Thursday, 19 November 2015

Batwoman: Elegy (Detective Comics #854-860)

"I'm doing what you taught me.  I'm soldiering on" - Kate Kane

You know what this blog needs?  Even more lesbians!  And the highest profile lesbian hero I could think of was DC's Batwoman.  She's not my favourite lesbian character, that would be Scandal Savage from Secret Six, but she is still pretty cool in my opinion. This actually was the second volume of Batwoman I read, I made the mistake of reading the volume numbered "one" first (Hydrology) and being totally confused by it.  Turns out when DC began the New 52 with its universal reboot of every character's history, some characters didn't get rebooted as hard as others. Kate Kane, alias Batwoman was one of them, and it is this volume which collects her appearances in Detective Comics that her New 52 adventures followed directly on from.  Of course like with Batman and Green Lantern also not really rebooting either it threw a massive spanner in the whole "heroes only started appearing five years ago" rubbish that The New 52 launch was based around but who cares about that now?  Anyway, this unumbered, preboot, seven issue trade paperback fills in her backstory and relationships and is required reading if you are going to move on to her forty issue New 52 run.  It goes without saying that with JH Williams III on art duties the whole thing looks utterly gorgeous and Greg Rucka crafts a well-rounded and interesting character in Kate Kane and her double life as another of Gotham City's Bat inspired heroes.  Also I just noticed The Magnificent Kevin is sandwiched between Captain Marvel and Batwoman, lucky bloke!

The story begins with a woman being pursued by Batwoman.  The woman, cornered, asks what Batwoman wants.  "I want your secrets" she says.  "I want where and I want when.  I want her name."  The woman doesn't know "her" name, just that she is coming and they'll kill her if she talks.  Batwoman tells her to whisper in her ear.
Meeting with Batman.
She then meets up with Batman and they compare notes.  Apparently "all twelve covens have increased activity this week."  Batwoman says the "Religion of Crime has a new leader" and also that there are thirteen covens.  Batwoman leaves, as she does so Batman says her long hair is a liability in a fight.

She returns home and takes off her wig and changes back into Kate Kane.  She goes and meets her date but her date is angry that she is late and leaves thinking Kate has been "tomcatting around". She walks off saying "Call me when you've decided to grow up."

We cut to Kate waking up, her father - Jacob Kane - is in her flat, and is obviously in the military as he tells her it's "long past Revielle". She tells him she spoke to Batman and starts working out.  She has been hurt and her dad says she's been pushing herself too hard.  Apparently she was recently stabbed through the heart.

She says not a day goes by when she doesn't remember how it felt to be drugged and helpless.  Her dad hugs her and says "we soldier on". Hey, where are Kate Kane's Daddy Issues?  Can't be a lesbian without massive Daddy Issues, silly Greg Rucka! Jacob then shows her a new type of gun the military have been trying out that he has got a hold of.  She takes it.  Then he asks her if she'll come to dinner with him and her step-mother, her cousin Bette is in town.

But Kate says the Religion of Crime's new leader arrives at midnight and she is going to be there to get some answers as to why they tried to carve out her heart.  She changes back into her Batwoman garb and leaves via motorcycle to where the Religion of Crime's thirteenth coven is waiting to greet their new leader.
Alice, the Religion of Crime's new leader.
She beats some of them up and then demands to know a name.  A woman dressed all in white, old fashioned clothes appears and says her name is "Alice."  Batwoman points the gun at her and says she's been looking forward to this moment and fires.

She hits Alice in the chest twice with the non-lethal ammo. "What a peculiar feeling" comments Alice before starting to coug uncontrollably.  The rest of the coven go to help her, but Batwoman grabs her and bat-grapples away to the top of the nearby building.  She gives Alice something to dispel the pepper spray she was shot with then demands to know why Alice wants her dead.  Alice feigns ignorance even as Batwoman dangles her over the edge of the building.

Batwoman: "Why, dammit?!  Why do I matter to you people?"

She pulls Alice back up and comments that the new leader of the Religon of Crime is a "lunatic" who thinks she is Alice Liddell.  When Alice asks how she knows she's a lunatic she says it's because she speaks "fluent crazy".
Chatting with Alice.
Batwoman tries to question her further but Alice reveals a razorblade held between her teeth and slashes Batwoman's face with it.  It is poisoned and Batwoman starts to hallucinate.  Alice grabs her hair and pulls away the wig, giving Batwoman a chance to get away into the house's grounds.  She has some trippy visions of her mum and some masked men restraining her as a child.

