This week, two of the three issues I’m spotlighting spent time in the news cycle. One of them was great because of it, another despite it. And Hawkeye continues to be a unique and splendid reading experience. This was a very strong week at the top of my comics pile – share in the joy, won’t you?
This issue caused a lot of controversy this week, but ultimately it’s a tempest in a teapot with someone at Comixology deciding that this issue wouldn’t meet Apple’s content guidelines, and it not appearing on iPads until someone with some sense fixed it all. Basically, the character you see over on the right with a TV for a head had a few scenes of gay porn on his face-screen. So, there’s that.
Which really distracts from the actual issue. We focus on TV-head, who is actually Prince Robot IV. He’s under considerable pressure to find our delinquent heroes, and tracks them to the residence of an author that he believes them to be obsessed with.
The scene that follows is an incredibly smart back and forth between two very smart characters. It’s a duel, though not (entirely) one with weapons, and it works very well. I’ll never get tired of well written dialogue like this between two interesting characters.
And I totally did not see the last page surprise coming. There’s going to be a bit of a break before issue #13, and that’s the only complaint I have about this issue! More please! Now please!
Second, I just adore this cover. It’s simple, beautiful, and iconic.
And the actual issue? Is just as good. This issue focuses on Clint through the lens of the women of his life: ex-wife Mockingbird, girlfriend Spider-Woman, “work-wife” Black Widow, and partner Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop.
It’s a very intimate portrait. Clint “Hawkeye” Barton comes across a guy who almost has his life together, but not quite, and he knows it. There’s a lot of mixed emotions going on here from his women – frustration, affection, encouragement, resentment, and all of it teetering on the edge between hopeful optimism and fatalistic pessimism. Clint is a man at the crossroads of his life, and those close to him seem to be almost holding their breath to see whether he falls or rises to the occasion.
And then there’s some plot going on, continuing his sometimes humorous but still very dangerous Russian mob enemies. Which, at least for most of the issue, takes a back seat to the world-class character building, but I have a feeling the Hawkeyes are going to have to deal with this before we find out if Clint ever gets his act together.
The bulk of this issue deals with Barbara Gordon’s insane brother, James Gordon Junior. This is a character I’ve never seen in any other Batman continuity (such as movies, animation, and the like), and I’m honestly not sold on the idea. But Gail Simone’s been doing a good job at using him as the line that Barbara might have to cross someday, and really doesn’t want to. And that comes to a head this issue. It’s not badly written, but I’m just as glad to be moving past this storyline and onto other ones.
But that’s not why this issue is in this column.
Back in issue #1, we met Barbara’s new roommate, Alysia. And she’s been around in bits and pieces since then, someone Barbara’s grown to trust and like. And in this issue, amidst Barbara revealing large portions of her personal tragedy (stopping just short of the Batgirl part), Alysia comes out as a trans woman.
This is a big deal! Alysia is the first supporting trans character in a mainstream, not for adults only, comic. But it’s not just that, it’s how we got here. She’s been established for quite some time. She’s not drawn as masculine, and fits none of the inaccurate media stereotypes. Instead, she’s actually a very reasonable representation of a lot of trans woman – in plain sight, invisible to most of the world, but carrying around a secret or a past that bears a tremendous emotional burden. Yes, the Bat-folk can relate to that.
And Barbara’s reaction is just perfect. Seriously. If you’re ever wondering what you’d do if one of your friends came out to you as trans, read this issue. And do that.
I’m very grateful that Gail Simone’s set the bar so high for positive treatment for trans people in comics, and I hope we can learn more about Alysia. This is a social issue where ignorance reigns supreme in most of the population, and a little bit of education, and making readers with no experience in such matters realize that trans people are actually people, is a mighty deed. Best of luck!