It seems that DC is having a hard time recently. Two of the biggest blunders of late seem to surround Batwoman, one of their most critically acclaimed books, and Harley Quinn, a fan favorite character who has not had the best reception recently.
Batwoman started a controversy after the creative team of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman left the book, saying they grew tired of eleventh hour editorial changes. You can read their official statement here http://www.hadenblackman.com/archives/696. This week saw the release of Batwoman #25, the first book with the new creative team.
Batwoman has been one of my favorite books, especially among the very uneven New 52. I have complained in the past about certain problems with the book, one plot line seemed to do nothing but confuse me, and there was no crossover with the other Bat books or stories. I would’ve loved to have seen Batwoman’s story play out in Court of Owls or have her be an unexpected wild card in Joker’s Death of the Family, but sadly, neither of those were to be. Still, it was a solid story (most of the time) with some great characters who really felt true.
I was less than pleased when I saw the preview pages hit the internet the other day. The art just didn’t have any spark or life to it. JH Williams has a unique art style to say the least, but he wasn’t the only artist to draw on the book. This art just felt so ordinary, the same cookie cutter art that populates so much of the New 52. I hoped it would read better in context.
The issue itself feels like it’s the DC editorial staff breathing a sigh of relief that they can finally bring the troublemaker child back in line. It should be titled Batwoman: Retcon. They crammed 2 years worth of retcon into 22 pages. Minor character backstory stuff is introduced and it just feels forced. I’ve never been huge on comic continuity because the nature of the medium is that things are fluid and always changing. Plus, it’s hard to complain about continuity when Batman has been 35 for 70 years. But it just feels like they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
It’s funny that this is a character who is defined by her principals and ideals always refusing to do what others have asked of her, is now being forced to fit in and conform.
The worst part of it all? This is a Zero Year tie in, which means they interrupted the current story of Batwoman vs. Batman in order to give us this fairly inconsequential story. Maybe next month we will finally get resolution on the story we had been following for 2 years. Although I will say seeing some past history between Kate and Bruce is a good thing, I just wish it was given to us in a better package.
The next DC blunder is Harley Quinn. Fans of the character have been voicing their displeasure for 2 years over the radically over sexualized redesign of the character in Suicide Squad where she was a major character.
The most recent controversy started when DC announced a tie-in contest for the launch of Harley Quinn’s own title. The 0 issue, which came out this week, was to feature a page of art done by a fan. To enter the contest they gave a list of panels and situations to draw which included Harley “trying” to kill herself in a variety of different methods, one of which would include her naked in a bathtub surrounded by electrical appliances ready to fall in. People, obviously, cried foul at the thought of sexualizing suicide.
I didn’t fully agree with what some people were saying about it, but I agreed it was in bad taste and could very easily be taken the wrong way. The creative team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti said it was a mistake on their behalf and not at DC. They said that the context of the issue is more of a fourth wall breaking Loony Tunes style, and not to be taken seriously.
I’ve always liked the character of Harley Quinn, she was enough of a draw to get me to suffer through 8 issues of Suicide Squad before I finally pulled the plug. I had the book on my pull for this week and I was interested to see how it all played in context. Context is important.
So what do we have in the book itself? It’s a fairly entertaining fourth wall breaking story with Harley being drawn by 17 different artists, and the offending panel has been removed. I enjoyed the writing of the book, they did seem to get the twisted sense of humour Harley has. The best part is that the writing and art don’t seem to take themselves very seriously, an attitude I hope carries over into the proper book. Remember, these are supposed to be funny. Not everything in comics land has to be dark and brooding.
She still has a teeny tiny outfit, I do kind of miss her old outfit. She’s on the cover wearing something more akin to a roller derby girl, which I guess is a step up from the tutu-cape-corset thing she wore in Suicide Squad.
The book was good enough that I am willing to check out the series for a while and see what it’s like. I would recommend reading it.
Hopefully DC can learn from some of their mistakes here and work to improve, especially with two big name female led titles. In the comics universe it’s hard enough to find a female led book, let alone ones that are written well and don’t fall into the easy pitfalls, traps and tropes.