Back at her flat, her dad checks the computer and sees that the GPS tracker on her is reading "Warning" in regard to her bio-signs.  While he travels to Batwoman's location, the thirteenth coven swear alleigance to Alice and refer to Batwoman as "the twice named."  They say they'll bring her heart to Alice if she wants, Alice says she "can do without" and shoots the man who was talking to her, then opens fire on the rest.

The inhuman members of the coven who are left go with Alice to track down Batwoman who is still incapacitated in the house's gardens.  She is found by her father then by Alice and they both open fire on each other.  Then suddenly some werepeople appear.

The werepeople attack Alice as Jacob tries to rouse Batwoman.  The werewolf slings Batwoman over his shoulder and tells Jacob to follow him.  They return to Jacob's truck and he injects her with an antidote. The werewolf asks the wereoctopus where their colleague is and is told she went to lure Alice and her goons away.  The werewolf turns back into a human and tells Jacob to go.  Jacob asks who they are, "true believers, once upon a time at least" says the man.  He tells Jacob Batwoman must survive.  Alice and her coven watch as Jacob drives away.
Abbott the wereperson.
Next day a recovered Kate tells her dad the werewolf is called Abbott and he quit the Religion of Crime.  Jacob tells her she should take the night off and come to an official function that night.  Kate reluctantly agrees.  That night she arrives at the fundraiser in a tuxedo, her stepmother accuses her of trying to draw attention to herself, but her cousin Bette says she looks great.

Lesbians going to official functions in a tuxedo is a bit of a cliche, but it has truth to it.  My on-off girlfriend who was in the year below me at university took me to her Valedictory Ball at the end of her final term.  She wore a tux, while I decided to have some fun and femme it up in a frock, we made a lovely couple.  Although thinking back I wasted way too much time on having a rocky relationship with her when I could have been out shagging other fit birds while I was still relatively limber.  She was a real clit tease.

Hrrm.  Anyway, another woman in a tuxedo appears and introduces herself as Maggie Sawyer, Captain of the Gotham Major Crimes Unit.  They instantly start flirting with each other and Maggie asks Kate is she would like to dance.

Kate: "We're offending my step-mother".

Maggie: "Is that a problem?"

Kate: "You kidding? I live for it."
Just beautifully laid out, such amazing compositions.
As they dance, Maggie says she's been Out for a long time and anyone who has a problem with it knows better than to say it to her face.  Kate comments that no wonder so many lesbians become cops and alludes to her previous cop girlfriend, Renee Montoya.  Maggie asks for her number, then someone cuts into their dance, it is Abbott.

He tells Kate that Alice isn't after her, she's after Gotham City, and she plans to destroy it.  Kate realises this would take some kind of WMD and calls her father who had been called away from the fundraiser earlier.  Unfortunately Alice has him and he's been beaten up.  She answers his phone and says to Kate:

Alice: "Hush!  The game's going on rather better now."

One of Alice's goons wants to kill Jacob Kane, but Alice stops her.  When the goon demands to know why, Alice says "it's exactly like a riddle with no answer."  Back at the fundraiser, Kate tells Abbott Alice has her dad.  Abbott says it's because of her and also because of the army clearance he grants.

Kate goes to change into her Batwoman get-up, the code Jacob managed to shout down the phone at her told her to be ready for a chemical and bio-weapon.  Apparently there is a stockpile at his base being made ready for disposal, that would be enough to kill everyone in Gotham. 
Alice is the most ungrateful leader.
At the base a soldier who is part of Alice's coven lets her in and they go to where two more members are loading the canisters onto a plane.  Alice shoots one of the canisters and the gas kills the two men who loaded the plane.

Alice's plane takes off with Jacob and a couple of coven members aboard.  One flying the plane, one guarding the canisters.  Batwoman and Abbott on a motorcycle arrive at the base and board a plane being piloted by the werepeople.  Jacob yells at Alice that she'll kill everyone, she says she is determined.  Suddenly Jacob seems to recognise her, "my God.. Beth...?" he says.  She quickly covers her face.

