“Batwoman #28″ review: Lesbian processing is always harder than crime fighting

Something really, really weird is happening in the world of superheroes right now: Live-action TV adaptations are getting really close to overtaking traditional comic books in terms of queer visibility. Nyssa al Ghul and Black Canary revealed themselves as a lesbian and bisexual lady, respectively, on a recent episode of Arrow. Saffron Burrows is scheduled to appear as Agent Victoria Hand a few times in the back half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first season. (She’s not out yet, but surely that day is coming quickly.) And according to a leaked script obtained by io9, Fox’s forthcoming Batverse series, Gotham, will feature Renee Montoya, and while they’ll certainly be coy about her transition to The Question, they’re not shying away from the fact that she’s a lesbian. In the pilot, it is revealed that she dated Commissioner Gordon’s fiance and also she gets called a “dyke” at least once.

You’ve got to wonder if Kate Kane is going to make an appearance, right? Bruce Wayne is only going to be 12 in Gotham, and reeling from the death of his parents, which would suggest that Kate Kane is even younger, but they’re obviously fiddling with DC’s timeline because Kate and Renee had a longterm relationship in the  books, which means Renee also was younger than Bruce Wayne. (On the show, Catwoman is 14, and the Riddler and the Penguin are in their 20s.)

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Those are baby steps, to be sure, but it feels light years beyond where we were with queer characters in DC and Marvel’s cinematic universes even six months ago. And it’s a bit of a relief because the trajectory of gay ladies in comic books has not looked so good lately. We lost the lesbian character in Red Sonja; Fearless Defenders‘ cancellation robbed us of two queer characters; and Batwoman‘s creative team continues to underwhelm.

Batwoman #28 picks up exactly where #27 left off: With Maggie’s daughter finding a bloody Kate in the bathroom in the middle of the night after she returned home from fighting some crime. Maggie is aghast, and even though Kate tries to apologize, Maggie just shields Jamie’s eyes and takes her back to bed. The next day Kate shows up at Maggie’s office to talk about what happen and finds herself face-to-face with Jamie once again, only this kid is way more resilient than Maggie believes. She chats up Kate and they agree that they scared each other last night. Maggie shoos her daughter away to the vending machine and gets real with Kate about how she’s going to need some therapy.

Which makes sense, of course; literally every superhero in the world needs some therapy. You gotta be at least 1/3 nuts to put on a cape and go looking for trouble. But the weird part is that Maggie acts like she’s just now realizing that being engaged to Batwoman might make parenting just a liiiiittle bit more difficult. They go back and forth about: “You think I’m nuts!” And: “Yes, but I still love you, dummy!”

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The rest of the issue is devoted to more heavy-handed clues that Kate’s gay BFF, Evan, is in fact Wolf-Spider. Remember how Batwoman broke Wolf-Spider’s nose? Well, surprise! Ethan’s nose is broken! We also find out that there are treasure maps underneath the art that Wolf-Spider is ganking.

Jeremy Haun’s art continues to be impressive. I think he’s got as good a handle on Kate out of uniform as J.H. Williams’ did. But Marc Andreyko still doesn’t seem to have his finger on the pulse of these characters’ voices. When he tries to reveal Kate’s vulnerabilities, it comes off as a timid weakness we’ve never seen her exhibit. Bette sounds downright childish compared to Williams’ and W. Haden Blackman’s version of the character. The story has become so pedestrian. You could cut and paste any old superhero into these last few issues and no one would blink an eye.

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I’ve wondered if I’m being too hard on the series because response in comic book forums seems to be split between people who think the book is better than ever and people who are dropping it from their pull lists immediately — so I asked my favorite reviewers (AfterEllen readers on Twitter what they think).

How are you feeling about the turn Batwoman has taken?

Hat tip to @aloudernoise for the Gotham news!

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