“Batwoman Elegy”: Boobs aren’t the only female superpower

When I went to pick up Batwoman: Elegy, my comic shop owner shocked me by saying he sold out the moment they came in, that next week’s reorder was already spoken for, but that I could get in on the following week’s order if I really wanted a copy. And of course I really wanted a copy: It’s a hardcover collection of Greg Rucka and JH Williams III‘s Detective Comics #854 – #860 — with a foreword by Rachel Maddow. It’s the most lesbonic collection of illustrated nerdgasms ever assembled.

If you’re unfamiliar with Batwoman — and some of you are; I know because you’ve Tweeted me about it, and shame on you — here’s all the refresher you need:

In 2006, DC announced that Kate Kane — the modern Batwoman — was headed back to Gotham City, as a lesbian. The fanboys shouted, "publicity stunt," and their cries turned out to be pretty valid. She appeared in 52, and she was exactly what DC promised: A Lesbian Superhero.

Last year, DC decided to let Batwoman take Detective Comics out for a spin, and fanboys shouted, "This is the best character DC has created in a generation!" And they were right again.

Kate Kane is a vigilante, like everyone in the Bat-family, but she’s driven as much by her dishonorable discharge from the military (under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell") as anything else. She’s got an ex-girlfriend — Renee Montoya, the current incarnation of The Question — who thinks Kate dresses like a slut and is cheating because she’s out late fighting crime. She’s got a stepmom who doesn’t understand why she wears a tuxedo and heavy eyeliner to formal events. And she’s got a madwoman named Alice, chasing her down and speaking in riddles straight from Lewis Carroll’s pen.

She’s sexy and brutal in equal measure.

Maddow says it well in her introduction. She’s a fan of Rucka’s writing from way back in Queen & Country — she says, in fact, that she’d happily read his grocery list for funsies — and Batwoman is nothing if not superior superhero storytelling. But she also says she "gets" Batwoman: her honor, her drive, her courage, her strength. She even talks about how she used the issues brought up in Batwoman to interview Lt. Dan Choi about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

And that’s the real beauty of Rucka and Williams’ (too-short) seven-issue Batwoman story-arc: It combines classic superhero narrative with subversive commentary on sexual politics with the best art DC has produced in ages.

Elegy even includes all the Batwoman variant covers, gorgeous sketches from Williams and script pages from Rucka.

A guy my age came into the comic shop and asked for Elegy as I was signing my name onto the wait list. I asked him what he liked about Batwoman and he said, "I like a hero that can do more than shove her t–s in my face, you know? Boobs aren’t a superpower."

They are, actually, but I didn’t argue. He said the thing I really wanted to hear: Batwoman’s here. She’s queer. And even fanboys are used to it. Bring on Williams’ solo Batwoman title.

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