Batwoman skydives out of the plane she is in and onto Alice's plane.  She climbs into the open back and takes out the guard.  Then she goes to the cockpit and incapacitates Alice temporarily and takes out the pilot.  She frees her father so he can safely land the plane, then goes after Alice who has gone into the back of the plane.

Jacob: "Batman rule in effect Kate.  Don't kill her."

Batwoman: "I'm always on Batman rule, sir."
Batwoman switches planes.
Batwoman and Alice fight, Alice demands to know "who am I then?"  She gets knocked out of the open back of the plane and ends up hanging from Batwoman's hand who tries to haul her up.

Alice: "You have our father's eyes"

And she stabs Batwoman in the arm and lets go, plummeting into the water of Gotham harbour below, while Batwoman looks down, deep in thought about the Daddy Issues she now has. That concludes most of the present day part of the story and is where The New 52 Batwoman picks up from. There are still three chapters left though, dealing primarily with Kate Kane's past.
The truth revealed.
We flashback to twenty years ago.  Kate Kane and her twin sister Beth are living on an army base, their mum is in the military as well.  She is scolding them for pretending to be each other in school and that they have to come clean to their teacher.  She tells them it's their responsibility, "and when you act wrongly, you have to answer for it... without complaint."  It's integrity, something she and their dad believe in.  We get a glimpse of him on some unamed battlefield, then he is home and kissing his wife while the twins sneak a peek at them.

Some time later Kate and Beth are wrapped up for winter.  Beth tells Kate that a boy thought she was Kate and said he liked her.  Kate is more concerned with the fact their dad got his promotion.  Kate doesn't want to relocate to NATO in Belgium.

Kate: "I don't want to leave."

Beth: "We've got each other Kate.  We'll still be together.  We'll always be together."
A happy family.
The action then cuts to the present.  No sign of Beth's body has been found by the Gotham police led by Commisioner Gordon and Maggie Sawyer.  Jacob Kane tells them to clear the area as there is a possible chemical threat.  Kate returns home and silently cleans her arm wound, outside Jacob shouts into the intercom that he needs to speak with her, but she ignores him.

Back in the past, Kate and Beth are sulking as it's their twelfth birthday and their dad isn't there like he promised.  Finally their mum convinces them to come with her for a slap up treat.  But once outside their car is rammed and men grab the three of them and drag them back inside.  A hood is put over Kate's head and she hears gunshots.  When the hood is taken off by her dad she catches a glimpse of her mum with a bullet hole in her head.

Jacob: "Don't look...you don't want to see...you don't want to see."

But Kate has seen and is already hardening herself to deal with the loss of her mum and sister, as her dad for some reason also tells her that Beth is dead, when actually she's been abducted for who-knows-what reason.
The not-so-happy family.
Seven years ago, Kate is now in the military herself.  She's a cadet and she also has a girlfriend.  One day Kate is called into a Colonel Reye's office and he tells her there has been an allegation made about her conduct, "violation of article 125 of the uniform code of military jsutice."  He says that he's obligated to investigate but he has some discretion.  If she says she was just goofing and it'll never happen again she'll just face disciplinary action, but she'll also be able to stay in the army.  But Kate refuses to lie.

Kate: "I'm sorry sir, I can't.  I'm gay."

Being gay in the military, well in the US military, was at the time of publication (2009-10) still grounds for being kicked out with a possible dishonourable discharge.  I had a girlfriend in the US armed forces who was posted to the UK and the strain of trying to carry out a secret homosexual affair under the threat of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" took an enormous emotional toll on her.  Unfortunately 9/11 happened and she got redeployed to Afghanistan so the relationship had to end.  Bad times. 
Kate and her girlfriend.
Back in the present, Kate has taken a DNA sample from herself and what she recovered from the fight with Beth.  She wants a scientist friend to test them to confirm they come from twins.  Meanwhile, Abbott the werewolf is preaching to his bretheren that the prophecy about Kate was wrong, it was Beth "the Dark Madame" who was destined to die.  Kate finds him and punches him for keeping Beth's identity from her.  She leaves saying she better not see any of them again or she'll "kill every last one of you."

In the past again, and Kate goes to tell her dad that she's been "seperated from the army". When she tells him it was for homosexual conduct and she couldn't lie about it, he says:

Jacob: "Then you kept your honour and your integrity.  I'm proud of you.  Your mother would have been too."

