Batwoman: Elegy

7.7.2010

By Out.com Editors

Batwoman

I confess to once giving a copy of Greg Rucka's Queen and Country: Operation Broken Ground to a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, because I thought it might be helpful to the Senator. It's not as crazy as it sounds: get to know Rucka's character Tara Chase and then google the real modern American spook Dusty Foggo, and see which one you find more edifying.

In Batwoman, Katherine Rebecca Kane is another character written by Rucka that you can't quite believe doesn't exist in the real world. Her recitation of West Point's honor code -- "A cadet shall not lie, cheat or steal, nor suffer others to do so" -- rings in my ears like Lieutenant Dan Choi reciting the same code to me on television in March 2009, proving that the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy forced him to lie as a condition of his military service.

In Kate Kane's quiet but life-defining drive to serve, there's the veterans of my generation who in the absence of a draft but through nine straight years of war, have done three, four, five combat tours, to come home to a nation that doesn't always quite remember we're at war.

"When you act wrongly, you have to answer for it. Without hiding, without complaint.... That's integrity, and it is the foundation of honor." That's the moral spine on which Kate Kane's battered frame is hung. She is brave and surly and hurt and strong and always on the Batman rule. For all the brilliant literary allusion, mystery, and trademark Rucka attention to detail, what you won't be able to shake when you're done here is that damn compelling lead character.

Well, maybe that and the art.

In a single, wordless panel showing Kate's father's reaction after she tells him why she's been separated from the Army, artist J.H. Williams III captures both a turning point between characters, and a nation's point of decision. It actually feels, right now, in America, the way Colonel Kane looks in that panel, hurt by the plain open ask of his daughter's green eyes.

Yes, cyanogen chloride is a real thing. No, "Southern Misunderstandistan" is not a real place, but you can bet I'll steal it for commenting on our wars, if I haven't done so already by the time you read this. Yes, some of the baddies in the true religion of crime are super genderqueer and yes, guns mix with magic. Get over it. It's all true, it's all gutwrenching, and you love it.

I won't lie to you: I would read anything Greg Rucka wrote. I would read Greg Rucka's grocery lists. I would read Greg Rucka's discarded edits. I would read a Greg Rucka forty-volume soft-hearted navel-gazer about characters I couldn't care less about, if he was capable of writing such a thing, and if he did I'd probably read it out loud to my friends and exclaim and swear about how he made me care.

Batwoman's in good hands here. You'll see. -- Rachel Maddow

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