Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is the Relaunch Kate Kane has Deserved for Years

Comics Reviews Marguerite Bennett
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<i>Batwoman: Rebirth</i> #1 is the Relaunch Kate Kane has Deserved for Years

Writers: Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Jeremy Cox
Letterer: June Chung
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: February 15, 2017

Kate Kane has remained a point of contention between DC Comics and readers in recent years, bouncing from one set of disappointments to another. With the dissatisfaction surrounding the departure of writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III during the New 52 era, it wasn’t until Marguerite Bennett’s DC Bombshells that the character received the attention and affection she so desperately needed.

But DC’s 2016 editorial initiative, Rebirth, brought Kate back to the forefront, recruited by Batman (in a move similar to last week’s Justice League of America), to head up an entire team of heroes in the pages of Detective Comics. With a couple of team arcs under her belt, Kate once again headlines her own solo series—and it’s well worth the wait.

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 Interior Art by Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox

Pairing scribes Bennett and James Tynion IV, the writer of Detective Comics, is a smart move: they’ve each proven their skill with the character in different ways, tackling humor, action and genuine emotion with deft hands. It helps that they’re both also queer-identified—with Bennett the first queer woman to write the out-and-proud lesbian crusader’s solo series since the character’s modern debut in 2006.

The art team of Captain America’s Steve Epting on lines and Jeremy Cox on colors is another inspired choice. Though Epting is a newcomer to DC, his legacy on books like the spy thriller Velvet prove he’s got the chops to draw dynamic, powerful women who are sexual without being sexualized. Cox has proven time and again that he can elevate solid line art with his experience on Grayson, Midnighter and Deathstroke, among other Rebirth titles.

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 Interior Art by Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 reads like the origin story that it is, but there are no tired tropes, no well-trod paths; Kate Kane’s story doesn’t feel nearly as tired as Bruce Wayne’s oft-retold origin. Dialogue is sparse on the first page, relying heavily on Epting to utilize the character’s fractured panels (first established by J. H. Williams III), which he pulls it off with grace and style. The first half of the issue bounces between different periods in Kate’s life prior to her taking the mantle of the Batwoman, contrasting her most intimate moments of violence, love, pain and loss. It’s a love letter to a character who’s been rewritten and beaten so many times that telling her story again feels respectful, instead of like reopening old wounds.

It’s not at all necessary to read Detective Comics to understand this book, and judging by the other Rebirth relaunches, you won’t need to read this issue to start with Batwoman #1 in a few weeks (the Rebirth debuts are introductions friendly to new readers before the main series kicks off). But Batwoman: Rebirth #1 provides useful context for what’s about to happen, and Epting’s art is well worth the cost. The deep, rich reds that Cox brings to many of the pages creates a visual thread for readers to follow, and sets the tone for the book perfectly: Batwoman isn’t in a great place in her life, and is in the midst of upheaveal. With new threats staring down the barrel at Gotham every day, Kate’s been offered the choice to keep working with the team that Batman recruited for her, or turn her back on the Bat way of life and join forces with her father, the man largely responsible for her vigilante lifestyle.

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 Interior Art by Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox

The issue concludes with an apparent answer to which side she choses, but in the tradition of all great kickoff comics, more questions emerge. Batwoman: Rebirth #1 accomplishes the nearly impossible: it retraces enough of the past to honor previous teams and explain current events to new readers without dragging beats out enough to bore the old guard. Bennett, Tynion IV, Epting and Cox have infused a beloved character with new life and deep affection, and they’ve set Kate Kane up to usurp attention and loyalty from one of the most famous masked vigilantes of all time. Batwoman has deserved a team like this for a long time, and readers are lucky that she’s finally got it.

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 Interior Art by Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 Interior Art by Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox