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Batwoman #15, which came out two weeks ago, took an unusual turn in its arc featuring a team-up of Wonder Woman and Kate Kane. Instead of focusing on the titular character, the issue focused on Kate Kane’s girlfriend and Gotham police detective Maggie Sawyer. I like Maggie and was glad to see in this issue that, unlike some other characters, a few key parts of her past are still around.
For those not familiar with the character aside from Batwoman, Maggie Sawyer has been around the DCU for a quarter century. She debuted in John Byrne’s reboot of the Superman series and was a presence in both the comic and in the animated show as well. She later from Metropolis to Gotham City and became part of the ensemble cast of Gotham Central.
In addition to being a woman in a traditional male role in comics - the adversarial cop, Sawyer was also a trailblazer in another way. She was one of the first lesbians in big two comics. In the Superman #15 in the story “Wings” we are told Maggie’s backstory.
By this time Maggie was already involved with TV reporter Toby Raines. Maggie would eventually reconcile with her daughter Jamie and Toby and Maggie would have a long term relationship that would last into Gotham Central. (Here’s a longer look at Maggie’s history). The relationship ended off page at some time noted only by Maggie hitting on Kate Kane in Detective Comics #856.
When DC rebooted the new 52, Batwoman was impacted less than other books given the much of the book had been written before the reboot. But I was still fearful that given that so many characters were deaged that Maggie’s past might be revised. She’d already been slightly deaged in her first appearance in Detective (You can see above that Maggie says she didn’t get married until she was 30 and her daughter was shown in her late teens.)
But in Batwoman #15, Williams and Blackman show they’ve paid attention to her history. Note in the scan above that Maggie talks about the struggle she had as a “good Catholic girl”. In issue #15 we see Maggie entering a Catholic Church for what appears to be the first time in a long time:
Later we see Maggie reference her daughter, Jamie:
I mentioned to Williams how glad I was to see Maggie’s history referenced and he said, “no way we’d ignore Mags’ past.”
Again, I realized that Batwoman has had the shortest continuity of any character (and one that did change from her first appearance in 52 until her arc in Detective) I’m pleased that Williams and Blackman have hung tough on key parts of the characters’ past. While Renee Montoya is forgotten by everyone else in Gotham, she was still shown as a part of Kate Kane’s past in Batwoman 0. And while we’ve seen the twists in history that other characters in Bathistory have been given most notably the complete revision of Tim Drake’s history, we see that a character like Maggie Sawyer can have key parts of her history included (I’d like to know what happened to her and Toby, perhaps that will be for another issue?).
This issue also showed that Trevor McCarthy was a good choice to take over alternate art duties on the book when Amy Reeder left last year. I’ve had some nitpicking issues with McCarthy in the past but this issue was very, very strong. Good thing as McCarthy will be doing the art for the seven issues beginning with #18 while Williams gears up for his Sandman collaboration with Gaiman.
Despite the strength of McCarthy’s art Williams being off art for that long makes me concerned about sales of the book. Williams’ art is a big reason the book had the sales it did. The book has been drifting down the sales chart over the last year. I hope this doesn’t mean a further dip.
Williams and Blackman spoke to Josie Campbell at CBR yesterday about the to expect from the book and I was glad to see this (my emphasis in bold):
What can you say about this next arc and what Kate will be facing this year?
Blackman: I think this next arc is going to be super exciting; the D.E.O. relationship coming to a head is really driven by something the D.E.O. asks Kate to do and it requires them to have additional leverage over her, more than they currently have. They’re holding this threat of hounding her Father over helping her early in her vigilante career as a threat to him, and they’re holding that over her head. They’re gong to ask her to do something is more insane than anything they’ve asked her to do before, and they need more leverage to do that. So it’s going to force Kate to make big choices and it’s going to force her into a situation that at the offset no one knows if she can pull it off or when — and it’s going to force Chase to ask questions about her own relationship to the D.E.O. and the decisions she’s made and whether or not they’re doing the right thing, so that’s cool. And we’re going to see a lot of characters that have gotten very little page time coming back, so Maggie has a very prominent role in the next role, Jacob has a very prominent role in the next arc. I love Jacob, and to see where that relationship goes in the next arc will be exciting for readers.
Williams co-plotted Cameron Chase’s series and has a great love for the character but the character in Batwoman has seemed to be much harder than how she appeared there and later as a co-star in Manhunter. It would make me happy to to see some of her past as well (and if it involved Kate Spencer showing up I’d be very happy. I’m not holding my breath….)
What did you think of McCarthy’s art in #15 (and/or Maggie’s story in it) and what do you think about Williams’ moving off the book for seven issues?