Batwoman has to choose: the Bat or Beth. Who will she choose?
Blood proves itself thicker than water in the final part of the “Fall of the House of Kane” arc. Batwoman #16 sees Kate Kane going head to head with Batman in order to save her insane sister from a life in Arkham Asylum. Although she doesn’t want to go up against the hero who she modeled her own alter-ego after, her love for her sister runs deeper than the respect she has for Batman. In the end, she makes a fateful decision that will forever change her relationship with the Bat and with Gotham.
The Batwoman Rebirth series has had its fair share of problems and this issue is definitely not immune. Writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Fernando Blanco do the best they can, but they’re honestly working with an arc that didn’t really need to be written in the first place. Since DC reintroduced Batwoman as a lesbian character in 2006, writers have been recycling the story of crazy not-dead Beth Kane over and over. She was dead and then she wasn’t and then she was a psycho killer named Alice and then she was good and then she became bad again. It’s way too complicated for casual readers to keep up with and for dedicated readers it isn’t very interesting. The “Fall of the House of Kane” arc was just another way to bring back the Alice character and have Batwoman bend over backward to save her. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything new to this arc or issue.
The only slightly notable thing that happens in Batwoman #16 is Batman’s reaction to Batwoman’s choice to save Alice from Arham. Obviously, he isn’t happy about Batwoman getting in the way of his mission. In his eyes, Beth, or “Alice,” nearly killed a lot of people and thus deserves to be locked away in Arkham. He sees Batwoman’s actions as a violation of the justice system and of the Bat insignia that she wears. This might not be a huge deal if Batwoman hadn’t just killed Clayface in Detective Comics, causing Batman to rethink her position as a Bat. The events in Batwoman #16 only drive the stake that’s between them deeper.
The strongest aspect of the issue is, undoubtedly, the art. Blanco’s signature style resonates through every panel, evoking a strange sense of dread. His panel composition is frequently disjointed and off-kilter, which reminds readers of just how unnatural a fight between Batman and Batwoman is. He nails backgrounds, figures, and faces, which is an impressive feat. His work is at its best during Batwoman’s up-close panels, where his art somehow captures her determined expressions through the mask.
Colorist John Rauch brings Blanco’s linework to life and helps aid that same feeling to dread. The primary colors on his palette are red and blue: the signature colors of Batwoman and Batman respectively. Throughout Batwoman #16, these colors fight for dominance, with some scenes almost becoming entirely blue before suddenly jumping to red. Frequently, the changes in color replicate the changes in Batman and Batwoman’s fierce struggle. As Batwoman takes down Batman near the end, the color red permeates every panel on the page. This clever coloring and Blanco’s skilled pencils tell a complete story without words, which, in a media that frequently relies too much on dialogue, is extremely unique.
With how poor Batwoman and Batman’s relationship is at the moment, I have to wonder where Batwoman will be going next. Her series was canceled and will be ending in August yet writers haven’t given many hints as to where she will go after that. Without the Bat’s support, she could leave Gotham and become a vigilante somewhere else. Or, maybe she could find Maggie and get married like she was supposed to in her New 52 series. At the time, DC Comics said they didn’t want any of their heroes having happy endings, but in just a few weeks Batman and Catwoman are getting married. If they get to be happy, why can’t Batwoman?
Wherever DC takes Batwoman, I only hope that they stay true to her character. She is, at her heart, a soldier who never backs down from a fight — even if that fight is with Batman. Batwoman #16 might’ve been a little boring, but as one of DC’s few lesbian stars, Kate Kane’s character has tons of potential. They just have to give her the opportunity to shine.