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Precinct1313’s Comic-Book Classics: Batwoman – Elegy

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After an extended hiatus from the world of costumed crimefighters, Batwoman triumphantly returned like the proverbial phoenix in 2006 through the pages of DC’s weekly crossover epic – 52. Batwoman was created by Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff in 1956 and made her debut in Detective Comics #233. There have been two notable variants of the character over the decades beginning with Kane and Moldoff’s original take, Kathy Kane, the silver age version. Kathy was originally created to be part of the burgeoning Bat-Family, and a possible love interest for Bruce Wayne, but in 1964 following on from a radical restructure of the Batman universe, Kathy was removed wholesale from Bat-lore by new editor Julius Schwartz.

Aside from a couple of anniversary issues of Detective ComicsBatwoman wasn’t seen again until her revamped reappearance in 2006, re-introduced as Kate Kane. Apart from sharing the same moniker, the two versions of the character couldn’t possibly be more diverse. Whereas Kathy was a fun loving socialite with the hots for the Caped Crusader, Kate is tough, no nonsense, ex-military and independent of Batman and his cohorts. Also of note is her sexual orientation, Kate is a lesbian, much was made of this revelation at the time with mostly good but also, unfortunately, some bad press from various media, though ultimately it proved a popular move on DC’s part with many LGBT groups worldwide heralding the character. Kate was a hit and fast became one of DC’s most popular female heroes.

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Batwoman: Elegy was a story arc that ran through the pages of Detective Comics #854 – #860, after the comics star Batman had been killed at the hands of DC’s biggest villain Darkseid. Kate filled the void left by his absence and cemented her return to comics and Gotham itself. Written by Greg Rucka and drawn by the phenomenally talented JH Williams III, with the latter going on to become the biggest influence on Kate’s future and success. JH is an extremely talented artist/writer with a visual style almost unsurpassed by his peers, his use of splash pages and the weaving of his art into these carefully constructed panels is stunning. This is arguably JH’s most impressive work, though he went on to replicate this prescient style when he started writing and drawing the ongoing Batwoman comic series in 2010.

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Plot Synopsis: Whilst investigating the 13 Religion of Crime covens in Gotham City, Batwoman learns that the coven’s overseer is coming to Gotham. Alice is the name of their new leader, basing herself on Lewis Caroll’s inimitable creation, Batwoman immediately sets out on the trail of Alice but it seems that the coven is also hunting Batwoman for their own nefarious and sinister purposes.

Batwoman: Elegy is a stunning re-introduction of a much loved character into the Batman mythos and is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books ever released. Greg Rucka’s story draws you into the eerie supernatural side of Gotham City and JH Williams’ superbly realised drawing style leaves you breathless. Available as both a softcover and (hard to find) deluxe hardcover, this is highly recommended to all fans of great comics and stunning art.

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Precinct1313’s Comic-Book Classics: The Last Phantom

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You may have noticed… I’m a DC Comics fanatic, I grew up living and breathing their fictional worlds since the age of six when I first discovered the dark and surly one known as, The Batman. At age nine I encountered the astonishing Amazon, Wonder Woman for the first time and she quickly became my favourite comic book character of all time, even surpassing my adoration for the Caped Crusader.

Over many years I have immersed myself in the continuing stories, relationships and camaraderie of the many spandex clad heroes and villains of DC’s universe, there was one hero though, who wasn’t part of DC lore, he didn’t exist in the same universe as Wondy, Bats, Starfire and all the other characters I adore, this indigo hued interloper into my safe environment of a comic-book company I love was the hero that actually started it all, the original masked crime-fighter, The Ghost Who Walks… The Phantom!

