Batwoman: Rebirth #1 by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, and Steve Epting
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
Steve Epting's beautiful visual narrative leads the way for a comic that lays the groundwork for the unusual yet emotionally gripping story of Batwoman.
100 %
A Tapestry of Life
User Rating 5 ( 2 votes)

“Where are you going, Kate Kane?”

This is the question posed at the very beginning of BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1. It’s asked first by Kate’s mother, and then subsequently by every other character who has an impact on Kate’s life. The question acts as the central metaphor of the issue, and indeed, of Kate Kane’s entire life. This glorious tapestry of a comic weaves in and out of several critical years of Kate’s life. Like the pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of her life don’t yet fit together, but they reveal tantalizing clues about the journey of the woman who will be Batwoman.

BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1

The issue begins with the murder of Kate’s mother and twin sister when Kate was just a child. We then jump to Kate’s military years, where she engages in an affair with another woman. From there we jump to a mysterious boat cruise in Morocco, where a drunken Kate tries to bury the pain of her expulsion from the military. After that, the chronology of the pieces starts to unravel, as we leap to a series of unfamiliar settings. Kate sleeping in the bed of a woman named Safiyah, who appears to own an island sanctuary.  Kate trying to save a woman named Beth, who mysteriously has the same name as Kate’s dead twin. Kate leaving Batman’s team to search for Monster Venom. There’s even a tantalizing glimpse of the future, suggesting a more sinister path for Kate. Together, these glimpses make up the fragmented pieces of a story that will unfold over the BATWOMAN series.

READ: To find out what’s going on in the life of Batwoman’s counterpart, read our review of BATMAN #17!

The writing by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV beautifully presents a story without really telling it. All they do is offer the reader glimpses. And though these glimpses could have becomes frustrating in less able hands, the two talented storytellers use the power of suggestion to hint at the emotions of a larger plot unfolding. It’s a rare gift to be able to tell a story emotionally, that suggests rather than explains. We are not offered many concrete facts. But the strength of Kate Kane’s emotional turbulence is all we need as a guide, navigating through the treacherous terrain of her memories. Kate’s story is one of many possible directions. Many of those directions were imposed on her because of tragedy, and her psychological damage runs thick through the issue. But her story is so relatable. In many ways, it boils down to the concept of a gay woman who feels different, who feels uncertain how to lead her life. Add to that basic concept a tragic background and a conviction to do something about injustice, and you have the classic tale of a comic book heroine. The journey might be familiar, but the structure of storytelling is totally fresh, and that’s what makes this comic unique.

BATOWOMAN: REBIRTH #1

It cannot be overstated how much the brilliant artwork by Steve Epting contributes to the comic’s uniqueness. Because of the nature of the fragmented storytelling, almost all of the inner emotional substance of Kate’s journey is channeled through the art. Epting here functions much like the director of a film, employing the show-don’t-tell techniques in full. The panels require great scrutiny in terms of understanding where we are in Kate’s memories. The transitions often happen quickly, such as the shifts between Kate’s military expulsion and her boozing binge on a cruise. The panels intercut, and tell different stories on their own, but put together through Epting’s visual narrative, they reveal a deeper story of a woman who desperately wants to be herself, even while life constantly tells her she can’t. This is the rare comic that invites an immediate second reading, in order to catch the pieces you missed. Only upon an investigative second read does it become clear that the groundwork for the puzzle-piece narrative was laid on the very first page, with the panels all framed in jagged, red jigsaw pieces. Usually, writing creates the brunt of a narrative. But in this case, Epting’s sublime artwork crafts the true narrative, and for that reason, it’s among the most important artwork in all of DC comics.

READ: In other Batman news, THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is out in theaters! Find out what we thought of it here!

BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1 is a beauty to behold. It employs a delicate, graceful story structure that suggests the truly tragic life of a damaged young woman, without ever overselling it. It crafts an unusual visual narrative that gives readers only bits and pieces, yet creates a complete emotional life for Kate Kane. It sets up several intriguing elements later to be explored, in Kate’s past, present and future. It’s an unusual method of storytelling – one that perfectly suits the unique journey of Batwoman. Kate doesn’t yet know where she’s going, but with the help of the creators of BATWOMAN, she’ll no doubt find her way.

One Comment

  1. POD7

    February 17, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Beth/Alice actually is her sister, there’s no coincidence. The story behind it was Batwoman’s breakout story (Elegy by Greg Rucka). Towards the end of Batwoman’s last solo run, in what honestly felt like an attempt to do everything possible to get the book canned, Alice/Beth was “redeemed” and fought alongside Kate and “the Unknowns” as Red Alice… in space… then in medieval times… everything after Williams III/Blackman left the book was garbage, basically, despite it being Marc Andreyko at the helm. Also it’s my speculation that *SPOILERS* at the end of BW Rebirth 1, the “Commander Kane” shown is actually Kate’s mom, not Kate herself.

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