Monday, July 15, 2024

Batwoman Brings It Home

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]
There was real consideration in making a 3×3 “Batwoman Bingo” board so that readers could join in on the fun of teasing the sincere fallibility that inherently comes with Batwoman, not too dissimilar to the Epic Book Report Rubric Kylie and I made for the upcoming Legend of Korra comics, but in the end it was decided that, uh, that’d be trying just like, way too hard. Just way too over-the-top, you know? The analog counter is one thing—actually let’s just plop that right here before we get any further:

But anyway, a bingo board? C’mon, if there’s one thing I try to avoid it’s low hanging fruit. In most contexts, at least. Though, if you think about it, innuendo isn’t really a low-hanging fruit so much as it is something we’re naturally attuned to, sort of like puns. Which are, and it’s okay if you disagree, actually great and funny and clever! There—there aren’t any puns in this chapter? I can’t remember where I was going with this… Oh! Now I remember!

Neither can Tahani! Zing! Eh? Because she’s delusional? You get it. Probably?

As you can see by the title, Batwoman #4 did indeed nail the landing. Bennett, Tynion, Epting and Cox, if you’ll permit me the wordplay, knocked it out of the park. Let’s figure out the how and why, shall we?

The Many Moods, The Many Shades, The Many Sides of George Costanza Tahani Simon-Sans-Garfunkel Jacob Beth Kate Kane

So, as it turns out, I was onto something last month when I dug even deeper into Batwoman #3, regarding all the stuff that I missed. While I didn’t get to touch on imperialism/white colonialism in my reviews, it was absolutely something on my mind. However, beyond that, I actually didn’t quite put together the specifics of the Twins trying to pull a “false-flag” operation, wherein they create a—well, they explain it perfectly well themselves:

Pictured: the literal definition of War For Fun And Profit

We’re shown, in no uncertain terms, just how extreme Tahani’s life became a perversion of Kate’s personal journey, right down to the near identical splash page of shattered memory glass (though not tinted red this time) and a second parallel of the opening to Batwoman #2. Plus, Imperialism! Colonialism! Allusions to smallpox and the many other plagues that white settlers gave to indigenous peoples! You know, basic evil white people stuff.

Tahani was absolutely a weapon forged by Safiyah, which Kate goes about explicating rather loudly for dramatic effect. But the full extent of this “apprenticeship” implies that…well, Tahani is a bare minimum of three years older than Kate. In fact, I did some math to support it! See, if Kate was 23 during her Lost Year, and she’s 30 now (trust me, she is), that means she was gone for seven years. If Tahani was 26 when she first returned to Coryana, then, again, she has to be at least three years older than Kate. She could be older, as we don’t know how long it took for Kate to get there, but somewhere around 33 is a safe bet.

What does this mean? Well, it could mean that Kate’s origin is not just a compressed and streamlined (by design) version of Batman’s training, but it is also, indirectly, a more or less perfected iteration of Tahani’s, since that one came first. The message here could be that Kate is really the “best” version of herself, or that she’s set on path where such a thing is possible for her, while Tahani is just…completely delusional. Through their entire fight in the caves, she’s damning Kate for what she believes Batwoman represents: good ol’ fashioned British-style colonialism! Except that’s not what Kate is doing, nor has she ever really done. That’s what the Kali Corporation is doing; what the Many Arms of Death are doing. It’s really a big mess of an Enemy Mine situation.

Even more intriguing though, however, is that there seems to be an implication of Tahani being receiving training from the League of Shadows, whose ideology is directly at odds with the very idea of what Coryana is. Hell, same goes for the League of Assassins; this is really the kind of place that Ra’s al Ghul would destroy under the right conditions. The way in which the Many Arms of Death attempted to do so, though, are not that.

But yeah, Tahani goes out of her way to describe how proper crop rotation works, and even dips a little into Ra’s mentality regarding environmentalism…even if it’s pretty off-base since she doesn’t see humanity as itself a corruption.