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Published by Dynamite comics under licence from King Features Syndicate, the Last Phantom is a modern retelling of the 21st Phantom, Kitridge Walker, who forsakes his centuries long heritage as a masked crime-fighter, instead choosing to help the people of his home of Bengali (aka Bengalla) through his charitable organisation Walkabout. But after his wife and son are killed by forces looking to control Benagali for their own nefarious purpose, Kit must begrudgingly take up the mantle of his forebears and show the world that wherever darkness and evil dwells, The Phantom will always be close by.

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This particular retelling of the classic Phantom of old has been rather divisive amongst fans, the Kit Walker portrayed here is very much a divergent character to the noble and clean cut hero of yore, but that is the point of a modern reboot, to bring the character kicking and screaming into the present, making him more contemporary for newer audiences. This book does that, and rather wonderfully too, a story of redemption and the honouring of one’s heritage and birthright. This new Phantom may be different from his progenitors, but he still stands for the same morals and precepts of all the Phantoms who came before him.

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This fresh reiteration of the Man Who Cannot Die has actually become one of my favourite versions of the character. An absorbing and enthralling tale awaits, fellow phans, delivered by super scribe Scott Beatty, with fantastic interior art by Eduardo Ferigato, not forgetting the absolutely astonishing covers by the habitually sublime Alex Ross, who pays homage to both new and old variants of Kit Walker’s classic character. Highly recommended.

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Precinct1313’s Comic-Book Classics: Wonder Woman/Conan

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The pairing of two of fictions most legendary and popular warriors seems like a fantastic idea, throw into the mix superstar writer Gail Simone and equally talented artist Aaron Lopresti and you most certainly have a match made in Olympus, or in the case of this tantalisingly titanic tale – Hyboria.

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A decade before our favourite Themysciran Princess first debuted unto the World stage, a Cimmerian, black haired and sullen eyed, sword in hand and ready to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet first appeared, his name was Conan – thief, warrior, reaver and slayer. Robert E. Howard’s cult character became a huge hit and has spawned myriad novels, comics and movie adaptations since his first appearance in December 1932. This virtually superhuman barbarian has crushed all who have stood before his powerful presence, man and beast has befallen his blade, but has he finally met his match in the form of Zeus’ favoured champion – Wonder Woman?

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Gail Simone And Aaron Lopresti’s Run On Wonder Woman Is As Legendary As The Character Herself!

And since we’re talking legendary pairings, how about the venerable pairing of acclaimed scribe Gail Simone and prestigious penciller Aaron Lopresti, coming together once more to bestow upon us, humble comic fans, another glorious interpretation of the Themysciran Titan. Their previous collaboration on Wonder Woman a few years back was literally one of the greatest runs in comic-book history, and lo, once more their particular brand of magic artistry brings forth yet another astonishingly epic saga.

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Now, at first glance the idea of teaming up Wonder Woman – the poster child of female liberation and emancipation, a shining emblem for feminism with a character in whose reality treated women often in the tired damsel in distress trope may seem like an odd pairing, but it’s for these exact reasons that this comic works so well, like popular heroine Red Sonja before her, Diana is able to turn the tables on the barbaric Cimmerian to prove that, not only can she match him in strength and fortitude, but ably surpass him.

Simone’s deliberate slow build up in the story allows us to richly immerse ourselves in Conan’s world, she is the Queen of immersion and deftly drags the readers into his cold and savagely tempestuous reality. Alongside Gail’s impressive writing talents stands Aaron’s always astonishing artwork, these two creators compliment each others work like no other, and Aaron’s pencilling is some of the best I’ve seen in comics for years.

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“What makes one a legend? How do legends carve their name into history when countless others are forgotten? Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian are destined by the fates to be legendary, but when their stories collide, will both emerge victorious or will the fickle Gods cut their lives short?

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The collected version of Wondy/Conan is available in both soft and hardcover variants from your local comic-book emporium. And now is an excellent time to support your local comic-book shop, as most offer a home delivery service and I can’t think of a better way to spend quarantine than indulging in the wonderful world of high fantasy! Take care and stay safe fellow fans of fantastic fiction.