Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [Batwoman]

6 Jul

I got ambitious for Pride month which is why I’m not posting anything till now when it’s already technically July. I blasted through issues 0-24 (collected in Hydrology, To Drown the World, World’s Finest, and This Blood is Thick) of J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman run, plus caught up on DC Bombshells through its issue 24; I’m going to talk about the latter next week, all the issues, because I haven’t done that and it’s criminal because I adore DC Bombshells fiercely and not just because it’s the queerest comic series I’ve ever read.. This week I’m going to focus on just Batwoman, though.

A friend had me read Elegy years and years ago, sitting there on the Fourth of July waiting for fireworks to start in fact, and that was a headrush of a time. If I recall correctly, I was still very much a smol queer at the time (pretty sure that was the impetus for the friend lending Batwoman to me, even if it wasn’t phrased that way exclusively) and kind of getting a feel for Sapphic media consumption. (Consciously; this is laughable. If there was a woman who was any variety of not straight, I almost certainly “was” her.) I was also still new to superheroes; the MCU had kicked up in recent years, of course, which sent me into a tailspin of love for Black Widow especially, but I was a novice. I hadn’t really read any of the comics.

Batwoman seemed like a good place to start, though.

To this day, I have not actually read any DC properties that did not feature Batwoman; I just don’t have the energy. I’ve given enough of my energy to Marvel by now, for better-often-worse, and though I’m not picking up any of their titles at the moment because every single thing I was reading throughout the last two years has been cancelled [I have salt at the Marvel Comics people lately, but it’s the same salt everyone else has, more or less {#nickspencerishydra}] I have a lot more best girls in the universe. I really, really like a lot of the DC girls, as I’ll discuss when I get into Bombshells next week, but Kate Kane is so far my only best girl there.

As established in Elegy, which is a collection of the Detective Comics issues featuring the 21st century Batwoman, Kate Kane is kind of like Bruce Banner but better. They’re cousins, both Gotham-centric, they’re both from privileged socialite backgrounds, and they both have dead family in their backstory (Kate’s mom and twin sister). But Kate is also openly a lesbian (she was kicked out of military academy because of this) and a Jewish woman. And she’s just really, really cool.

The Batwoman series did run to issue 40, but I stopped at 24 because after that came a creative change which people say was a resounding disappointment (I’ll get to this in a minute). But 0-24 are dark and weirdly hopeful and good. As superhero stories go, they’re pretty straightforward and standard in their setup; Batwoman fights villains in Gotham, butts heads with the DEO, tangles with the police (including her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer, who does learn her identity), clashes with her father and erstwhile mentor, teams up with and then worries about her cousin Bette who is alias Flamebird, and so on and so on. It’s not so much the arcs that make this a notable comic as the little things, though.

For one: the Kate and Bette relationship just makes me really happy. Kate spends most of their time stressing out about Bette, worrying that she won’t be able to handle the vigilante life, and she’s not always the nicest to Bette, but they care about each other deeply and support each other and it’s just really nice when women support other women but especially in comics.

For another: World’s Finest features Batwoman teaming up with Wonder Woman to fight a particular villain. Superhero team-ups are pretty crucial to the mythology, but it still filled me with joy, especially since Batwoman is still rather a “fringe” superhero (especially to normals). They quipped and fought well together and generally were wonderful (and it felt much more real than certain DC cinematic meetings of late, sigh).

For the most: Kate and Maggie, Kate and Maggie. Kate and Maggie are beautiful. They have each other’s backs, they spend time together, they flirt and are cute and are sexy without being overly sexualized (well, as much as can be said of any comic with spandex involved). I think the most telling thing about their relationship is this: at one point Maggie gets hit with fear toxin, and it’s a traumatic and horrible thing and Kate feels responsible, so she then injects herself with the same fear toxin so she truly understands what Maggie went through. And then they snuggle all night. In issue #17 Kate proposes marriage to Maggie, and it’s wonderful, and they’re going to move in together, and then… DC told the writers they couldn’t let them get married. Apparently nobody in DC can get married because then the heroes would be too happy, or something. (I hear tell that Batman recently proposed to Catwoman, though, so…) That’s why they left the series, and why I stopped reading where I did. As far as I’m concerned they got cancelled because they were going to have happy lesbians, and Kate and Maggie are still very happy together, somewhere that isn’t there.

These issues don’t exist in a bubble. A lot of what had been established in Elegy and presumably other comics between them (that I haven’t read and fully intend to) does carry through, including emotional motivations and points of angst. But you don’t have to have read those to be able to pick it up, either, it’s just mostly a point of consistency that I appreciate.

Overall: yes good. And I am so excited about freaking out about Bombshells on y’all.

–your fangirl heroine.


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