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Batwoman is a Triumph Built Upon the Failures of Kate Kane

Griffin

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"How did you fuck it all up now, you stupid girl?"

“For Gotham, Kate?” “No. For me.”

This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Ever since Williams and Blackman left the original Batwoman ongoing, and the subsequent extremely questionable narrative choices by the replacement creative team, Batwoman fans have been justifiably guarded. The last time they followed her solo adventures, they got burned. Burned so badly, in fact, that they in turn literally set fire to two very specific issues of Batwoman. There are videos, so you can google that if you wish. I’m not going to link them.

Point being, there would always be doubt surrounding any attempt to make a Batwoman solo book all over again. Even if the creative team behind her relaunch is basically perfect for the job—and holy crap they kinda are—there’s simply no avoiding that trepidation. Greg Rucka himself could have spearheaded this whole thing and I’m not convinced it would have made people feel any more confident.

So, I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that, hey, stow your fear. Drop your guard. I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it louder now since this issue is overflowing with incontrovertible proof of something totally inescapable:

Batwoman is back. Every panel of every page oozes Kate Kane. Every line by Epting, every methodically colored inch by Cox, every word scripted by Bennett and co-plotted by Tynion, every expression, every action; it’s all Kate. It’s all a triumph.

To quote Bennett:

“She fights, and she fails, and she splits her lip and bruises all the way to the bone and she claws up through the mud and keeps going.”

Perfectly apropos to describe the meta-narrative surrounding her return, don’t you think?

Bond, Bats, and Monsters

The overall tone here is Bond. Back when the cover for #1 was revealed, that was my first thought. It looks like a 60s spy movie poster, but without the misogyny. Or racism. Or obligatory christian heteronormativity. So…I dunno, all the theoretically badass spy parts of Bond, including the cheesy one-liners? Sounds about right. Regardless, when I first saw it, I was blasting the 007 theme on a loop while trying to figure out if I should wait for prints of the damn thing to be available (if they ever are), or just get it printed and framed myself. I have yet to decide, but I want it.

Now, truth be told, I have not actually read Brubaker and Epting’s Velvet in its entirety, but others have told me that Batwoman‘s “International Woman of Mystery” aspect is pretty similar to which I responded “Okay yeah but…is she gay and Jewish?” They said no, and that’s the end of that.

Seriously though, if Epting and Cox (whom I must sincerely apologize to for accidentally omitting him in my tweet regarding a topic we’ll get to in this review…total space cadet moment) managed to replicate something that was already awesome, and apply it to someone as objectively amazing and impossible as Batwoman, what’s there to complain about?

Excellence is excellence. Brilliance is brilliance. Plus, it’s an established fact that Kate loves spy novels. One of her favorites being Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, so it’s rather perfect.

Remember that time Bette was half-dead and yet still characterized to an insane degree due to Jacob’s unbearable guilt? Jacob does every time he thinks about the time he “killed” Tim Drake. Probably.

Anyway, on to the present. Kate’s internal monologue is a rare thing. Outside of a single instance, it didn’t exist in her 10-issue run on Detective Comics, and it very briefly appeared in short bursts during the Williams/Blackman era of the New52. Typically, we don’t really get to live inside of Kate’s head. Her actions have always spoken louder than anything else ever could, but when we did know her thoughts it was damned effective. Batwoman #1 is no exception.

We start with pain, Istanbul and searching for a name in a rather clever homage to Kate’s very first solo outing, way back in Detective Comics #854:

Turns out, every target she’s tracked so far has been rather indiscriminate in how much suffering they wanted to cause with Monster Venom.  Her mark this time, a Dr. Martine, doesn’t necessarily look like your run-of-the-mill white supremacist looking to slaughter hundreds, if not thousands, as gruesomely as possible, but then that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If the League of Shadows can operate the same way, it stands to reason that Batwoman will be punching entire dental records out of any and all modern nazis that she comes across. Much like her Bombshells counterpart.

Which she explicitly states that she did, and we all just know that there’s no way in hell she’s complaining about that part. Maybe not the sleepless nights, but hey. Sometimes you gotta break a few fascist faces to make a honest omelette. Or something.

Dr. Martine monsters up, because Kate screwed up and didn’t manage to get the actual bioweapon away from him (this is a glorious running theme) and calls for backup: Tuxedo-One. Which is so perfect. And who should that be? Why, none other than Julia Pennyworth herself, hiding out on Kate’s mobile bat-base yacht that has a helicopter Kate still presumably can’t fly! British SAS operative and daughter of the one and only Alfred Pennyworth. Last we saw her was back in Snyder’s Superheavy arc, and it’s great to see her again. You put her and Kate together and there’s so much snark that it just makes sense.

