Lesbian Comic: Batwoman Elegy

October 1st, 2010

Batwoman: ElegyTwo years ago, I had the pleasure of a guest review by David Welsh on the issues of Detective Comics in which the Batwoman arc ran.

This week I read the collected volume of Batwoman: Elegy by Williams and Rucka for myself and I find that I don’t have a substantially different opinion than David did.

I was an American comics reader for decades before I discovered manga. However, I was almost exclusively a Marvel reader. Not for any philosophical reason – Marvel series were just more appealing to me. So this was probably the first comic in the Batman world that I had read in more than 30 years.

Batwoman Elegy tells the story of Kate Kane, the daughter of soldiers, who has been busted out of West Point and ripped from an exemplary military career for being gay. This section is poignant, as Lt. Dan Choi was consulted. I expect that the conversation Kate had with her C.O. was not unlike the one he had with his. Lost, flailing for purpose, she has a relationship with Renee Montoya (wow, really, what a shock, not) which breaks up eventually. Because of this and a conversation at the beginning of the book we are supposed to see Kate as incapable of holding a relationship together. Really, three relationships and she’s a commitment-phobe? Um…

Eventually, she finds purpose fighting crime and, eventually, metamorphoses into Batwoman.

The book opens as she fights a new high priestess of crime that plagues Gotham.

Batwoman Elegy has an artistic design that I described to myself as Burton meets Mucha. There were individual pages or spreads that worked well but, on the whole, I found the emphasis on color overwhelming. And man, the faces just were not consistent across the story. It’s obvious in those two sentence that reading manga has strongly affected the things I look for in a comic. With all the color, I find it hard to *see* American comics these days.

Above all things, what I like best is a good story.  Batwoman Elegy is an okay story.

I know that Rucka is a massively popular writer, but I am just not getting what people see. I think he’s competent, absolutely, but nowhere near excellent. Here’s why I say that. About halfway through the book, Colonel Kane gives the entire story away. In one word. This is not foreshadowing. To call this “foreshadowing” is like saying that me beating you senseless with a bat, then saying “you’re going to have a bad day today” is “telling your fortune.” The worst part about it…it was obvious anyway!!! I guessed within 3 pages what the deal with Alice was. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on American comics readers but…really, this is what passes for “excellent writing?” Wow. (I asked my comics store owning friend about this “foreshadowing” and she said she never really noticed. I wonder…when you have like 12 pages of content in a 32 page comic, if the reason people don’t notice is that they are on overload from all the crap they have to wade through to get to the meat. That would kind of explain a lot about American comics, too…)

There were, definitely, things to like about this book. The color scheme is striking, no doubt about that. And the four pages spent on Kate’s evolution from paramilitary crimefighter to Batwoman were fantastic. Really fantastic. Those four pages made the entire book work for me. Which is where my one genuine complaint comes in – four pages? The best part of the story gets *4* pages? In a manga it would have gotten an entire volume. At least a whole chapter. Here, it gets 4 pages.  Oh well.

So, here’s what *I’d* like to see. Let’s redo this story from scratch, get someone who can really write on it and give it some time to develop, instead of shoving each section into 4-8 overcrowded pages.  Give us more. More time, more room, more growth and more development. More of Kate. Less of ridiculous badguys with realllllllllllllly obvious provenance. How about we just get more crime, less shark jumping right off the bat? (This is something I see *a lot* with female-lead series. The new crime drama Rizzolli and Isles went *right* to a previous stalker/serial killer who is ba-ack! arc….in the first episode. Gawd.)

The New Batwoman standalone series is starting soon. DC, here’s your chance to show you don’t suck, you understand how to tell a story. Here’s you chance to create an American superhero comic as interesting to women as manga is. Go for it.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – Kate’s personal story – 8, the Alice arc – 3
Characters – 8, what little we got to see of them
Lesbian – 5
Service – 5

Overall – 7

The best part about this book is undoubtedly the fact that it was sponsored by newly minted Okazu Hero Ashley R! Ashley, thank you so much. Email me at anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com to receive your very own Okazu Hero badge to proudly display on websites and social media profiles!

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6 Responses

  1. Lilyvess says:

    I’m a Rucka fan, but I do have to agree with you a bit here. Batwoman Elegy was just not his greatest work. It can pass off as good but that is mostly due to J.H. William’s artwork and hot Rucka’s writing.

    Without the artwork, nothing in Elegy is special. it is a standard superhero story. Having the main character be a lesbian doesn’t make this story special.

    His next arc on Detective Comics is the one you want to be reading. That is the arc where Rucka really starts to push the story.

    Rucka slows the story down and really tells us more about who Kate is and not show her just beat up criminals.

  2. “His next arc on Detective Comics is the one you want to be reading. That is the arc where Rucka really starts to push the story.”

    I guess it’s either a blessing or a pity that Rucka left DC and Batwoman behind for J.H. Williams III to take over. Even to this day I can’t find any reliable info on why Rucka left DC.

    In regards to Batwoman comic itself, I know that there were four more issues of Detective Comics that continue the story before her she was abruptly put off of Detective Comics. They were ok, but it kind of got hampered down by the constant “parallel” telling of Batman’s story in the same comic. It was like the two of them got into a legal dispute and settled on having both of them receive equal presence in the comic, including the covers.

    As for her not keeping a relationship? It could be worse. Spiderman still stands by his deal with el diablo by saying no to marriage. There is a story where Louis Lane leaves Clark simply because he lost his powers and he later hooks up with Wonder Woman. Add insult to injury, Wonder Woman, a product of the greek gods who she has confronted many of them face to face turns catholic. I think Kate has a pretty good chance of not meeting the some similar stupid retconning fate.

  3. “Really, three relationships and she’s a commitment-phobe? Um…”

    Well, at least she wasn’t cheating on them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Strongly disagree!!

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