Au Naturale

All this talk of parallels and delusions brings me back to my larger point: the concept of “twins” in Batwoman right now is not as literal as it seemed to be at first. I mean, we had the twin foxes (and Tahani refers to Kate as one as well) running around through the entire run so far. We’ve had Elder and Younger, and we’ve also got Kate and Beth even though that one hasn’t truly come to play quite yet. There’s also Kate and Simon-Sans-Garfunkel, who are going to be at one another’s throats in the second arc of this book, beginning with Batwoman #7 thanks to fear toxin and being stranded in the Sahara…two things Kate has explicit experience in. Really, look it up! And finally, there’s Kate and her father Jacob, who’ve been reflections of one another ever since Elegy first hit the stands.

There is, however, one more, curious aspect of this development I’m going to be keeping an eye on: twins as weapons. It’s a piece of dialogue that was added for Batwoman Rebirth that a friend reminded me of about a day before Batwoman #4 dropped that I’d completely forgotten about. But, as a narrative rule, if it’s there, it serves a purpose. Chekov’s Gun, my friends.

I wish we had more flashbacks with Gabi, even if it’s just from Jacob’s perspective. Two Jewish soldiers meeting, falling in love and having kids is one hell of a story.

All of the twins I’ve listed, both literal and figurative, are forged weapons. Beth was forged by madness (probably?), Simon was forged by being a whiny shit men, Tahani was forged by Safiyah and Jacob…I’m pretty sure the idea is that Jacob forged himself and those around him into weapons, considering the context of the Colony. And Kate, well, as she’s said before, she was forged by fire. Whether that’s more about perseverance, literal gunsmoke, self determination, or possibly just simple individuality brought upon her expulsion from West Point, I can’t quite say for sure. But we do know that it is a method, and a result, that at least one young woman wishes she could emulate.

The Cave of No Return Policies

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we get to dig into the actual plot of Batwoman #4. Kate’s priority is to make sure the island doesn’t explode, so she tosses a miniature E.M.P. device to Adelaide Stern—she’s the maybe-probably Israeli assassin—aaaaaaaand is immediately pushed down a waterfall in a way that for some reason reminds me of that time Arthur Conan Doyle tried kill off Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in much the same manner (which he then retconned a decade later thanks to constant letters and death threats).

Also it brings Snyder’s Death of the Family arc to mind, where the Joker more or less throws himself into the water rather than learn that Batman knew who he truly was…? Still don’t quite get that one, but seriously what is it with dark reflections/foils and waterfalls?

Tahani starts ranting, again, about how Kate was a toy, though I’m not sure she realizes just how accurate that was in a different context. Kate finds an oddly placed rose on the floor, which may or may not be the result of head trauma (could be a Xanatos Gambit by the true big bad?), and is too distracted by the flower to counter Tahani picking her up by the hair and smashing her into the rock wall—wait, how did she…what?!

But Dick!Bats went over this way back in Batwoman: Elegy which was then almost immediately subverted twice! It’s a wig, and we saw last issue and as far back as the first that she’d gotten a buzzcut again! We even see it at the end of Batwoman #4 itself! How—was it gorilla glued to her scalp?!

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I mean, this doesn’t seem physically possible, but hey, Rule of Cool! Or is it Rule of Funny, in this case? Yes. Yes, it’s that, because my sides hurt. I want to frame this. Can this even count as just one? I’ll have to consult with our panel of experts. Which…okay, we don’t…have one of those? So it’s gonna be totally arbitrary, just like everything else with this counter, in case you needed a tiny reminder. I dunno, it’s worth more than double points, but less than ten-times, so…quintuple? Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s add five to the board!