Well, the exchange rate there is about $20. So, yeah, Kate. Just burn cash that sounds productive.

The call signs, by the way, are callbacks to Snyder’s run on Batman, wherein Alfred was Penny-1, Julia was Penny-2, etc. They make a lot more sense in context with Batwoman than they ever did with Batman, in my opinion, but it was cool then and it’s still cool now. Except like, now it’s about 50% cooler. Because Batwoman.

Kate and Julia exchange extremely domestic banter (Kylie and I have already concluded that they are not banging but that’s like another two thousand words so just trust us, or debate us) while Kate strangles the monster’d up Dr. Martine. With chains and lanterns. He goes back to normal, which reminds me so much of that time at the end of Go when Kate punched Abbot so hard he literally un-werewolf’d, and after screaming about The Many Arms of Death (title drop!) he’s killed by a knife to the forehead.

Kate gives chase to the assassin, whom she totally-doesn’t-at-all recognize as Tahani, but she gets away…leaving her fancy Knife behind. I should keep a counter on how many times Kate just really screws something up. Not in any malicious sense, of course. Her fallibility is explicitly why we love her so damn much here at the Fandomentals!

You know what? I’m gonna do it. We are currently at four failures, and counting. One: failing to stop Dr. Martine from monstering up. Two: failing to stop the assassin. Three: failing to catch the assassin. Four: failing to get the name she wanted. At least, at first. Oh, and I guess…five? She lost that bet. Let’s go with five. Put it up on the board!

Goddamn, I love this book.

Boats, Bette and Brooding

Kate returns to her motor yacht, the Sequoia, which is thankfully not the same boat her family skedaddled onto at the end of Batwoman Annual #1, with Julia making snarky comments about how ridiculous their cover is for all of these trips out of the country. It’s rather well-established that Julia isn’t a fan of her father serving the Waynes for reasons she cannot fathom (because raising their son is hard to wrap your head around?), but I guess she’s willing to go globetrotting with someone who doesn’t brood instead of breathe.

Also, interesting note: Kate’s first ops center was a giant tree. Her yacht is named after a tree. S’kinda neat.

Anyway, Kate slips out of her uniform and, gasp, actually has practical attire underneath it?! And it’s still correctly color schemed?! And she’s not tiny and skinny? Epting and Cox, we salute you. I really shouldn’t have to call attention to doing things right, but even Williams drew the “larger-than-life-glowing” sequences of Batwoman in a way that was anatomically exaggerated. Though, that was purposeful and effective. Others, just had her naked under there, which makes no sense.

Also Kate shaved her head again, but I imagine that’s because it’s really damn hot in the Middle East and her uniform is almost pure black. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s been sweating like a pig in that thing, after all.

I love how her absurd speech pattern makes perfect sense. Raised as an army brat, base to base all over the world. Bound to pick up some super weird and old references and idioms as her standard. Or maybe she’s just trying really hard.

Moving on, Julia makes a rather important remark that I would typically describe as “blink and you’ll miss it”, but then again, if you’ve heard the name “Bette” before in context with Batwoman, I doubt you could actually miss it. Even if you did blink like, a ton. Like, even if you fell asleep while reading that panel, I’m not sure you could actually miss it.

Challenge is still in play, creative team! I want to see Kate actually laugh. It’s never been done. Not even in Bombshells. It’s humanizing, just trust me on this.

First of all: that’s six on the counter; she didn’t get Bette anything from the Bazaar that she kinda trashed. Coulda grabbed something in the confusion, you know.

Second: so that’s where Bette’s been this entire time! Oh, man, and it couldn’t be more perfect. After all that time looking up to Kate as this inspirational figure—which she failed to live up to every single time despite that not actually discouraging Bette at all—she finally found something to fight for. The family name. And also honor and all that jazz, which sounds super familiar, for some reason.

Regardless, I’m even more psyched to see her again, now.  She’s really not just a kid anymore. I love it.

Also, if you take a closer look at this entire undressing sequence, you’ll notice that Kate’s skin actually transitions from stark white to her normal tone. This clever little piece of art direction, thanks to Cox’s stellar color work, cements that this story is explicitly through Kate’s eyes. Not just a basic POV, but more of an unreliable narrator. Which is kinda great, if you think about it. All the more ways for Kate to set an entire island on fire.

I mean, she totally will. Not on purpose but, it’ll happen.

Moving forward, Julia says that fancy…tech stuff is…tracking the…jesus christ, just look at this abomination:

I—okay, that’s seven for the counter now because that is the single most impractical monitor I have ever seen.

