Review: Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane trade paperback (DC Comics)

Marguerite Bennett sticks the landing in the finale of her Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane. With its aspirational ending, Bennett brings this Batwoman chapter to a strong close, in many respects more of a long-form Batwoman miniseries than a full-fledged series. That's fine, as it was nice to have a visit with Kate Kane at this point in the Rebirth juncture, and assuredly with the Batwoman TV pilot on the horizon, we'll see Kate in comics again one day. Bennett's series would make a great all-together omnibus (or large-form paperback Essential edition), and if nothing else, Bennett has proven that someone other than Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams can write a viable Kate Kane after some previous false starts (a nod also to James Tynion's Batwoman work in Detective Comics).

Bennett's Batwoman has been good overall, though this particular book's ending does help smooth over some of its rougher patches, including going back to the well again for a too-often-used Batwoman villain and some characterization and story points that don't jibe with Batwoman elsewhere in the DC Universe. At the same time, Bennett makes a particularly smart point about the relationships between these characters, and also developments in this book do a lot to redeem what seemed some treading water in Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland. Overall, again, this is a good run taken as a total package, and probably the best thing DC could do is release it as such, especially as interest in Kate Kane rises among the wider public.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the climax of the second chapter of the penultimate "Fall of the House of Kane" story, Bennett suggests the villain behind the Many Arms of Death that Batwoman has hunted throughout this series is none other than Alice, the evil alter ego of Kate Kane's sister Beth. This is unfortunate, and even though a couple pages later we understand that Beth is being mind-controlled, most of the rest of "Fall of the House of Kane" involves Kate battling Beth. Obviously villains recur, but this time -- for the most part -- felt similar to conflicts we've seen between Batwoman and Alice in the past. Bennett did well creating a new group of frenemies for Kate Kane in the Coryana cast, and while Sayiyah as the book's villain would also have been too unsurprising, parking the final conflict with Alice -- even shunting aside the true villain, Fatima -- felt like the easy way out.

Bennett's use of Batman here is also clunky. This particular Batwoman series is a spin-off of James Tynion's Detective and the series have often run parallel, with this book teasing the future Batwoman, for instance. These particular stories distinctly take place after Batwoman killed Clayface in Detective, but were published once all of that was well on its way to being resolved. To that end, Batman's super-anger toward Batwoman in these pages feels undeserved and overwrought when the two just reconciled, and Bennett's Batman also comes off as a brute. For someone purported to be the world's greatest detective, one would think Batman could discern the difference between when a villain needs to be condemned to Arkham and when they need hospitalization without Batwoman having to lecture him such, except that this book has often tried to define Batwoman by imagining specious differences between she and Batman.

All of that said, Bennett's joining of Batman and Alice provides the opportunity for her to make explicit something long overdue to be mentioned, that just as Kate is Bruce Wayne's cousin, so too is twin sister Beth. This means that a member of Bruce's family, his mother's own niece, is a supervillain, ostensibly one of his foes. That's something we'd think would cause Batman some consternation -- indeed, it rather makes his disregard for Beth in this book's beginning even more out-of-character -- and the next time Beth/Alice is used, I'd be most interested in seeing her as an antagonist for Batman directly without involving Batwoman in the same well-tread ground.

Though "Fall of the House of Kane" feels a little worn, it is by no means poor, with Bennett writing a sharp Batwoman and Fernando Blanco drawing his heart out -- see, for instance, four creepy eight-panel pages as Kate stalks through her abandoned childhood home in the second chapter. And the book's final two chapters, the "Time of Your Life" story, are grand, both a romantic tale of Kate and Renee Montoya (and who doesn't need more of that?) and also a masterful bit of backward- and forward-looking as this series comes to a close. Not unlike the end of Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl, a series cancelled before its time, Bennett offers tantalizing teases of stories unlikely to be told -- conflicts with Mr. Freeze and Man-Bat and Harley Quinn and the Riddler, team-ups with Batgirl and Orphan, and a mysterious man in the snow. This, on top of an almost prose poem by Bennett, exhorting the reader to live; it is sweet and moving and uplifting, more than making up for the book's rougher parts.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane

In the revelation of Fatima and Alice's ultimate nefarious scheme (and its resolution), Marguerite Bennett makes the events of Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland more relevant, which buffets that dreamscape story significantly. For my tastes, Wonderland really needs Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane to work. Fall brings to a close the story of Kate Kane's lost year that the series has been telling all along, paralleling Batwoman's hunt for the Many Arms of Death in these pages as a second "lost year." That idea of one year and one quest, plus the continuous 18-issue saga, posits Bennett's Batwoman as something of a novel, one that would clearly read well collected all together. Fairly self-contained and reader-friendly, DC would do well to re-collect and brand this one to go along with the CW Batwoman show.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane
Author Rating
3.75 (scale of 1 to 5)


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