Batwoman can be a challenging series to review. The art is so overwhelming that it can be hard to look at the comic as a whole instead of focusing on that one beautiful piece. I was so sucked in by this issues dreamlike underwater pages that I lost all interest in turning the page. All I wanted to do was watch the way the water flowed from panel to panel, to admire the details JH Williams III had hidden at the bottom of the river. But somewhere along the way, the hold the art had on me was broken, and the plot is what garnered the bulk of my appreciation. While I've enjoyed the first two issues, I think Batwoman #3 is the best storywise so far.
One of the reasons we admire heroes, superpowered or not, is their bravery, their strength in the worst moments. They don't break down when normal people would, which makes the moments when we do see them drowning in their troubles and responsibilities that much more powerful. I doubt as we'll see Kate as vulnerable as she was in those panels with Maggie anytime soon, but that's what makes it special. Being reminded that masked heroes are still human, that they have cracks in their armor, makes the things they accomplish all that more impressive.
La Llorona, Cameron Chase, and even Maggie Sawyer fell into the background as Williams gave us a wonderful Kate Kane character study. Kate doesn't wear her angst on her sleeve the way Batman often does, and I think it's easy to forget how tortured she really is. Jake Kane's appearance in the issue was a brief one, but more than ever, you could feel how much the separation from her father is killing Kate. For years, they only had each other, and being apart from him when she's emotionally torn apart must be brutal. I miss the two of them together, and I want to hope for a reconciliation, but it's hard to see how Kate will forgive the Colonel when her pain over what happened to Beth is still so raw.
Kate's words may have been harsh, but I think it's fair to point out that Bette doesn't really have a reason for fighting. Bette was a forgotten character for years, but her old origin essentially had her training to become a hero because she wanted to impress/stalk Robin. As much as she might like Bette, that has to sting for someone like Kate, who fights because she absolutely needs to. I hope that their falling out gives Bette some more depth. I always like seeing her, but I don't think she's a compelling character on her own yet. The pages with her donning her Flamebird suit were absolutely stunning, and even though I'm not expecting this to lead to something good, it was a cool little moment for the character.
This issue picked up directly from where the last one left off, and ended on a cliffhanger, but in many ways, it felt like a standalone issue. If someone asks me where to start with Batwoman, I'll always recommend Elegy, but I can easily see myself handing this issue over to someone I want to hook. It's not the action piece I was expecting- it's just a look into one night of Batwoman's life, and sometimes that can lure in readers to way an introductory story can't. Some plot points might be hard to make sense of if you haven't been following the series, but Kate's pain is something any reader should be able to understand.
When I talk about what makes Batwoman great, I often focus on the art, and maybe that's a mistake. The art is breathtaking, but Kate's story is exceptional too, and it would be no matter who was drawing her. Loss is a common theme in comic book back stories, but the way loss is used in Kate's tale feels somewhat unique. She's dealt with tragedy, found a purpose, and had that purpose stripped away from her. When she found a purpose once again, all her wounds from her past were reopened, and this issue proves they've never really had a chance to heal. There's something intensely relatable in all that, and it's a huge part of why I love Batwoman as much as I do. As always, I urge anyone who isn't familiar with Batwoman to give the character a chance. Whether you begin with Elegy or start right here, you're in for something special.