Not even gonna say it

I know everything needs to be kept Bat-themed to keep everything on brand, as Raptor would say, but good lord! The text strings are getting cut off the edge of the screen! Why would anyone build this?! Was this Tim’s idea of a personal challenge before he “died”? Try and create an OS that intelligently adapts to the ludicrous shapes of the monitor it is using? Did Harold Allnut ask Bruce what kind of batcomputer Kate would need and he was just like “go nuts”?

Epting, I swear, this is…brilliant. Just beyond brilliant. Seriously, neither Kate nor Julia seem particularly pleased with it so it just tells a story all on its own. One of stupid and/or ambitious design goals. Seriously, not even Batman would have a computer monitor shaped like his symbol. He might have like, an shell around with that shape, but never the actual screen. I hate everything about this and yet I love it because it is exactly the kind of unintentional extra that Kate exhibits by more or less breathing. Rather than brooding, of course.

Even though she totally does that, too. Just not as intensely. Or without reason.

After Julia is all coy about Kate having never heard of the island nation of Coryana, Kate has a mini internal swearing fit and goes up to the deck to relax and think about that year she spent as a trophy lover for an international crime syndicate’s leader. Guess she couldn’t really forget Safiyah, huh?

Julia joins her on the deck with martinis in hand, because of course she does, and teases her about the presumed brooding. And also about how Kate is super focused on “doing what Batman can’t”, which means she’s been talking about that this entire time instead of it just being this personal goal of hers that she doesn’t verbalize. This is both hilarious and apt.

The short answer, so far, to that question is “operate in broad daylight in a way that doesn’t look ridiculous”. Which is pretty impressive, since meta-textually, there’s a damn good reason that Kate would prefer to work in the light. It’s about not having to hide who she is, both as a Jewish woman and as a lesbian. And as someone who suffers from PTSD. The shadows are effective, but not when you want to make a statement that needs to be loud.

Things like, well, Bennett already wrote a great example:

If there ever comes a day when DC Bombshells isn’t relevant, that’ll be a miracle.

Anyway, Kate cuts through all of Julia’s charm and asks her what the hell she’s really doing there, helping Kate. Is she Kate’s babysitter, her Q, or Bruce’s spy? Julia responds by not…responding. Because she’s a giant snarky troll and knows her reaction can be read about two thousand different ways.

“If that’s a veiled criticism about me, I won’t hear it. And I won’t respond to it.” —Lucille Bluth Julia Pennyworth

And failure to get a straight answer out of her super-spy handler. That’d be number eight.

Julia skips the part where Kate gets to ask follow-up questions and tells her that the Belfry’s entry regarding Coryana was more or less the same as the Canary Islands but also labeled, presumably, by the “late” Tim Drake as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Which is a “twist of the knife”. Twist of the…oh. Hah! I get it. It’s because of the plot twist that Tahani is the assassin known as Knife. Stop reading the script, Julia! Kate is a master at puns and cheesy one-liners, so she’ll figure out what happens next!

Then, Julia asks Kate what Coryana is, which means that she failed to keep her past as tightly held a secret as she thought. Ding!

 Hiding in Plain Sight

This is, by and large, the single most powerful moment in the issue. It’s also one of the best Kate Kane moments ever. And no, I’m not talking about that bit about her burial at sea, or her the fact that she didn’t care if she lived or died anymore since she couldn’t find a new sense of purpose. Those are poignant and evocative, too. Very much so. But this? This is…different. This is a whole new level of savvy that, well, to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. Neither has Kylie.

And it’s not like we aren’t on the lookout for this level of awareness—we are. We once tried to name all the primary media characters not written by Larry David or Woody Allen that spoke Yiddish as something that wasn’t exclusively for a joke/actually made sense and we came up with…the grandparents from Rugrats. That’s it. That’s all we could find or remember. Though that was before Snapper from CW’s Supergirl did it, so that’s three instead of two I guess.

Look, the point is that there really aren’t all that many Jews in media. 99% of the time, it’s “half-Jewish” (which is not actually a thing but that’s a whole other conversation), since only the father of the character is Jewish due to jewishness being passed matrilineally, because that lets the writers say they’ve got a Jewish character without actually doing anything or addressing it like it normally would be literally every day of their lives.

Think Annie Edison from Community or Felicity Smoak from CW’s Arrow. That’s just how it is, so when we’re confronted with something so drastically different due to its accuracy and appropriate understanding of an all too familiar sense of dread and fear…it’s rather shocking. Because people don’t get it. It’s weird for Jewish people to see themselves represented in a way that is both organic and displays a deep, empathetic understanding of what it actually means to be a Jew living in the world.

