When I first learned DC Comics had plans to introduce a lesbian Batwoman into its mix of superheroes and heroines, I was skeptical. The original Batwoman existed only to prove to the world and Comics Code Authority that Batman and Robin were heterosexual, despite the bare thighs and underoos -- and she wasn't nearly as popular (or fab-ulous!) as Barbara Gordon, later Batgirl, later Oracle.
Not to mention that the Batman family was already growing more like Rabbit-Man's, a Robin here, a Batgirl there, arguably making the ol' Dark Knight a bit less... dark, and I feared it may be more a gimmick than a sign of the times. Was a character created who happened to be a lesbian -- or was a lesbian created who happened to be a character?
There was only one way to find out. (Well, other than Google.) $2.99 and fifteen minutes of reading time. For six months. It began with Detective Comics #854, the first issue which featured Batwoman as the book's lead, and I quickly found that the issue was painful. Excruciating.
Greg Rucka, illustrated by J.H. Williams III, and proved that Kate Kane -- modern-era Batwoman -- was a worthy addition to the Bat-family. It also proved that she was character first, lesbian second: a valid sign of the times. "We're here, we're queer." (Not that I expect Ellen DeGeneres to don a Bat-costume in the coming months, but LGBT representation has always been lacking in the comic industry, and has never been represented so well.)
And now you can follow Batwoman's adventure -- without the wait: DC Comics has released Batwoman: Elegy, near-200 page deluxe edition graphic novel featuring an introduction by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, the entire Detective Comics arc, pages of Rucka's Batwoman script, cover galleries and concept art from Williams.
Oh -- and action, suspense, valid LGBT representation and a whole lot of red. (Colorist Dave Stewart truly shines, recreating Gotham City in tones I've never seen in a comic book.) Elegy opens on a familiar note, with a Bat-person pummeling a Gotham thug, but Batwoman's story quickly severs its ties to predictability as she hunts down the new High Madame of the Religion of Crime, a cult which nearly killed her during DC's maxi-series 52. (Don't worry, you don't need to have read it. I didn't.)
The Joker, Penguin, Two-Face and the rest of Batman's famous Rogue's Gallery. Kate Kane isn't your typical hero, born and bred to serve the country by her high-ranking military official father, and her villain is anything but the expected "had freak accident, will murder innocents" psychopath. She's also connected to Kane's past, a story which unfolds in the course of the novel, amidst flashbacks of Kane's childhood and her own military experience. (They asked, she told. If you can't serve in the military, well, grab a batsuit.)
I won't give too much away, but Kane's story unfolds with a pacing only Rucka and Williams could provide. It's a gripping tale of what makes a hero: both in and out of costume, and as for the art -- only Rucka could form an adjective to truly describe its perfection.
If you aren't a comic fan, Batwoman: Elegy is the perfect way to find out why so many people are. If you aren't a DC fan specifically, you will be. And if you don't like lesbian superheroes, well, take it up with Batwoman.
Kane is a solid character, one worthy of the upcoming Batwoman ongoing series written and illustrated by Elegy artist Williams. It both matters and doesn't matter at all that Kane is a lesbian, a true testament to the world we (should) live in.
A world Batwoman would fight to protect.