Review: Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Nearly all of the Rebirth Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland happens in a dream sequence. This book is a gorgeous and well-deserved spotlight for artist Fernando Blanco, who draws lush landscapes and topsy-turvy grotesques with equal aplomb — but it's a five-issue trade in which the bulk of four issues involves Batwoman Kate Kane fighting one villain and bopping around through scenes the audience knows are hallucinations, plus one issue done by a guest team. Very little, nigh nothing, happens here, and though writer Marguerite Bennett certainly has Batwoman's psychology down pat, this is a poor showing for a Batwoman book, especially when the next volume marks the end of this particular run.

[Review contains spoilers]

The first chapter cover announces the arrival of the Scarecrow, so the audience pretty well knows from the in medias res outset and certainly by the time Kate is attacked by crazed, mutated soldiers in the desert that we can't trust much of what we see. Marooned in the desert stories are always fun, but after Geoff Johns did it in Aquaman and Tom King and Tim Seeley did it in Grayson, that bloom quickly fades, again since one already knows where we're headed. Indeed in short order Kate's battling visions of her family's murder again, only this time with oil-spewing bat-wolves, as prelude to a Scarecrow-venom-fueled journey through faux crumbling cityscapes and Alice in Wonderland nightmares.

Again, Blanco draws it all beautifully. After the high bar set by J. H. Williams in Kate Kane's earliest appearances, Batwoman has always been a book that demands intricate artwork, and Blanco delivers. The first chapter passes effortlessly between present and past, sweltering desert and snow-covered mountains, and then takes a fantastic left turn when Blanco bends and swells Kate's limbs in the early drug hallucinations. The book is a map of dynamic, multi-panel double-page spreads, plus blood red moons, florescent bats, pink flamingos, and a variety of wolf-faced monsters. There's certainly plenty of credit due to John Rauch on colors, too.

Not to miss the point of the story, Bennett does do well -- appropriately but perhaps too-coincidentally -- teaming Kate with Colony Prime, her estranged military father's top soldier and biggest fan. All of this is a fine offshoot of the story begun in Detective Comics that rightly needed another title as it got Batwoman-centric. Colony Prime is the kind of son Jacob Kane would have wanted while Kate is the rebellious daughter he has, and the themes of parents and children and legacy are clear and interesting throughout. Artist Marc Laming pinch hits a bit at the story's end, and Laming drawing Kate getting younger during the conversation with her father is exactly what we expect from Batwoman, the use of images as a counter-statement to what's happening on the page rather than realistic portrayal, a la Williams' original. This encounter that Bennett writes between Kate and Jacob sizzles.

But it remains that after Bennett's globe-hopping, heavily-populated Batwoman Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death -- a really impressive Batwoman story -- this small, insular second volume is too small and insular. By virtue of the hallucinations, Kate essentially stumbles around a cell for most of the second issue and around one room for the third. We already know Kate's former lover Safiyah controls the criminal Many Arms of Death, and Kate gets no closer to finding her nor comes to understand much more about the organization than she did before. Even Kate's encounter with Jacob, while heated, leaves the characters on no different terms than they were previously. This book is pretty to look at, to be sure, but as is often the danger with these Scarecrow hallucination stories, ultimately it turns out to be more style than substance.

The book ends with a one-off story by K. Perkins. The author credit is held until the final page, but early on I had a sense that either something had shifted in Bennett's approach or someone else was writing Kate, because the voice is significantly off. The usually in-control, tough-as-nails head of the Gotham Knights roots around for a while trying to find her kidnapped partner Julia Pennyworth, utterly stymied as a detective and ultimately reduced to just watching the crowd from a rooftop. Narration is along the lines of, "Julia's in the grip of some bad dudes, and I've jumped the gun by assuming this stupid plan will work. Once again paralyzed into inaction by the feeling of total uselessness ..."; that self-doubting, self-recriminating tone is about as far from Kate Kane as one can get. There's some awkwardness incorporating this guest tale, too, with the characters acting in part like this is Professor Pyg's first appearance since the start of the New 52, and an acknowledgment that Kate and Julia are actually supposed to be off saving her sister from Safiyah but then Julia took a side trip instead. After a book that didn't really go anywhere, a cumbersome index story doesn't help.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland

The next volume after Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland will be this book's last, which is a shame, since Marguerite Bennett did seem to have an auspicious beginning. Even at this book's slowest, it is considerably better than poor Batwoman series showings we've seen previously. When a book is cancelled, one tries to look for reasons in the recent stories; that Teen Titans needed a reboot for Rebirth wasn't a surprise, but I discern nothing wrong with this Batwoman title aside from the fact that these issues lacked real gumption. It's a shame if that's what did this title in; surely I hope someone else will give a Batwoman series shot not too long from now.

[Includes original and variant covers, Fernando Blanco sketches and layouts]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)


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