So, when something like this suddenly appears it’s…well, it kind of seems impossible.

This is scary. It’s real fear, much like last week’s white supremacist meta-narrative becoming all to clear. Kate is a Jewish woman and she is very far from home. There was an interview many months ago where Tynion talked about how he and Bennett wanted Kate to be so well known across the world, due to her partying and drinking and “scandalized” removal from the Army, that she could walk into the dingiest back alley bar in Cairo and they would know her drink of choice.

At the time, I thought this meant “they know she’s gay and rich.” Not “they know she’s gay, rich and Jewish.” But that’s what this is. Rafael patches Kate up, shaves the side of her head so she can get stitches, and reminds her that she’s not an unknown right now. She is not truly hiding who she is, though part of Kate clearly understood this. Of course, Rafael makes two false assumptions about Jewish people that tell us just how smart Kate was about this.

And boy, oh boy, was she smart.

The first is rather simple: “All Jews keep Kosher”. Yeah. Not true. I don’t. Have you ever had crab? Or burgers? Crazy! Tons and tons don’t keep Kosher, but plenty keep a Kosher kitchen which basically means they keep Kosher at home, but not when eating out. Middle ground because that’s like, our thing. Even so, this is an extremely common misconception that is very deeply ingrained into the cultural consciousness when it comes to what non-Jews know about Jewish people. As such, many assume that Jews cannot eat or drink something unless they know for sure that it is Kosher…which is sorta true for the people who do keep Kosher, but not to some intense degree that Rafael is implying. Which is honestly part of what makes this so perfect: he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Second, though, is a lot more subtle and far more impressive.

Kate’s a target, and a big one. Terrifying enough that she’s queer in an area that no one would call safe (not that Gotham particularly is…), but she’s also a woman. And to top it all off, she’s Jewish. The amount of hate she suffers through…well, I can empathize with two-thirds of it, let’s go with that. Question is, how can she shake people from her trail that would want to do her harm? How can she up her chances of survival and hiding who she is? Exploit the hell out of her tattoos. It’s not why she got them, but she’d be a fool not to use them to her advantage. I’d bet good money that any and all flashbacks we see will have Kate wearing something sleeveless or with a very low-cut back so they are always on display.

See, it’s a common misconception that Jews cannot get tattoos. Since, if they do they can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries as it is considered self-mutilation. There was a time when this was true, but it hasn’t been for quite a while, at least in the vast majority of Reform and Conservative sects. Even some Orthodox sects are starting coming around to the idea of dropping that rule, since if tattoos are a form of self-expression, why would that also be considered self-mutilation?

Kate knows all of this. Rafael, along with pretty much everybody she could ever possibly meet on her years long booze-cruise, do not. So yes, it would normally “throw people off” that she’s Jewish, as it apparently did rather well. After all, according to Rafael…it’s just a rumor, even though it’s true. His comments about blood and pain and scars require no explanation.

Kate is who she is, no matter how hard she tries to hide it: an angry Jewish lesbian woman. Who is sometimes out for justice. Occasionally with a gun. But not like, crying for Justice—okay, I’ll stop because you can’t hear the drum snare.

So, yeah. That’s what that is, and it’s going to stick with me, and many others, for a long, long time. More than that, though, is that this was written by two non-Jewish people. And if I didn’t know that for damn sure, I’d assume they were. That’s how perfect this is. That’s how spot on. I know Bennett did exhaustive research into Judaism when developing DC Bombshells, but I never imagined that she’d get it on a level this deep. Bombshells didn’t need to be subtle; its Jewishness is front and center and a big focus.

But this? This is so far beyond that. This is different. This is something else. This is phenomenal.

Sure, queerness and Jewishness have a decent amount of things in common. How the world reacts and treats both groups, and the suffering along the way, but—well, Kylie said it best when we discussed this at length: it’s all about the language of the oppressed. Neither James Tynion IV nor Marguerite Bennett are straight, so with enough research, hell, apparently anything’s possible.

Right. Anyway, moving on from that. Just gonna kick the counter up for failing to hide her full identity from strangers and keep on going. Or for cracking her head into a rock while being a drunken dipshit. Take your pick.

Loose Lips Sink Ships, Kate!

After Tahani reenacts the ending of The Godfather, where Safiyah is apparently Michael Corleone and Kate is…whoever the hell his wife was, and Rafael ominously narrating about finding things, we snap back to the present as the Sequoia approaches the coast of Coryana. We’re back in Kate’s head again, and it seems like she’s ready to burn the whole damn island to the ground.

