andreyko then begins his storyline, Webs, which isn’t a great one but it’s also not bad. Andreyko doesn’t muddy the waters by being convoluted and the various threads are well-defined and easy to follow, which is the mark of a good storytelling style - it’s just the story itself isn’t that interesting!

A character called Wolf Spider is hired by a rich guy to steal Depression-era paintings as part of an elaborate treasure hunt for another one of Gotham’s founding families; Batwoman fights him. There’s a black widow who’s also a vampire called Nocturna; Batwoman fights her. There’s also two of the most forgettable side-villains you’ve ever heard of: Killshot and Night Thief; Batwoman fights them.

Still awake? There’s some drama about Kate and Maggie’s relationship (isn’t there always?) – Maggie’s ex isn’t happy that his daughter Jamie’s being brought up in a home with two lesbians so there’s some custody battling leading to some forced theatrics. There’s also a Zero Year one-shot where we see a pre-Batwoman Kate decide to play vigilante during Riddler’s blackout of Gotham which is very meh (and of course she and Maggie catch each other’s eyes for the first time).

Webs is a very ordinary superhero book that doesn’t stray far from the safe confines of well-defined superhero comics, particularly the DC kind. Andreyko’s somewhat lively dialogue though keeps things from becoming too stale and it’s also an accessible and readable book without being confusing through poor structure – the main problem with Batwoman under Williams/Blackman.

Maybe it’s because I was expecting a travesty that I found Batwoman Vol 5 kinda enjoyable in parts and I was pleasantly surprised on the whole. I’m not loving the vampire angle (vampires are way overplayed in general) but Andreyko’s decent first Batwoman volume has got me cautiously interested in the title again.

Batwoman, Volume 5: Webs

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