She then loses herself in a life of aimless partying.  One day she is pulled over by a beat cop called Renee Montoya and they end up having a relationship with each other.  We see them together one morning and they have an argument about what Kate is doing with her life, Kate accuses Renee of being a closet case and Renee storms out.
Kate is inspired.
Later when coming out of a bar, Kate is trying to get in touch with Renee via her mobile.  A mugger attacks her, but she disables him easily.  Then Batman appears and she falls over in surprise.  Wordlessly he offers a hand to help her up then he grapples away leaving her looking up at the Bat-signal in the sky.

Four years ago, Kate is in a sleazy bar that Renee and Harvey Bullock are looking for someone in.  Renee chews her out for being there, but Kate says she doesn't need anyone to look after her, Renee says she does, just not her.  Later, Kate in full combat gear takes down some crooks with tear gas and a good battering.

Back in her flat she is showering and when she is done she walks out to find her dad there. He has discovered all the stuff she has stolen to help in her war on crime.  He wants to know why she is doing this.

Kate: "That bat they shine in the sky.  Civilians think it is a call for help.  The bad guys think it's a warning.  But it's more than that.  It's something higher.  It's a call to arms.  I finally found a way to serve."

Her dad realises she is serious and decides to help her.  But she'll need two, maybe three years of advanced training in specialised urban and non-lethal combat.  And he'll be her support, "we're in this together."

There is a training montage then we return with Kate to her father's home after a couple of years away preparing.  He is pleased to see her and asks if she has seen her flat yet.  She hasn't so they go together.  He has turned it into a nerve centre, then he shows her the Batwoman costume, minus the bat logo he has had made for her.  She puts it on and he then attaches the bat logo, "so everyone knows whose side your on."
The uniform is nearly complete.
And we return to the present for the final time as her scientist friend confirms the DNA samples come from twins.  She finally goes to confront her father and he tells her he couldn't tell her that her sister had been abducted back then, he also did everything he could to find her.  He says Alice is not Elizabeth, not her sister, her sister is dead.

Batwoman: "I know, colonel.  I watched her fall.  I killed her."

And she leaves.  But the final panel of the book shows Alice's head emerging from the water and then the book finishes.
Alice/Elizabeth lives?
Batwoman: Elegy is seriously good stuff.  Every page is a visual treat thanks to JH Williams III's incredible art.  The script by Greg Rucka is excellent in and of itself but add in the lavish presentation and you have a book that stands head and shoulders above the common herd.  Kate Kane is given a rounded personality and has many parallels with Batman.  Like him she lost a parent (and while growing up thought she lost a sister as well) at a critical age, the violence never satisfactorily explained or understood by her.  She lives like a feckless rich girl by day, but by night stalks the mean streets of Gotham as another caped avenger, though crucially not one affiliated with Batman despite having been inspired by him.  Her involvement with the magical elements of the city will continue into her New 52 series, which picks up where this one left off, and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer will blossom into something special as well.  Her lesbianism is dealt with in a subtle and non-prurient manner and having an out lesbian character as part of DC's line up at least until Convergence happened struck quite a blow for positive representation and it was incubated here and in the previous weekly series 52 with Greg Rucka's brand new take on an old and then unused DCU character who has quickly become one of my favourites and whose red bat-logo I wear on my chest with pride. So join me next year for my journey through the ups and downs of her New 52 career why don't you?

4 comments:

  1. that art is so amazing, why couldn't have JH williams stayed on the title longer than he did? bad mistake by dc pissing him off like they did. >:(

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  2. Yes, I'll definitely be dealing with the circumstances behind the departure of Williams III and Blackman from Nu52 Batwoman, but not for a few months yet. While I do have a preference for more "cartoony" art myself, that double-page of Kate and Maggie dancing makes me mentally squee with delight everytime I look at it.

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  3. All blogs need more lesbians :-D

    Nowt wrong with Hydrology.

    I'll definitely join you next year :-D

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  4. Lesbians improve Everything! :D

    Oh yes, Hydrology is a good book, but I "get" it more now I've read the storyline that immediately preceeded it. The second Zero issue covers the background stuff in Elegy but that isn't collected until volume 3.

    There are six volumes of the Nu52 Batwoman, I intend to cover them all next year, just to keep this blog as lesbiantastic as possible ;P

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