She reminisces about pain once more, focusing on the emotional and psychological kind rather than the physical. Then she considers what one would have to do to cause themselves more pain, which is just par for the freaking course for her and that other lady who she keeps reminding me of. And then she…gets off the ship by using a random chain to swing across—seriously, Kate? It’s the middle of the day! If you keep doing crap like this your supposedly perfect stealthy approach is going to mean nothing. Well, even if that does happen, at least nobody remembers who—

It took you thirty seconds and you’re already screwing it all up. Classic Kate.

Okay. Okay, that’s fine. You coulda tried to, y’know, not respond to him but I guess you got caught up in the moment of seeing an old friend. It happens. To you. Pretty much only to you, but that’s what happens when you don’t dissociate with a persona. Regardless, he seemed nice. You remembered him fondly. He’s an ally, then. He can help you…

Dying. Because of something you did. Dying because of something you did. In a comic published on The Ides of March. Goddamnit, Kate. You and your dramatic irony.

Welp. Guess we’re in for one hell of a ride, huh? But, uh bad news about that, friends. Batwoman #2 won’t be out until April 19th. That’s five weeks instead of four.

But not the counter! That’s gonna keep going.

NEXT WEEK: We get to find out if Kate survives getting stabbed with magic swords! Again! Doesn’t that just sound exciting?

Oh stop being so dramatic. You’ve had bigger swords in worse places! Tough it out.

Well, I think it does.


BATWOMAN #1

Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks: Steve Epting

Colors: Jeromy Cox

Letterer: Deron Bennett

Griffin is an Entertainment Writer operating out of the Chicago area. He likes puzzles, deconstructing other puzzles, and talk show branded ice cream flavors.

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Fanfinites Gift Guide for the Comic Nerd in Your Life

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With the winter holidays bearing down upon us, the panic button for “What do I get them?” is now becoming a tempting last resort. Fear not, our team of Fanfinites has compiled a holiday gift list guaranteed to please any comic geek in your life.

Jorge

Green Arrow Rebirth vol. 4: Rise of Star City
This is a great gift for the green arrow fan in your life, moving into one of the best arcs in the current series of Green Arrow. In one of the most action-packed, fun, and emotional adventures with team Green Arrow it leaves much to enjoy whether you’re a long time reader of the series or just getting into it. With stunning art by Juan Ferreyra and Eleonora Carlini and masterful storytelling by Benjamin Percy, this book belongs in any great DC collection.

Ian

Journey to The Last Jedi: Captain Phasma
It’s a double-whammy, a great comic, and a great Star Wars story. After a disappointing turn in The Force Awakens, it turns out Phasma is just as ruthless and evil as we all hoped she would be. Perfect for the Star Wars fan in your life.

Milan

Sex Criminals Vol. 4: Fourgy!
The end-of-year holidays are always a time inviting good cheer and reflection. And there’s no better way to partake of that spirit than with some bonkers fucking and dildo throwing. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s magnificent brainchild deeply explores the nuances of relationships, responsibility, and adulthood while compromising none of their usual humour and shenanigans. A must-read for anyone who doesn’t hate happiness.

Priscilla

Ms. Marvel vol. 8: Mecca
You can never go wrong with Ms. Marvel, a series remarkable for its consistent quality over the years. Kamala Khan is an incredibly relatable hero and this was a great arc for her. Mecca shows the power of superhero stories to explore complex real life topics with sensitivity, all without losing humor and superpowered fights. Old fans will enjoy how well this arc ties to her journey so far, but it’s still accessible to new readers.

Kori

Green Lanterns Vol. 4: The First Rings (Rebirth)
It’s no secret how much the Fanfinites love Green Lanterns, particularly Jessica Cruz. With the upcoming fourth and final trade for Sam Humphries’ marvelous run on the title, we finally get to see the birth of the Lantern Corps, and how big of a role Jessica and Simon Baz have in shaping not only the Corps but the universe itself.

Holiday Sweater

If you’re feeling something a bit more festive, don’t forget to take a look at our store! We have a custom-designed holiday sweater this season, made especially for the Kate Kane fan in your life!


Images courtesy of Marvel, DC, and Image Comics

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Saga Delivers a Questionable Respite

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I find Saga‘s plot to be a good selling point on its own. The adventures of a forbidden couple in a war-torn galaxy—simple, neat, and beautifully illustrated and written. However, one other thing I really like is the notion of culture we get on each destination. No two places are alike. With every change of scenery, we get a taste of unique flora, fauna, religion, politics, peoples, and worldviews. It’s quite an ambitious setting, even if we only get to taste a dash per arc. And our heroes’ sour business in Pervious proves no different. Last issue generated a bit of a buildup on this planet’s aesthetic and ethic. Today we start to see what makes this sandy place stand out.

