“Beyond Shadow”

Written by:  J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman

Art by:  J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend

Published by:  DC Comics

Cover Price:  $2.99

Continuing their attempts to diversify their cast of characters, DC gave us Batwoman, a prominent, female, lesbian superhero.  But in the hands of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III during her run in Detective Comics, this was more than tokenism or identity grandstanding or a publicity stunt.  Now J.H. Williams III takes her to her own series, co-written  with W. Haden Blackman, and with artists Amy Reeder and Richard Friend.

In this issue, we are presented with beautiful and elegant artwork, as anyone who ever picked up an issue of Promethea might have expected.  Moreso, we’re given an overview of the complex nature of this character, as well as insight into Bruce Wayne as Batwoman in many ways reflects him.

Employing the device of having Bruce Wayne/Batman investigate the latest addition to the Batman family adopted during his absence, new readers learn about her as he does.  He investigates the methods and fighting techniques of the new Batwoman while at the same time tailing Kate Kane, her suspected alter ego.  The book uses Williams art to follow Batwoman stacked above Reeder’s art who follows the Kate sequences.  Such a juxtaposition is both dramatic and effective.

What also comes through is the strong grasp of the character William’s has.  She comes off as both memorable and unique, completely different from the rest of the Bat-familyl, and someone a reader wants to get to know better.

“More importantly, she has that one thing I can’t teach.  That hole inside her that can’t ever be filled…it gives her the drive to do this.” –Batman

The thing about both Batman and Batwoman is that they are fully human. That is, not being super-powered, it seems almost believable that any of us could be them with enough training and dedication. They are more relatable, their struggles mirror our struggles.  Many of us are haunted by our pasts, feeling like we can’t get past mistakes we’ve made and people we’ve hurt.  We have that hole.

All of the things that make them so dysfunctional, their woundedness is part of what makes them tick.    That hole, that woundedness, can take many forms and often people try to self-medicate that hole in a variety of ways, from addictions to, apparently, throwing on spandex and running across a city’s skyscapes.

There is also the core belief that we can’t live without the self-medication. Life shifts. Gaining and losing people, places, and things leaving feelings of resentment, anger, self-protection, and abandonment in its wake, losses remind us that all isn’t as it should be. They remind us that life is painful. How do we experience and react to that pain? Sometimes we numb ourselves, medicate, act out sexually. Old wounds, be they lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves or quietly trying to please a distant father (because his opinion of you has shaped who you are and how you are) need to be confronted. Expecting something from certain relationships that never materialized, disillusioned with losses. Each loss presents a choice: passage to anger, blame, depression, resentment or passage to a greater life and freedom. For them, their unspoken belief is that their woundedness becomes redeemed in their mission.

The thing is, brokenness can be redeemed. Real love risks and offers redemption and when loved well, we’re taught about God. In all of our brokenness and (self-) deception, in all of our brokenness and desperation, we can come before the Lord and be fully accepted.

The only problem with Batwoman #0 is that there is not enough of it.  Coming in at 16 pages, it’s not much of a book, with almost half of its content being previews for upcoming issues of the title and other Batman books.  Other than paying so much for so little, we do have a treat of a book and a promising journey with a fascinating character.