Fifty-two introduced the Crime Bible and the Religion of Cain. This five-issue mini-series examines the implications of these elements, while focusing on two of 52‘s best-drawn characters, Kathy “Batwoman” Kane and Renee “the Question” Montoya.

Does it live up to its promise?

Title: Fifty-two Aftermath: The Crime Bible

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Tom Mandrake, Jesus Saiz, Matthew Clark, Diego Olmos, Manuel Garcia, Jimmy Palmiotti, et al.
Colors: Santi Arcas, David Baron, Javier Mena.
Covers by John Van Fleet

Premise:

The Question (Renee Montoya) seeks answers behind the Religion of Crime now operating in the DCU. As in all stories about dark forbidden books, the knowledge may come at too dear a price.

High Points

The third issue, where Renee returns to Gotham, represents the high point of the story. The city exists somewhere between past depictions and present reality, and we see a Year Onesque balance between the everyday and grotesque fantastic. Renee reconnects with old associates. Her co-workers clearly know that she’s crossed a line and become something else. They also clearly fear naming it. This could explain how some of DC’s lesser-known superheroes maintain a private identity; no one wants to go there. It’s also a neat parallel with certain historical attitudes towards alternative lifestyles.

Kathy Kane gets depicted as a contemporary rich-girl-turned-bohe, the sort of person who, in DC’s alternate reality, might become a superhero. I’ll discuss characterization, strongest in this issue, elsewhere.

Low Points

The series has an interesting premise and considerable potential. Although it references 52, the story could stand alone. Unfortunately, it ends with a shock twist that’s more of a cliffhanger. Once again, an entire series gets our attention and then becomes a prologue to something else.

This might be one reason why manga and alternate comics, often story-and-character-focused, have been taking an increasing share of the market. The Big Two have become too addicted to unending continuity-for-sales and character reset buttons.

The Scores

Originality: 4/6. Cain, Lilith, and others merit mention, but not Satan. Nevertheless, this reads in places like some bizarre crossover between DC’s universe and Jack T. Chick’s. Crime Bible doesn’t quite live up to that description, but the fact that it suggests it earns DC some points.

Artwork: 5/6. The quality of the artwork varies with each contributor. Clark gets Gotham street-level right, while Garcia and Palmiotti’s brawls balance real-world and superhero physics. Olmos’s approach appealed to me least, and yet I cannot deny that the look, reminiscent of old DC and Dell horror comics, suits the tenor and the tale of issue #4.

Story: 4/6. This story begins well, with a mysterious and coherent plot and a genuinely compelling character. The final issue feels padded and it ultimately fails to resolve anything.

Rucka reportedly will be doing a Question series, but I would have liked a conclusion to this story within the mini-series itself.

Characterization: 4/6 This varies, but Renee Montoya continues to bring out the best in DC’s writers, Rucka draws some distinctions between Kathy Kane’s two identities, and he gives us an interesting depiction of the Penguin. The series’ key villains are largely interchangeable.

Emotional response: 4/6.

Flow 6/6.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, The Crime Bible #1-5 receives a score of 31/42.