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EARTH-PRIME: BATWOMAN #1 [Review]

EARTH-PRIME: BATWOMAN #1/ Scripts by NATALIE ABRAMS, KELLY LARSON & CAMRUS JOHNSON/ Art by CLAYTON HENRY & MICHAEL CALERO/ Colors by MARCELO MAIOLO & MATT HERMS/ Letters by TOM NAPOLITANO/ Cover Art by KIM JACINTO/ Photo Variant Cover by NINO MUNOZ/ Published by DC COMICS

It’s hardly an original observation, but for all the popularity superheroes enjoy today, the conglomerates that own the comic book publishers have done surprising little to try and promote comics. Oh, there’s special editions of certain classic comics whenever the films come out, I’ll grant you, and the Marvel 616 universe has slowly come to resemble the MCU movies more and more to make the books more accessible to new readers. Yet we don’t see advertisements in the theaters before The Batman talking about what new Batman comics are coming out and there’s no television ads promoting the upcoming Death of the Justice League storyline.

To their credit, DC Comics did try to reach out to fans of the CW superhero shows with tie-in comics set in the worlds of Arrow and The Flash that were written by the creators of the show who had a background in writing comics. The Flash comic was something of a mixed-bag, but the Arrow series was pretty good and enabled the writers to tidy up some storylines they couldn’t handle on the show due to actor availability, such as bringing closure to the Arrowverse version of Huntress. Earth-Prime: Batwoman is born of the same spirit, trying to give fans of the Arrowverse all the crossovers they couldn’t enjoy in the past year because of the pandemic limiting the ability of actors to travel between series and sets.

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This first issue of Earth-Prime centers on the cast of Batwoman and is set firmly in the middle of Season 3, at a time when the Bat-Team was reeling and without resources. To further complicate matters, the team has to deal with the emergence of a new Clayface, who turns his newfound shape-shifting powers on his bullies. Thankfully, Ryan Wilder gets an assist from a friend of a friend, as Lena Luthor from Supergirl arrives in town looking for access to some of Batman’s old equipment.

Writers Natalie Abrams and Kelly Larson both write for the Batwoman series and Abrams wrote for Supergirl before becoming Batwoman‘s Executive Story Editor. As such, it’s unsurprising that the characters are true to their on-screen counterparts. The best parts of this book involve the interactions between Ryan and Lena, who knows better than anyone how it feels to deal with a manipulative mogul mother and psychotic supervillain brother. It’s also gratifying because this comic establishes just when the final season of Supergirl took place relative to the other events in the Arrowverse – a point that was unclear as the episodes aired.

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The problem with this, ironically, is the same one that plagued the action of Batwoman season 3, which centered around the emergence of new villains employing the gimmicks of various Batman villains whose weapons fell into the hands of other misguided souls. In some cases, this worked well, as with the introduction of a new Mad Hatter. Unfortunately, most of the stories were convoluted and didn’t make sense even by the standards of comic book science. Such is the case with the new Clayface, who was literally tripped into a mud puddle that just happened to contain some of the original Clayface’s clay.

Artist Clayton Henry tries to make this visually engaging, but most of the issue is devoted to characters talking with little in the way of action. What action sequences are there are decent enough, with a heavy manga influence that includes heavy speed lines and streamlined character designs. The character designs are also good at capturing the likeness of the actors involved, which is fortunate since the colors by Marcelo Maiolo don’t quite match up with the heroes’ hair colors.

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The back-up story is noteworthy as it is written by Batwoman actor Camrus Johnson (who plays Luke Fox) and explores a question some fans had during Batwoman season 3 – whatever happened to the Arrowverse version of Stephanie Brown, whom Luke seemed to be setting up a romance with back in season 2? The comic is a comedy piece centered around the old Peter Parker problem of trying to balance your love life and your duties as a superhero. It’s amusing enough, and ably illustrated by Michael Calero and Matt Herms, but it’s a little inaccessible to new readers.

The grand irony of Earth-Prime: Batwoman is that despite the best efforts of its creators (and some overly large editor text boxes) it is geared more towards the established Arrowverse fanbase than newcomers who might stumble across this book at their local comic shop. It’s not completely inaccessible, but it also isn’t the best story for drawing in new readers. This is the same problem that keeps fans of various superhero media from getting into comics, which are often seen as having too much backstory to get into. That being said, if you’re already a Batwoman fan, you’ll want to pick this issue up.

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