One of the things that longtime Batwoman fans were clamoring for after the changing of the guard on the title was an explanation to what, exactly, had happened at the climax of Batwoman and Batman’s throwdown as well as what had happened with Alice and Bette. The former two seemed very evenly matched, and this issue picks right up after the cliffhanger of issue 24, and I have to give Marc Andreyko some credit: he picked up a very difficult storyline and ran with it. There was no way everyone was walking away from this fight happy: either Batman fans saw their guy beaten by someone else wearing his mantle or fans of the book and Batwoman saw some interloper take down their star, and I’m honestly impressed with the direction it went. The fight itself is amazing to watch and they really give the impression that both combatants are holding on by their nails and being pushed to their limits. Meanwhile, the mission to rescue Beth/Alice is fairly compelling in its own right, giving Firehawk something to do and giving us more of the Murder of Crows.
Trevor McCarthy handles the Batwoman/Batman interactions and he lives up to his previous work on the title. The fight between the two of them has a glorious fluidity and epic scale that would be hard to capture or get invested in, but McCarthy’s eye for detail and subtlety allows the reader to dive right back in. His visuals are sharp and dark, giving everything an air of almost supernatural mystery and wonder. Moritat handles the Bete sections as well as when the storylines come together and his visuals are very different from McCarthy’s, giving a much muddier, stylized look at the characters, but it’s an interesting aesthetic that works a great deal of the time. The sole colorist credited is Guy Major, but the two styles are incredibly different, and the colors change as well, so either someone’s uncredited or Major is absolutely stellar at adjusting his colors to two very different styles. Either way, the colors on the issue look great, with a darkly diverse and popping palette despite the issue taking place only at night.
A lot of the dialog in this issue comes off as stilted, particularly in the scenes involving Bette and the union of the two storylines. Not only is there a potentially amazing twist that winds up going absolutely nowhere, but we lose track of the Murder of Crows, who get relegated to background figures, and Mr. Bones vacillates between steadfast strategist and barking madman. There's also a TON of text during the breakneck, intense fight that grinds the pace of it to a halt. There are also some moments where Batman is written as far, far more confrontational or even arrogant than he should. Batman's always been a very straightforward person, but there are times he comes off as a completely egotistical jerk in this.
Moritat’s art is good, great even, but it doesn’t fit the tone that McCarthy establishes at the beginning, and throughout this book. His art’s very horror-pulpy in the same vein of someone like Richard Corben, and that doesn’t fit terribly well with the air of mystery and kinetic force that the rest of the story operates on. Ironically it would have been perfect for one of the strange, one-off issues that used to crop up in this series from time-to-time. There’s an odd weightlessness to a lot of it that lessens the impact of both what we’re seeing and the action taking place on each page. The transitions from one to the other are also incredibly jarring.
This answered most of the questions I had leading into the current run of Batwoman, but I still found myself somewhat disappointed in a creative team that I have seen capable of great things separately. It’s by no means a bad issue, and I actually highly recommend picking it up if you were a fan of the previous team if, for no other reason, than to get SOME kind of closure and to be able to move into the new run with greater continuity, but there are definitely problems. Characters are overly-expositional and major plot points are quickly discarded, but that battle is most definitely a sight to behold and the reckoning of the D.E.O. is still satisfying to watch unfold.