Warning: Lots of spoilers for Batwoman #23 below.
When Kate Kane proposed to Maggie Sawyer all the way back in Batwoman #17, all the people who love all the awesome things were ecstatic. It was the first lesbian wedding proposal in the history of mainstream comics, and since Batwoman had been right about foreshadowing the overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we were buoyed by the thought that she would also be right about foreshadowing the overturn of DOMA and Prop. 8. (She was.) But one thing was missing: Maggie’s answer. Sure, we saw in later issues that Maggie and Kate had moved in together, that they were engaged, that Maggie was trying to reconcile Kate with Batwoman, but we didn’t get that definitive yes, that romantic punch to the gut we were looking for — until this month.
Creating a balanced single issue comic in the DC and Marvel canon is a tricky business. You’ve got to have the action, you’ve got to have the shocking zigs and zags, you’ve got to play into the decades of iconography surrounding your character and her universe, and you’ve also got to have moments of authentic character growth. Unfortunately, most comic book fans call all that feelings mumbo-jumbo a “filler issue” — because it’s hard to explore your feelings when you’re fighting for your life against a killer crocodile — so they really only come around a couple of times a year. But #23 finally offers up all the lesbian processing we’ve been jonesing for.
Kate has 18 hours until her epic showdown of epic epicness against Batman and Maggie thinks she should be out doing literally anything to prepare, but Kate has a different idea. She’s still plagued with guilt about injecting Maggie with Scarecrow’s fear toxin, so she decides to do the most Kate Kane thing ever to even the score: She injects herself with the same dosage, just stabs a syringe of that stuff right into her neck. Maggie tries to stop her, but it’s too late. The surreal/terrifying images that haunt Kate’s dreams produce some of the best artwork Trevor McCarthy has done, and Guy Major kills it on the colors. Thick, dark lines and bold bloody colors melting into each other as Kate’s mind goes from Batman to Bones to Beth to the death of Maggie.
Maggie sits with her the whole time, finally crawling into bed and spooning her until her hallucinations subside. When Kate wakes up, she is shocked to find Maggie there. (Not only because it’s a very sweet thing to do, but also because the fact that Det. Maggie Sawyer, who lost custody of her kid because she is married to her job, found 12 hours to watch Kate sleep. But still: Devastatingly romantic.) Kate apologizes for all the stuff she’s already done and all the stuff she’s going to do, and begs Maggie to have the grace to love her anyway. Maggie’s got three caveats: As long as Kate doesn’t cheat on her, kill an innocent person, or hurt her daughter, she can forgive anything else. She asks Kate to ask her again to marry her, and she does, and Maggie says yes. They kiss when Batwoman is fully suited up in her cape a cowl, a visual signifier that Maggie has finally been able to reconcile the identities of her fiance. (To me, this much happiness forecasts imenant death and heartbreak. But Mombian has an idea I like a lot better!)
In the B-Story, Bette finishes up training with Uncle Jake’s team of “Crows,” whom she has no trouble besting, despite their standout military service and size. But her big win comes when they kidnap the number three guy at the D.E.O., hoping to extract from him Beth’s location, and it is Bette who finally gets him to give her up. Not through enhanced interrogation, but through a little bit of charm and a little bit of cunning.
Next month, the Bruce/Kate showdown is finally upon us! Remember when they met for the first time in 1956 all the way back in Detective Comics #233. My, how times have changed.
Of course “And now at the gay affair” is forever hilarious, speaking of Batwoman’s ability to foreshadow greatness.