Spoiler alert: it’s nasty. But that’s only as far as the first few pages. The rest, concerning our heroes, is not unpleasant, but ‘strange’ would be underselling it.

Issue #44
“Mommy just had a bad dream”

Whether by Deliverance or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the collective imaginarium on the hillbilly as a trope paints a rather unflattering picture. Regardless of any possible validity when comparing the trope with real life, we know these characters to be dogmatic, narrow-minded, and prone to violence. If last issue had something of a cowboyish feel, the centaur dune dwellers we meet pose a different theme altogether. Enter a roguish pack that exhibits a disturbing likeness to certain conservative population sectors. The moral coherence on these three is suitably puzzling as well. They’re perfectly willing to rob and kill two Landfallians on their way to Abortion Town, yet they disapprove of the couple’s decision.

A centaur mother and son, and the second human I recall seeing thus far in this comic identify a peculiar set of footprints on the sand. This is how the possible new set of baddies hop on the ‘pursue Alana and Marko’ train. Their motivations may simply be the loot they entitle themselves to, but the outcome of the purpose often involves killing and a callous conscience on the matter.

Meanwhile, the mood aboard the family’s rocketship can best be described as weird. Considering how Alana dispatched last issue’s poop monsters with magic, the tone of grief and urgency have given way to puzzlement. Something I rather love about these panels is the casualness with which they discuss this impossible event. Marko’s fresh out of the shower and in a towel, Petrichor does laundry, Hazel amusingly misuses a word for kinky grown-ups without knowing it. It’s a scene virtually pulled out of a Sunday in any human family’s household. However, Alana violently hurling some black substance is not something that commonplace. That’s a visual cue to remind us things are quite grave, alright.

So, here’s the plan. Petrichor, whose hands are still injured stays behind to watch the ship. She’ll have Marko’s wedding band-translation device to hold the fort verbally and sword-ly. As for Alana, Marko, and Hazel… they’ll put on some cowboy hats (and a hoodie for Marko’s horns). And then they’ll roguishly hop aboard a train, because of-god-damned-course.

We couldn’t forgive ourselves, Brian or Fiona, or life itself, if we didn’t have that scene. This comic handles plenty of the kind of action we’d expect in a movie. And I gotta say, Fiona’s pen translates the feeling of movement really well into the panels. I don’t know how challenging that really is, but Rob Liefeld’s work is a clear indication that it’s very possible to screw that up. So cheers as ever, Miss Staples.

Now, back to Petrichor. Of all the non-hostile characters in this comic, I find her to be the most alluring. Past the novelty of being a trans character not used as a token, she hints so very much. We know her to be very close to her roots in Wreath, its traditions, values and mysticism. This, in turn informs her features as a soldier in a binary war. And that, by extension, nurtures her two most important characteristics: competence and loyalty. However, we don’t know much about her past. This issue corrects that via her stoic mourning of a lost love. The palette of dark blue against pale fire appropriately conveys a feeling of melancholy and gravitas.

Petri casts her lost love’s picture into the fire, which is the universal code for moving on. The ambience grows in relevance. Having done this, she performs a prayer-ritual beseeching the Wreath Saints. The bloodletting is an ingredient befitting the most important of esoteric affairs, be it oaths or blood magic. So, what is Petrichor’s purpose in all this? Well, she’s praying to the Saints to send her someone to fuck. There is indeed some humour behind this apparent dissonance between deed and intent. However, if we go by D. Oswald Heist’s notion that the opposite of war is fucking, Petri has just joined the rest of the cast regarding sexual desire. True enough, when these characters aren’t busy killing, running, or Saga-ing, the’re most definitely having intercourse.

The Saints, on their part, answer to this momentous prayer by literally raining on her bonfire. The dicks. However, that is not the worst development to occur in the scene, as the rogues have followed Sir Robot’s footprints all the way here. Seeing Petrichor’s magic wielding, their most immediate response is to kill her. Although it appears the youngest bandit is not particularly into the idea. We can expect him to thwart the killing, or perhaps prove the gift-in-disguise Petrichor asked for. We’ll see.

This issue closes on a dreamy note, by which we mean a nightmare sequence. Alana dreams about a kinky encounter she had back in the day. The tone turns dark as her partner (not Marko) reproaches her for her habits, to which he attributes her baby’s death. The Fadeaway episode that partially led to the schism between Marko and her was a nasty bit, but we know this is not the reason she lost the baby. This is her own guilt speaking, and it’s difficult to shake guilt off, especially if the character has a conscience. Alana wakes up to find her husband peacefully asleep. But she is not the only one awake inside this train car. Her son is standing right before her.