Adelaide activates the E.M.P., which cuts out the lights, probably junks a bunch of those weapons, and leaves Kate and Tahni beating the piss out of another in mostly-pitch-black. Though, as we’ll see later, Kate already knows the layout of this place pretty well…and I can’t help but be reminded of Batwoman #0, what with the Siberian boxing ring training to fight blindfolded and concussed in a pool of her own blood. Tahani rants some more, this time actually getting to that colonialism/imperialism stuff, as well as the capitalism aspects I outlined in my last piece, and seems to be under the impression that Kate’s heart is…broken? This is news to me and literally everyone else. Man, she really just does not get Kate on a fundamental level, which is endlessly interesting to watch. Because maybe if she did understand her, the odds could tip in her favor.

Except of course she doesn’t, and they don’t, because it’s all about a girl. It’s always been about a girl, and while this isn’t surprising or even an actual twist…it’s still absolutely amazing to see Kate give less than zero fucks about how she stole her girlfriend like seven years ago. Because that’s exactly what that is. Tahani can’t let go of the past, as I’ve gone over, and this…well, this is a huge part of why. She can’t let Safiyah go, and it’s just sad.

And then Kate gets thrown down another waterfall (which isn’t weird because the diagram of the caves below the island actually shows several large drops!), landing finally at Tahani’s makeshift dock. How she managed to pull an Apocalypse Now last issue is anyone’s guess, since she can’t swim up a waterfall, but whatever. Kate may be in control, sorta kinda, but she still got shoved down a waterfall twice.

Then Kate sets the water around the speedboat on fire with the sparks from Tahani’s discarded knife.

How did she do that? Well, she knows the lay of the land just as well as Tahani does and either A.) siphoned gas out of the speed boat’s tank to create that ring of fire, meaning she got there after Tahani but staged this whole thing or B.) she realized that this is exactly where Tahani would likely try to escape (which isn’t a hard thing to figure out; only so many entrances or exits) and got lucky with how wide she made her ring of fire. I’m leaning towards the former, because it’s the kind of way Kate would cheat. Anyway, it matters not, since Tahani once again escapes into the sky—

—paralleling the flames and “hole-in-the-ceiling” from Batwoman #1, and everyone lived happily ever after. Hah, no, but can you even imagine? That’d be insane.

Master Of Her Domain

After Julia finishes patching Kate up on the surface of an unsanitized bar (which was her choice, so why is she blaming Kate?), we get a hint that, because Julia has her own cache of gear, she’ll be going out in the field sooner or later. That is pretty great, and I’m excited to see that team-up. Everyone else is celebrating and Song Tae-Ree…Ri? Batwoman #2 said “Tae-Ri”, but this one says Tae-Ree. I guess…they’re pronounced the same? Probably? Still, the implication is that these are different sounds, as they use different letters, so, great job at forgetting this woman’s name, Kate. Super classy.

Tae-Ri, or, uh, Ree, or…screw it, we’re using her nickname. Black Flag tells Kate that they managed to arrange it so that the deed to the Desert Rose is Kate’s, as soon as she signs. And also that all the other land claims are really messed up now because an entire mega-corporation just pulled out of a massive real estate deal overnight with no warning. And nobody seems to care or believe that they were gonna blow up the island, which is just typical. Who’s gonna believe pirates? Pbbbth.

Kate considers taking them up on this offer, which would mean she would technically rule over the island (which itself is a microcosm of the world) as their new Warlord Queen and decides that she can’t do that. Probably because she’s not super into the whole “sitting on her butt and managing land disputes” thing. So she gets Black Flag to do it for her, since apparently the one with actual pirate fleet is the most business savvy and stable. Which…yeah, not that checks out. She’d have to be, considering the logistics of an operation like that. I mean, the act of shipping itself, forget about the act of piracy, would be one hell of a job to do. Yeah, good choice, Kate!

