Tuesday, July 24, 2012
There's nothing terribly significant about the "Cutter" storyline from Detective Comics #861-863, except that it stars the Kate Kane Batwoman and it was written by her creator and author of Batwoman: Elegy, Greg Rucka. "Cutter" holds some mystique because it was not included in Elegy even though the issues followed right after those that were collected, and because it completes Rucka's Batwoman work with DC Comics.
When I read Elegy, I was vocally disappointed that "Cutter" wasn't included; having just read "Cutter" alongside Elegy, however, the reasons are fairly clear. Artist Jock does nice work on "Cutter," a preview as it were of his unforgettable chapters of Batman: The Black Mirror, but his thin lines and minimalist style are starkly different than J. H. Williams's lush spreads in Elegy. Also, while "Cutter" is interesting, the "Go" storyline that completes Elegy is Rucka's real Batwoman triumph.
In essence, I probably would have found "Cutter" to be a discordant note had it been included in Elegy, and maybe it's better that "Cutter" was set aside, especially for bookstore buyers who wouldn't ever miss "Cutter" if they didn't know it wasn't there.
"Cutter" is a story told, masterfully but somewhat confusingly at the outset, at two periods of time -- one, when Batman Bruce Wayne searched for a missing heiress, and the second as Batwoman stalks a serial killer (Rucka's Batwoman stories, you'll recall, came while Bruce Wayne was "dead" after Final Crisis). This makes it, kind of, the first team-up between Bruce Wayne and Kate Kane, though that "really" happens in the first volume of Batman, Incorporated (or in Batwoman: Hydrology. With Flashpoint, some of this is a little confused).
Through a number of split pages and panels, Rucka parallels Batman's work with Jim Gordon and Batwoman's work with Maggie Sawyer, and how each vigilante underestimates their prey and gets in over their heads. (With no offense to Jock, I imagine Williams would have done wonders on these split panels, as he did with the final Batwoman/Alice fight in Elegy.) The juxtaposition of "new" and "old" Bat-hero is interesting, though maybe a little less so since Bruce Wayne is both alive and New-52ed, and also I'm not sure Rucka makes any statements here that really crackle. Rucka's parallel in Elegy of how Batwoman does not sneak up on a friendly doctor whereas Batman would (as detailed in Elegy's text pages) says more about the differences in personality between the two heroes than does anything in "Cutter."
What will be of most value to Batwoman fans is that "Cutter" takes place directly after Elegy and so contains the fallout from various lies and revelations there, though not in any significant fashion. Moreover "Cutter" guest-stars Kate's cousin Bette and addresses Bette's former life as Flamebird, so Flamebird fans or those curious about Kate's familial connections will want to take a peek.
"Cutter" does not get into how Kate's stepmother, Cathy or Kathy, appears to have been the former Batwoman Kathy Kane even though the stepmother is only a Kane by marriage -- this is covered somewhat, again, in Batman, Incorporated, though even there it's fairly vague. I have not yet read the first DC New 52 Batwoman collection, Hydrology, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Bette Kane material and maybe much of "Cutter" is ignored entirely -- in DC New 52 continuity, Flamebird Bette Kane or at least her significant connection to Dick Grayson and the Teen Titans must certainly no longer exist. [UPDATE: Bette Kane is in Hydrology as Flamebird, she just wasn't apparently a Titan.]
Therefore, inasmuch as there's joy simply in sitting down to read a story starring Batwoman and written by Greg Rucka, probably only purists need to apply. Uncollected, "Cutter" slips from the canon and it's unlikely it deserved a place in the canon anyway; if you find these in the back-issue bin, enjoy, but imagine them like apocrypha and nothing more.
More Batwoman on Thursday with the Collected Editions review of Batwoman: Hydrology. Doug Glassman's got a new Marvel review tomorrow -- see you then!