Batwoman Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death

Batwoman Volume 1: The Many Arms of Death

Kate Kane had found a place to hide from the world when she washed up on the shore of Coryana. But now as Batwoman she must come face to face with her past as a deadly bioweapon finds a market place within the island’s criminal underworld.

Things aren’t how she left them though, and she must try her best to battle through the unfamiliar, and an assassin known only as Knife. Can she rally the island’s army of warlords and gang leaders against the scourge that’s taking over?

So… what can I say? Batwoman was a complete unknown for me. Being only vaguely aware of the character I had vague assumptions on what I would be in store for based of my knowledge of the rest of the Bat-catalogue. DC Comics do a lot of good female characters, so this one felt like a bit of a treat when it came up on Netgalley.

This volume collects together the one-shot Batwoman: Rebirth #1 and issues #1–6. Normally you’ll find that there’s a sensible progression, either one story arc over all the issues or a couple that converge. In these ones, while the story does follow through the collection it felt a little disjointed.

The book starts off nicely with a potted history of Kate Kane and her life’s twists and turns. I got some weirdly James Bond vibes… but I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Later in the story we get the line, “Are you my babysitter, my Q, or Batman’s spy?” and it makes me wonder if I am maybe missing something obvious.

As a personal assumption (and I honestly don’t know if there’s a general agreement within the industry about it), if I buy volume one of a new series I don’t expect to have to read another series to be able to understand what’s going on. In this volume, Monster Venom the deadly bioweapon, is introduced as something they’ve encountered before. You do at least get an indication of what it does, but then… well, it’s just kind of forgotten. It sounded so promising, and then it just disappeared. As with quite a bit of this book I was left wondering if I’d missed something. Was it thrown in purely to link to another series? Why didn’t we get what seemed to be a very interesting story line?

Normally after/while I read something I’ll jot down the plot summary to do my own synopsis from, but my notes were sparse, mainly because I was confused a lot of the time. A certain amount of questions at the end of something that’s part of a series is a good thing… intrigue makes you want to read more. But this seems to have stepped over the line of intrigue into the realm of “wait… what?”

It felt like Batwoman’s origin story, but then it shifted and I wasn’t even 100% sure that I was witnessing the evolution of a hero anymore.

Looking back at this I feel like there were three different stories forced into one series, each with enough interest for their own sequence but none getting the attention they deserve in such a small space. There’s lots of potential but it felt like it just missed the mark.

As always though you can’t fault the artwork. it’s the quality I’d expect from a DC publication and it’s effective at getting across the tone of the situation. Make sure you have a look at the cover images that are at the back of this edition that were done by Michael Cho, they really were great.

You’ve also got a tick in the LGBT category. It’s intertwined with Kate Kane’s backstory, and then that contributes to a fair bit of the resulting action in one way or another. I have no problem with the way they’d put it into her personal story, and I’m not going to say it felt like it was thrown in for the sake of it, but possibly it felt a little over played? Yet again though that could just be to do with how the story line felt.

While I’m not entirely convinced by this book there were some nice touches.

I like the little click of knowledge from seeing Julia Pennyworth popping up, knowing that she’s related to Alfred even thought it’s not said. But that in itself leave you wondering again. How did they team up? Was that in a different series? (I personally think that Alfred has franchised and every rich family/heir has a secret-keeping technologically aware butler, just in case.)

After 170 pages of book I was confused, but vaguely content. I had expected some things to be rounded up but they weren’t (or at least not satisfactorily) but that was fine because in my head I could almost see where some of it was going. Time was not a friend to this book though. As I sat to write this review I had more time to think, and more questions popped up.

In my entire time of reading I have only ever truly disliked one book (that’s a story for another time), all books are worth reading to one degree or another, this one included. It does have good ideas and characters, and I’m always happy to see diversity in books. I hope it means big things for more Batwoman story lines.

Batwoman Volume 1: The Many Arms of Death is due out on November 21st in the UK, published by DC Comics. Written by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV, and illustrated by Steve Epting, Stephanie Hands and Renato Arlem.