And then this happens:

Considering how blatant, specific, and confusingly perfect that little bit with tattoos and “keeping kosher” were in Batwoman #1, it’s safe to conclude that, thanks to the rather explicit wording by Black Flag, she’s asking Kate to help them mourn for Rafael. Because he doesn’t get to choose…well, it could mean a great many things. It could mean he didn’t get to choose his faith, much like how Jewishness works, possibly meaning he’s lapsed and Sephardic. It could mean he doesn’t get to choose how others mourn for him, and while the act itself may be not of how beliefs…it’s still an act of mourning. How one grieves and honors death. Or, in Tahani’s case, how one doesn’t.

But, regardless, Kate’s not nearly observant enough to formally sit shiva (look it up; it’s long and complicated), though she could have at least done the mourner’s kaddish or something. Though, curiously, Kate’s reasoning for not doing anything is that she has to leave…not that she doesn’t know how. Something to think about.

Anyway, Kate wanders back to the yacht with a rose and a bottle of…I’m assuming hard liquor, catching Julia in the middle of something not suspicious at all. She tells her that she’s not gonna do the stupid thing where she runs after her “lost love”, because she’s not that much of a fucking idiot, and recommits to what they’re doing. Which is about…Monster Venom? Probably? Eh, if it comes up again, it comes up. That was more an inciting incident to she could have this book, anyway. Not a bad one though.

Kate goes above deck and Julia Alt+Tabs her chat window back up, revealing that she was going to update Batman (presumably) on all the “bad” things Kate did. Which is really, really stretching Bruce’s control at this moment in time, especially with what’s been happening in Detective Comics. It’s more than a little strange that he’d have plans like this in place, at least in current continuity.

Regardless, if this were a more controlling Batman, then Kate wouldn’t even be doing this with him. So…it’s probably not him. Could it be Jacob? I don’t think he’d care if she killed people, with the proper justification of course, but he’d probably want to know. But then why would Julia go along with that? Just raises a ton of questions, most pressing of which is: what is Plan B?

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I mean, if you’ve got a better idea as to what it is, give it a shot. Anyway, we’ll probably never get to see that dance routine, as Julia decides not to do the thing and puts her trust in Kate. Perhaps because Bruce has done literally all the things that were listed in that message?

Oh, and the twins escaped, to the Vietnamese-Laos border to meet with their boss, a shadowy figure who couldn’t possibly be Safiyah. It’s probably Gabi, Kate’s dead mother! Or like…no. No, it’s almost definitely Safiyah. The rose, the foxes…why this is designed to be a “reveal” later on implies that it’s someone we don’t know, or perhaps something happened to Safiyah that would give too much away, but I dunno. Guess we’ll find out!

Right, before I close this out, two things: One, this is, as far as anyone knows, Epting’s last issue on Batwoman. Two, he drew her tattoos literally once in a flashback where it was explicitly mentioned and then never did so again despite Kate walking around in clothes where they would be plainly visible. I have no idea why this happened, maybe it was to save time or something but it’s weird that they never showed up again. Hopefully future artists, like next month’s Stephanie Hans, August’s Eddy Barrows and September’s Fernando Blanco (who will probably draw the entirety of the second arc) will draw these in because, uh, they’re…actually super important to characterization? Like I get that people forget the bluebird but the Green Beret one and the giant naval star? Those mean something to her, and they mean something to us.


Anyway, hell of way to close out an arc and damn the story depth just got about four times deeper. The whole thing really feels like a prologue to a much larger tale, and that’s…really what it should be? Starting out explosive and huge wouldn’t make sense for Kate. She’s gotta build to that, y’know? Just like that time it took 18 issues for her to save all those kidnapped kids and kill the gorgon Medusa with her bare hands. It started small, and worked its way up.

And if anyone’s wondering how this book is doing in sales? We’re good. There’s no reason or cause for concern. Seriously, it’s quite a bit higher up in numbers than Eisner-nominated (how?) Batgirl, desperately-needs-a-new-creative-team Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and a bunch of other DC stuff they haven’t cancelled.

NEXT WEEK: Zatanna probably does some more cool stuff!


Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks: Steve Epting

Colors: Jeromy Cox

Letterer: Deron Bennett

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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