You know, the one that was never born. Whereas Hazel took more after her mother, this little impossible one takes more after his dad. Cool-looking kids Alana and Marko produce, no doubt about that. This kid looks to be around Hazel’s age, which is just as well, she certainly needs some friends her age to overcome the trauma conga line she has endured. We can surely expect things to get weirder from here on out. But thus far, this has been one of the strangest turns in a comic series that delightfully revels on the bizarre and the unexpected.


Saga #44 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Analysis

A Great Year for Green Arrow

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When DC’s Rebirth event finally began, there were a lot of expectations surrounding another rebranding of its universe. It didn’t end up being a complete clean slate event like the New 52, but instead drew off of its predecessor and went into an entirely new direction. While still considered somewhat successful, a lot of comic fans were very disappointed to see the way their favorite heroes were reinvented as not every single title was given the attention they deserved, ala the few good titles on the New 52.  One the biggest offenders back then, in 2011, was Green Arrow. The writing brought us a younger Oliver Queen with a personality that was very different from his beloved 70s-90s counterpart and the stories were either just stuck at decent or just plain bad. Equally infuriating was the decision to not include his long time partner and love interest, Black Canary.

However, when Rebirth began releasing its one shot titles heralding the coming of most of its early series I was so incredibly impressed with how Benjamin Percy took what pieces his predecessors had left and shaped to create such a wonderfully fresh entry for a new generation of comic readers. Seriously, the first issue of Green Arrow blew me away with it’s set up to a series long villain that’s still working strong 35 issues into the series, serving as a critical look into today’s society. This is a staple of the Green Arrow history and his label a DC’s biggest social justice warrior. Plus Percy brought Black Canary back into the fold, like he’s my favorite just for that.

The first half of the year for DC’s Rebirth included some really good titles but honestly none of them had me impatiently waiting every two weeks for a new issue like Green Arrow did and this isn’t me just saying that because I’m a huge fan of the character to begin with. The stories for the first fourteen issues were marked with immersive storytelling and mystery that expanded into more with every arc, the build up of a villainous organization that were victorious where counter parts like New 52’s Court of Owls failed (don’t mind my disdain for them), and such great character development on all fronts that not reading into the history of this version of Oliver Queen didn’t make a new reader lost or daunted. In my opinion, Green Arrow is one of the best, if not the best, titles that DC has out right now.

With the year ending though, we’ve seen several great arcs and issues that stood out from each marking them as the pinnacle of storytelling and quality come from each month as the series moves further into greatness. I’d like to look back on this amazing year for the series by picking out the five best issues included in it to help fans remember what has made them love the series and perhaps even entice some new readers into picking up this great series. A note that I will only be choosing from issue #14 and on since that was the first issue of 2017. Also this is simply my opinion of what the five best issues are so if you don’t agree we can discuss it in the comments where I will fight you to death! Just kidding, no but seriously.

5. Issue 29: Hard-Traveling Heroes pt. 4: Hunting Grounds

Highlights: Batman v.s. Green Arrow, Court of Owls Cameo

Now you’re probably wondering why I chose this one when I just showed off how much I disliked the Court of Owls. Well that’s quite simple, if you’ve read this one because they’re given literally the most minuscule of roles and it serves just for Ollie to throw them back into the realm of irrelevance from whence they came. Anyway, this issue has Oliver travel into Gotham and infiltrate said organization to find a Ninth Circle double agent infiltrating their ranks in order to establish a calculated downfall of the city. It’s one of the few times, in this series anyway, that we get to see Oliver don his non-hero self as he infiltrates the Court by simply being himself. What we get from this is a social commentary on the dangers of elitism and a criticism on some activities of the 1%, though I’m sure most of them don’t hunt the homeless for sport.

Go away, seriously

Yet the best part of this issue was of course the fight and then team up between Green Arrow and Batman. This arc was marked by Oliver teaming up with a different member of the Justice League in each issue to take on the Ninth Circle and keeping them from doing to other cities what they had done in Seattle. Having Batman featured in this one was sure to make every fan scream with pure excitement. Oliver is often mentioned as being the lighter version of Bruce, having the same upbringing, well similar at best, they both fight for the same reasons but take completely different approaches to it. Either it was great to see these two battle one another and do battle together as they took on one of the Ninth Circles burnt lieutenants.

4. Issue 33: Trial of Two Cities pt. 1: Homecoming

Highlights: Return of Moira Queen, Oliver and Dinah make up, and the return of Shado

This is one of the more recent entries on this list but definitely sets up the current arc involving the trial of Oliver Queen. For those who don’t remember, Oliver is currently on trial after his death being faked as a murder suicide along with one of his secretaries in order to throw his name in the mud early on in the series. When he reveals that he’s still alive he’s put on trial for her murder and recently decides that in order for him to do any good as either Oliver Queen or the Green Arrow he must clear his name. Also recently he’s been taking the fight to the Ninth Circle which shows us that the climax of the conflict may soon be upon us.

