I have a question. Why does DC put all its female led books into two weeks instead spreading them out through the month? Last week we had Batgirl, Batwoman and Huntress. This week Birds of Prey, Supergirl and Wonder Woman came out. Why not put spread them out a bit?
With that out of the way, here’s a wrap-up review of DC books* with kick ass women.
Written by J.H. WILLIAMS III and W. HADEN BLACKMAN; Art and cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
I reviewed this issue of Batwoman on the "3 Chicks Podcast" this week and once again if like good comics and want complex female lead give this book a try. In this issue Kate Kane was forced to confront her emotions about her sister’s death in confrontation with the Weeping Woman. This is the most self-reflecting we’ve seen Kate in this run. And it results in Kate pushing her other female relative, Bette, out of her life and to move forward her relationship with Maggie Sawyer. And just what Cameron Chase is up to is more revealed as we see her confront Kate’s father.
The art is as beautiful as we have come to expect from Williams. How he manages to make each page so beautiful and propel the story along shows a master’s touch. I wish they would let him teach a masters class to some other artists in DC’s stable (Marvel too).
By the end of the issue we are left with Kate drained and with her defenses down. Unlike her male counterparts, Kate is aware that she’s hitting bottom (though I’m still not quite comfortable with the genderized term she uses to describe herself).
Her world, like the water that almost engulfed and drowned her, is closing in on her. She’s seems to have found an anchor in Maggie but even with their tender kiss on the last page Williams and Blackman undermine it with a sense of dread.
This book is one of the top three books of the new 52 along side of Scott Snyder’s Batman (which was also terrific this week) and Wonder Woman (reviewed below).
Written by PAUL LEVITZ; Art by MARCUS TO and JOHN DELL; Cover by GUILLEM MARCH
The draw here continues to be the art by Marcos To. The story is just a framework to show off Helena as a bad ass. Levitz has a grasp on the character as shown by lovely touches such as Helena eating cookies while she does research on a computer (I’ll admit the first thing I thought of when I saw her at the computer was, “Oracle used to do this for her.”
But so for me, this book is really just these character moments and the kick ass art:
The story so far has really not been that compelling. With Helena having stopped the human trafficking, I hope the story picks up in the next issue. Levitz certainly makes it seem that way and I’ll be back for issue #3.
Birds of Prey #3
Written by DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI; Art by JESUS SAIZ; Cover by DAVID FINCH and RICHARD FRIEND
I wasn’t looking forward to a rebooted Birds of Prey but this book has won me over. It still doesn’t capture the relationships like Simone’s run, but the art is so lovely and the plot moves along a very healthy clip, I’m willing to overlook it.
Canary brings Ivy on to the team and to their credit they don’t hand wave her past as a killer. After Canary explains why “the talking salad” as Starling refers to her has joined the team the foursome start tracking down the next set of walking bombs. And speaking of bombs, look at this splash page by Saiz:
That’s four female costumed heroes flying through the air and not one gratuitous butt or boob shot. I can’t help but think if he, Williams and Chiang were drawing everything with female characters in the new 52 how much better everything would be.
But in addition to the art, Swiercynski is propelling this story in a quick and efficient manner. I liked the dramatic cross cutting between the Birds while they search a train for one of the human bombs particularly the last page where he and Saiz offer a hell of a cliffhanger.
I still think Starling needs to reigned in a bit, I’ve already tired of the mentions of her uncle. But just three issues he’s managed to create a tight team. That makes the announcement that Barbara Gordon is joining the team curious. Why build a new team to bring a member of the old one (who we aren’t even sure was a member before). We’ll know soon as she shows up in the next issue. Also please just have Jesus Saiz draw the covers on this book.
Written by MICHAEL GREEN and MIKE JOHNSON; Art by MAHMUD ASRAR; Cover by MAHMUD ASRAR
The pace finally picked up in this issue but not by much. I wish writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson would emulate the Superman books which have been zippy in their pacing. We learn more about Kara and feel her reaction to being a stranger in a stranger land, but I’m not sure it is enough for me to keep with the book. The art by Mahmud Asrar is wonderful - Kara’s story would be far less compelling without him on this book.
So the line has been drawn between Superman and Supergirl, he’s the veteran and she’s the newbie. I don’t mean that as a negative. I think there is an opportunity to make Kara Zor-El a compelling character. She’s as strong or stronger in some ways than Superman but wasn’t raised as an Earthling and is far more driven by what she has lost. She also got a nemesis in this issue, a rich guy who has taken the pod/spaceship that brought Supergirl to earth. But why a dude and one who seems like Lex Luthor? Perhaps this and the arrival of female villain (who apparently is not Maxima but someone new) will help drive the story forward in the next issue. I hope so.
Wonder Woman #3
Written by BRIAN AZZARELLO; Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
I wanted change on Wonder Woman. I wanted someone on this book who could shake things up and raise the character’s popularity. And in two issues Azzarello and Chiang made me a believer. They gave the book an urgency and a approach that was engaging and exciting. And now in their third issue Azzarello shows he’s not just content to shake things up, he’s going to blow up the entire Wonder Woman mythos.
This issue of Wonder Woman made me question how much am I willing to give up in order to gain a book that will attract readers and provide a set of compelling stories that will move Wonder Woman to top tier.
Why? In this issue we are told that Wonder Woman wasn’t a clay baby that was fervently longed for by Hypollyta, the Queen of the Amazons. She is, instead, the result of sexy times between Hypollyta and Zeus (whose pants-less come-on lacks the subtly that he, as top god, should have).
It’s compelling. It’s definitely disruptive, but I still felt uncomfortable with DC jettisoning Wonder Woman’s origin. I also didn’t like how Azzarello quickly drew the lines between birth mothers and adoptive mothers. Diana has been given a lot to process in a few pages and the fact her reaction went to “you’re my real mother” and that she wasn’t made of clay seemed off. I question whether they would be the first things Diana would think about rather than, “Great Hera, Zeus is my father?”
So I am not happy with this change. I’m giving up a lot and the book needs to deliver a kick ass story to justify it. The fact that the team has already done so much outside of this change for the better (and that they’ve been able to create a breakout character like Strife in two issues) and that they have a very firm grasp on their story makes me believe they can.
Superman and Batman would never have had their basic origin fundamentally changed. The fact that Wonder Woman’s has been encapsulates a lot of the problems with female characters at DC. But I’m willing to step over this line for a story that will elevate Wonder Woman and open the door for more female characters on the A list. A rising tide raises all ships, right? But this is it. Wonder Woman is a great character with a rich history; no more big changes.
* And for those of you who ask, I’m not reading Voodoo, Catwoman, or Batgirl. The first two got dropped after their first issues. And with Batgirl I’m just not ready to read right it now. Maybe later.