“Batwoman #24″ is the end of the world as we know it

It’s a dark month for gay lady comic book fans. Almost as soon as Fearless Defenders delighted us by adding a brand new lesbian character to the title, Marvel announced that they are canceling the book. And after a very public battle with DC editorial, Batwoman‘s creative team has now published its final issue.

For the first time in a long time, it feels like there’s a real chance we’re going to disappear again in the world of mainstream comics. Batwoman #24 isn’t the end (hopefully), but it is the end of an era, and it’s hard not to think that our favorite lesbian heroine is a goner—at least the incarnation of Kate Kane that we have grown to know and love. It’s a bittersweet issue. Stunning, subversive, and kind of heartbreaking.

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For almost a year now, Batwoman has been building toward Kate’s inevitable clash with the Dark Knight himself. The DEO wants his identity, and Kate wants to nurse her (deranged/psychotic) twin sister back to health, so all she has to do is help Director Bones unmask Gotham City’s god. First, they need to bait him, so in one of the ballsiest (and deranged/psychotic) moves we’ve ever seen from someone in the Bat-family, Kate and Agent Chase unleash Batman’s arch-enemies from Arkham Asylum. The Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Tweedles, and yep, even Bane go ballistic in the streets, which of course lures Batman downtown. But the unintended consequence of Kate’s plan isn’t unmanageable terror in the streets of Gotham; it’s Agent Chase swooping in and taking over Gotham PD, kicking Maggie Sawyer out with a shout of “Martial Law!” In one of the most viscerally satisfying scenes of the entire series, Maggie defiantly bows up in Chase’s face and promises to kill her if her off-script plan hurts Kate. (“How much do you know? How much did your girlfriend tell you?” “EVERYTHING.“)

We also get to see Bette/Flamebird back in action, fully and ferociously. With the help of The Crows, she takes down the DEO’s defenses and manages to break into Beth’s holding cell. She’s acting real Beth-y and not Alice-y at all, just talking like a normal human being instead of quoting Lewis Carroll nonstop and and doing murders. There’s no real proof, but you know it’s just a ruse. She’s huddled on the ground looking timid, but the last thing we see is her asking Flamebird to take off her gloves. (Don’t do it, Bette!)

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But the main event is Batwoman attacking Batman, and it comes in the form of a two-page splash spread that made me actually gasp out loud. Batman tells her it’s over, tells her she can’t beat him, but she smirks and says she absolutely can, because unlike him, she’ll cheat. She paralyzes him, blinds him, and goes after him full throttle. On the last page, in a kind of metaphor for Williams and McCarthy and battle with DC, Batman goes, “Kate, stop.” And she just grabs him around the neck and simply says, “No.”

That’s it. That’s the end. JH Williams and Trevor McCarthy were meant to have two more issues to finish out this arc, but now their script for Issue #25 and Issue #26 will be bottom-drawered by DC and we’ll never see it. In what will surely be an effort by DC to bring Batwoman in line with all the other Bat-family titles, #25 will now be a Zero Year issue, and then, well, who knows? Openly gay/fan favorite writer Marc Andreyko is taking over next month and while his recent interview with Newsarama was very encouraging—”And as far as Kate’s sexuality and her relationship with Maggie, that’s going to be explored in great depth.”—but I’m still really skeptical about the book’s future. DC has never had a very good relationship with its female readers, especially its gay ones, and it was a rare and wonderful thing to know that Greg Rucka, JH Williams, and Trevor McCarthy were always on our side.

What did you think of Batwoman #24? Are you looking forward to the new creative team, or are you feeling as skeptical/bummed as I am?

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