Thursday, June 9, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Batwoman - Elegy

Batwoman: Elegy is the graphic novel compiling the Detective Comics 854-860. Written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, it is a worthy candidate for the title of 'lesbian graphic novel of the year'. To clarify, I read the hardcover version, the paperback is due to be released June 14th.

Okay, I had just read my way through two fairly lacklustre lesbian books (which I'll review later), and picked up Elegy in a somewhat depressed mood. And then I got hit in the face with vibrant reds and dramatic black and white. That woke me up all right - and got me interested! But I was still afraid for the first couple of pages that I was in for a slutty, sex appeal sidekick superheroine story.

Batwoman: Elegy
Batwoman: Elegy
Was I ever wrong.

Greg Rucka, my heartfelt apologies for doubting you.
The story picks up after the events of 52 Week 11, where there's a mystery cult trying to sacrifice Batwoman, for unknown reasons. She's a little pissed about this and is on the warpath after the new leader of the cult, who arrives in Gotham for at the start of the story. The modern day storyline follows her struggle and drama with the peculiar and ethereal 'Alice', who only speaks in Lewis Carroll quotes, and holds a traumatic secret for Kate in her blood.

Kate attends a function with her dad and stepmother - and gets to dance with Maggie,
- Renee's old boss, from the Gotham police department.
Throughout the story we get flashbacks to her childhood, her dismissal from the army for refusing to lie about her sexuality, her first encounter and fling with Renee Montoya, and her discovery of a purpose answering the call of the Bat. It's a complete opposite to Gotham Central - bright instead of dark, open and defiant instead of closeted, playgirl-soldier instead of policewoman... definitely a good complementary volume to anyone interested in reading about this pair.

Batwoman is no-one's sidekick, and her army dad's support means she doesn't depend on anyone for back up and technology either. She's honest and upfront and desperate to serve, following her father's footsteps - ever since her mother and sister were murdered. Sadly, she's a little too honest, and won't lie about being gay even to follow her purpose.

Renee and Kate Kane share a kiss
... and a fair bit more
While her dad's proud of her, she ends up drifting... picking up a speeding ticket from a certain Latino cop, among other things. Which leads to sexy times, which leads to arguments over her aimlessness and Renee 'lying' about her sexuality, which leads to splitting up (this flashback is pre-Gotham Central). After getting mugged - or at least, someone trying to mug her, and bumping into Batman, Kate finally finds a new way to serve.

The art style shifts a lot, making it easy to tell apart the various stories - the present day action is vivid and mainly black and red, while the flashbacks and 'civilian' activities use a fuller spectrum of colour, and toned down a bit.

Batman gets one-upped. And responds with unnecessary advice on the next page.
At no point was her lesbianism sidelined - and nor was Kate Kane defined by it. One of my favourite parts was right after the scene above, when the creators subverted the typical 'stupid women with impractical long hair' stereotype, with Batman telling her she should cut her hair, and in the next scene... well.That would be a spoiler. She doesn't cut her hair, exactly, but Batman had no idea what he was talking about (or who he was dealing with).

 I also liked the fact that they deliberately made her uniform more practical - there are some sketches and notes at the back of the book, showing it was quite deliberate. (For example, the boots are no longer spiky heels, the belt isn't loose - lots of little tweaks like that - apart from the cape, which just got larger!)

All in all, very worth reading. Especially if you're a fan of Batman-style comics (if you don't like the Batman stories, then this may not be quite to your taste, but give it a chance - it's good).

Winner of:
  • GLAAD 21st Comic Book Awards (under the title 'Detective Comics')
  • Outstanding Comic Book at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards
  • Eisner Award for best Penciller/Inker and Best Cover Artist

Further Reading


  1. I'm a man myself, but I can rightly understand the need to have such a story. Women can be whatever they wish, and love homever thy want. I love women, and hate... well not hate, but disagree with many who think a woman has to fit a mold to fit into society. Wanna be a girly girl, a butch, somewhere in between, bi, straight, bi curious, occassional with men, prefer men, or whtever. Its alright in my book. Keep up this storyline, an keep everyon informed please. Hope there's more in the case of other heroines, even as sideline stories... wonderwoman comes to mind, and id been on & off reading comics on her since the 70s, my favorite dc character. Catwoman is a definite possibility too. Enough rambling now. Best wishes, eric deyoung of pasadena, tx.

    1. Being gay isn't a choice it isn't something you wake up and wish to be.. but i won't unwish it. Thanks for the sentiment though.

  2. Heh, but everyone has a gay fantasy one in a while.. <:3