This collection of the cult-favourite’ mini-series Chase has come out at a convenient time, right when it’s central, titular character has appeared deep in the drama of writer J.H.William’s wonderful run on Batwoman, right when people might be wondering just who in the hell this Chase character is. On the surface then now seems like the perfect time for a paperback, while reading the book however one cannot help but wonder whether or not “Chase” is a story that would have been better off left hidden. For all it’s bulk the book ultimately tells you little in its length about Chase that you couldn’t have simply grasped or imagined yourself, and worse than that it does so in a scattered and ultimately uncompelling manner.
Though Chase technically came first reading the compilation now one cannot help but to compare the series to Fringe, sharing as they do a core concept and for the most part a central character (circa season one only). The tall, troubled blonde at the core of the story works for a top secret government agency, one custom designed to deal with strange cases of super-powered individuals; and although she is confronted with it everyday the agent still cannot accept the existence of these super-powered people as normal, but is that because she has powers herself and a paranormal past that she’d rather forget? I wonder if JJ is familiar with the series? Hell the love interest is even called Peter! Though one can’t really tell if they two are similar because for the most part this Peter isn’t a character so much as he is scenery; though the same goes for the whole dramatis personae.
Though the comics panels are peopled by the paper thin its pages do still proffer up the possibility of some interesting plot points, attempting as it does to offer a unique new perspective on the now familiar world of superheroes, much like say Gotham Central does.
To be technical it attempts to offer two new perspectives, one intimate and one illicit. The former, involving Chase’s history and personal capability is the better of the two; seeing what it is like to live as one of the loved ones protected by a secret identity is an interesting idea but not one that the series itself feels inherently interested in. The single issue spent solely with Chase and her sister, the two simply sitting in an elevator, spewing secrets, was my favorite of the entire run and is not-coincidentally the issue most structured around character and continuity.
Chase hates heroes and seeing them through her eyes we begin to understand why she has that problem, their position is actually quite insane. Though it allows her some space to argue her points the series itself never seems to side with Chase’s calls, countering them quickly with some stronger support of the Supers; why raise an argument when you are going to so offer so definitive an answer? Watching Chase try to identify and unmask other heroes because of her ingrained hatred should be the section of the story where the suspense and action kick in, rocketing us along until the next quiet moment, but if anything the opposite is actually true; her process is too realistic in its depiction of bureaucracy, leaving the plotting in these scenes paced like paperwork.
Compared to contemporary comics the Chase series as a whole is a strange combination of standard superhero fare and alternative take; it’s too strange to be that entertaining and too shallow to make any real statements. As a modern reader I would have preferred to see some more bravery from the writing, were it just to push the concept a little further this series could have had a major impact, regardless of when it was released, but because it spends more than half of its mini-run telling stereotypical one-off stories, savoring sub-plots over the currently common art of arcing, it all ends up being utterly disposable. Had the book just been the Batman arc then it would have been just as informative a read and less than half the price.
Bravery though isn’t always best; William’s art is usually absolutely amazing, but here, here he seems to be experimenting and establishing that trademark, teeming, two-page style. While this is fascinating to watch as a fan I would have preferred something a little more polished from a finished product. The other artists brought in at the end of the run give their stories a more cohesive structure but none of the art is overly memorable.
As the book progresses Chase eventually softens towards supers, discovering that sometimes secrets are often kept for a reason, that some things should stay hidden; interestingly the reader comes to the same conclusion at the same time, but for reasons entirely separate to the plot. When you finish this book you’ll wish you hadn’t, you’ll wish you hadn’t even started and that is strongly saddening. The one upside to reading this series now is that it’s architects have long since already redeemed themselves – there is no grudge to be held here – and the character is set to finally get a great story to her name. So don’t buy this book, but if the concept of the CEO, the art of Williams or the idea of a strong female protagonist interest you at all then do buy Batwoman (but start with Elegy first because it wasn’t a real re-boot).