My reason for this issue being on this list is extremely shallow but I’m pretty okay with it. Since the end of the Rise of Star City, Dinah and Oliver have been going through a pretty rough time together which was exacerbated by the fact that Oliver got up and left for the Hard-Traveling Heroes arc. Seeing the two of them make up and resume their passionate relationship is both beautiful and extremely cringe worthy.

We also find out that Moira Queen is still alive and had taken her husband’s place among the ranks of the Ninth Circle. Though it is clear there is a division in their ranks as the heads of the organization feel that her and Cyrus have not lived up to their expectations. They secretly call on the assassin, Shado, to collect their dues from her while Moira merciless ends Cyrus Broderick who has been a villain for most of the series. She drops the bomb that she’s still alive to Ollie at the conclusion of the book but it’s unclear whether she’s there to hide behind her soon or eventually sell him to the Ninth Circle, we’ll just have to see where her cold heart takes her.

Yikes

3.Issue 14: Emerald Outlaw pt. 3

Highlights: Green Arrow vs. The Dark Archer, The return of Malcolm Merlyn

Yeah I know I was stretching with mentioning the 14th issue of the series early on but honestly could you not include an issue that brought the return of the Green Arrow’s arch nemesis? Not only at that, but the original incarnation of said villain? I mean come on the choice was pretty obvious. For those of you who had the…”pleasure” of reading the New 52 Green Arrow you’ll know that the Dark Archers persona was given to Tommy Merlyn in a weird story that I’m not going to get into right now, so seeing the patriarch of the family return to evil glory was pretty amazing.

The Moneyshot!

The issue itself was pretty solid as well. With a string of attempted murders with a stolen Green Arrow, the police are on the hunt for the Green Arrow and Oliver is on the hunt for the archer to clear the Green Arrows name. The ensuing fight between the two is epic and beautifully drawn but also sets up for the next few issue which Oliver would be facing some of his toughest enemies and situations in the entire run of the series.

2. Issue 16: Emerald Outlaw pt. 5

Highlights: Final showdown with the Vice Squad, THAT ending

I tried really hard not to include two issues so close to each other but damn this was a great arc. For the entirety of it, Oliver was dealing with public opinion being against him, the looming threat of the Ninth Circle and the Dark Archer, and the ever violent threat of former police officers who were suspended for unlawful brutality forming the vigilante group know as the Vice Squad. The struggle was absolutely real for Oliver in these past few issues but little did he know it was only going to get worse from here on out.

The final showdown with the group was exciting and action packed as the Green Arrow schooled them in their ways and bringing to a head the social commentary of police brutality in the United States. As usual he hits us with what we need to hear and does a damn good job of it, especially the wise words of Chief Westberg, “…the best person to handle a bad cop…is a good cop”. This statement resonates with how the police force have a responsibility to not only watch over their own but to assure that justice will always be unbiased. The ending though is what makes this such a great book, the very same chief is killed by another green arrow in the Dark Archer arsenal and it really hurts to see him go after how much he’s contributed, pity that it would be blamed on Oliver as well.

1.Issue 24: The Rise of Star City: Finale

Highlights: Everything!

This one was definitely my favorite of probably the entire series. A glorious end to a wonderful arc and sets up just how much a hero can lose even if he wins. Starting off from the previous issue where the Space Needle was blown up to destroy the symbol of Seattle in order to start the conversion in the Ninth Circles corporate run Star City, our heroes are slowly collecting themselves after a major defeat. The issue splits up Oliver as he’s on the hunt for the Ninth Circle’s Seattle leader, Cyrus, as his friends work to defend the city from the likes of Chesire and Brick.

The revelation of his family’s involvement and the subsequent fight between Oliver and Cyrus is brutal and unflinching, ending quite harshly for him. The fight is exciting in the city as the action flows with both humor and amazing art from my current favorite artist, Juan Ferreyra. Yet what I took away most from this issue is not only personal growth and responsibility on his part but on ours. Oliver finally gives himself up to the police, determined in the fact that only Oliver Queen can save this city. As I’ve stated multiple times already, the staple of the Green Arrow series is to bring to our face the social injustices of the day and how we, not need to address, but to give them the attention that they need in order for us to grow and learn to do something about them.

Anyway this was my list I look forward to another great year of Green Arrow and if you haven’t read anything of it yet, I hope this list makes you give it a try!

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