Title: Batwoman, Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death
Author: Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting, Stephanie Hans, Renato Arlem
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novels, Superheroes
Version: ARC (eBook)
Page Count: 168
Publisher: DC Comics
Notable Notables: Gay, female-led superhero title
Recommended Readers: New and veteran comic fans
Thank you, DC Comics and NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC of my first ever Batwoman comic in exchange for an honest review.
Kate Kane has intrigued me ever since I first learned of her a few years ago. Up until that point, I’d had no idea she was one of the first gay female superheroes, who was once a soldier, expelled from the army due to her sexuality and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Her story and the reasons she put on the cowl instantly became memorable and important to me.
Other than the Batman: Bad Blood film and DC’s Bombshells run, I had not experienced that story in any kind of comic book form before, so I was delighted to begin her Rebirth origins, The Many Arms of Death. I was both relieved and pleased to see many of her origin details left not only intact but also emphasized here. I’m very much beginning to trust Marguerite Bennett, especially, for how she’s handling so many female superhero-led projects. She clearly knows what’s up!
The Many Arms of Death is a graphic novel that deals with Kate wrestling with her past as well as learning to shape her present. When Batwoman uncovers a new bioweapon tied up with a plot of mass destruction, she travels to Coryana, an island of her past that was once untouched by the outside world but is now at the mercy of corporate interests. What follows is a winding tale where past and present weave together, with readers learning what happened during Kate’s lost year with her lover, Safiyah, as well as Kate’s current hunt for the Many Arms of Death.
The artwork was utterly gorgeous. Scenes with Batwoman were full of rich, deep reds and sharp black tones one expects from a story featuring her, but the moments that truly stuck out to me were the flashback scenes. Whether it was the black-and-white with red scenes or those beautiful, watercolor-esque moments in #5, I was completely enraptured by the style and color choices. There’s so much beautiful work here, with the exception of #6, which I didn’t care much for at all. It was such a drastic art shift and not towards the better.
Unfortunately, the story itself was good but not great. I liked all the glimpses of Kate’s past, but, aside from its anti-colonization message, the story happening in the present wasn’t super interesting. Right as I felt myself getting into it and wondering how Kate would resolve everything, it was over. I can only hope that there will be more to this plot in future issues because, as a standalone, it’s a little weak.
Furthermore, the addition of #6 in this volume was probably not the best move because the art style is so different, and it shifts readers with no warning or lead-up to a distant future, one where an exiled Batwoman is returning to a Gotham run as a police state, where Bruce Wayne is dead and Tim Drake has taken up the cowl to devastating effects. While I’m intrigued by this future and how we got here, it still seems to have no relation to the rest of the volume. But only time will tell, I suppose.
Above all, Kate was what kept me interested. I enjoyed seeing how she thinks and how she operates, how she can be more mercurial than Batman. Julia Pennyworth’s presence was also a much-needed addition; I laughed so hard at her “Creepy Twins Bingo” thing. So good to make her acquaintance here.
Overall, I’m curious to see where her journey’s going, and I want to get started with the rest of DC’s Rebirth run as well.