If your only exposure to the modern Batwoman character has been through cruising the Internet’s various blogs, message boards, Tumblrs, blah blah blah, then it’s pretty easy to fall into one of two categories regarding how you view Kate Kane, the black-and-red-clad Gothamite vigilante known as the Batwoman;
She’s either a tool of the liberal cartooning elite trying to push their evil homosexual agenda on us by virtue of being a hero who is also gay and not somehow burning in Hell for it or making out with other women JUST to titillate us male readers…
Or she’s a secondary-side character meant to be relegated to backups, crowd scenes, one-offs, and the weirdly amateur and frankly unimaginative fanfiction epics of secretly misogynistic fans everywhere who claim that they, who have never gotten anywhere in comics beyond their lifelong commitment to the Scans_Daily pirate community, would be able to write a WICKED AWESOME Batwoman run.
Either way, both of those viewpoints are highlighting your own inner biases, either outright homophobia, misogyny hidden underneath an equally-creepy veneer of so-called “fandom”, or a definite fear of change in the comics you claim to love for their imagination but scare you the instant that they deviate from a pre-determined norm of character standards that reflect standard and stifling character norms within “normal” behavior (like heterosexuality as the mainstream and homosexuality as a deviation, said “deviant” sexuality being the sole defining characterization of said character, blah blah blah).
It’s pretty easy to forget that underneath all that, underneath the hype over a gay character in a Batman-related title (nevermind that the statistics on the American population puts us somewhere between one in four to one in ten Americans self-identifying as gay), over the shock and awe over a female superhero character having her own book, and over the confusion of what seemed like a bit character rising out of a controversial yearlong comic book event, that what Greg Rucka and JH Williams III crafted is probably one of the most amazing capes-n-cowl comic book ever.
No, really, it quite possibly is. I read a lot of comics, a lot of superhero-type stuff, and while there’s definitely some good stuff out there, the saga of the Batwoman’s an interesting one, where the journey to the shelf is almost as interesting as the story of her crusade against the Religion Of Crime, something I always wish DC would focus on (though I know that there’s the Question miniseries dealing with it as well spinning out of that yearlong maxi-series “52”)…but anyway.
It was incredibly daunting, if you think about it. How long as Detective Comics been strictly another outlet for just Batman stories? And here comes a relatively new character not directly attached to Batman (except visually really) who basically takes over the book with little to no tie-ins to other mainstream characters and storylines for a while…AND it’s a female character who’s gay…I don’t really think people realized just how insane it was that this worked.
And it did work, because it’s a fucking amazing storyline involving a character people STILL fight over because hey, multiculturalism is “in” these days so it’s important to (insert scare quotes here) cater to the PC minorities (/insert scare quotes here) or whatever the haters are going to say about why this character has periodic spurts of popularity from the publisher.
I really hate fandom, if you haven’t already figured that out.
Every time Rucka takes pen to paper/finger to the keyboard, a thousand hours of amazing research and dead-perfect characterization of powerful but flawed characters comes to life. He does a phenomenal job with the little details of well, everything. The bits of detective work, the military jargon, the technology, all of it. The common criticism of female masked superheroes with long hair is even touched upon in a pretty hilarious way .
It’s seriously fucking amazing how just about anything he writes turns to gold, and I’m convinced that no one else could write Kate Kane like him. From her inner demons to her learning the ropes of super-heroics, from establishing her as being part of the Bat-Family but at the same time not directly tied into them…ugh.
That part alone,where she considers the Batman and the Bat-Signal to be more than just a sign of hope for good people, but a call to arms, a call to service a former soldier who is looking for a war to take part in can answer…it’s seriously amazing. Never mind when she comes home and has to look her father, her hero, in the face and have to tell him the truth…his approval and reaction is enough to make you throw the book across the room and go “FUCK YEAH! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, ASSHOLES!”.
OK, I didn’t do that because I don’t treat my books like that, but I wanted to. Because it’s the REAL happy ending that we all crave and want in comics dealing with gay characters coming out to family and friends and loved ones. The matter-of-fact acceptance because hey, unlike everyone else in the mainstream (and some aspect of the comic) press, the Colonel (and by default, Rucka and Williams) knows that in the grand scheme of things, of battles and of wars and that clear line between good and evil, who you take to bed doesn’t matter.
Forced by her honor and because of how she chooses to love to no longer be a member of the US Armed Forces. It’s incredibly heartbreaking, perfectly etched and sketched, painted and crafted on every single page and panel. JH Williams III’s art really shines here, eve more than the amazing color experiments and near-photorealistic pages with jagged-edged lighting- and bat-shaped panels of doom that send your eyes and mind racing all over the breathtaking page trying to figure out the story. The small panels, the quiet and almost “traditional” ones have just as much impact because they’re part of a larger whole here.
I’m a firm proponent that the reason comics are so amazing as storytelling mediums because they’re art where the final whole is greater than simply the culmination of the two different parts, the art and the writing. And this book is an amazing example of this philosophy. The writing might be stellar and the art might be breathtaking, but in the end it’s the combination of the two that creates an amazing one-of-a-kind story.