Five stars! Five. Five of them. To this issue of Batman. Why? Read after the jump to find out!
Why is this such an awesome title? Why is this issue in particular getting such a great score? Because I’m gay, damn it. And it’s nice to see a superhero stop a gay-bashing. Granted the interrupted gay-bashing wasn’t the focal point of this issue but the rest of it still spoke volumes to me and it offered a very, very different look into Gotham City and Batman than we had ever seen in this title.
We meet Harper Row for the second time. The first was in Batman #7 where she shocked Batman back to life with jumper cables and a car battery. It turns out her and the Batman have more history together. Harper was invited to attend Bruce Wayne’s fancy-schmancy party where he announced his plans on building several new skyscrapers throughout Gotham. After returning home and stealing every baked good she could fit in her back pack she comes across her brother, Cullen, has been gay-bashed by several thugs he knows from school.
Harper shaves “FAG” into the back of her hair, as the assailants did to Cullen, as a show of solidarity. While walking him home from school in one of Gotham’s worse neighborhoods (Are there any good neighborhoods in Gotham?) They are attacked by the same WBC-wannabes. This time, however, Harper electrocutes the ever-living-hell outta one of them and Batman shows up and takes out the rest. When Batman saves you, apparently, you develop an obsession with him that causes you to study him. Relentlessly.
Our girl Harper works as an electrician, not the kind that comes over to fix a blown fuse, but rather the ones who work deep under Gotham stabilizing and fixing Gotham’s 100-year-old power grid. Doing this has given Harper an edge on learning about, and even tracked, the Batman. Batman has stated that he thought he knew Gotham and for very good reason. Batman has implemented “Bat Boxes” throughout the power grid of the entire city that not only allow him to turn off security cameras when he goes to kick butt but it also bolsters the city’s power by draining excess power from Wayne-owned buildings. Harper decides to help Batman and ends up running into him in the midst of battle. She accidentally foils his plans and ends up being told to stop assisting him.
She decides against the Batman’s judgement and we now know that she pulled him out of the river in Issue #7 because she was able to track him using the Bat-Boxes. Snyder has said that she will play a major role in upcoming stories but hasn’t let on much more than that. Will she play a role in the upcoming “Death of the Family,” arc or is she just a character from which to get a unique perspective? Will she become another Batgirl? A Robin? Or will she end up dead in a gutter? Either way she’s a wonderful character and I look forward to seeing more of her (except the gutter option. I don’t want her dead. Or Cullen)!
Snyder can write Batman, we all knew that. And his Batman is one of the best. But he wrote Harper Row perfectly and gave a fresh view on both Gotham and the Batman that was wonderful to read. Harper comes from a completely different city than the one Bruce Wayne was born into but violence and a broken home both shaped their paths. Harper even acknowledges that Wayne would never know the Gotham she knows, and that’s true. No matter how deep Batman dives into the crime of Gotham he won’t ever see it as a victim again. He won’t let himself be a victim. And Harper and her brother, no matter how they plead and fight, can still be victimized by the violence and gangs of Gotham. It’s important to see that, yes, Batman is fighting crime partly out of revenge but also because he was once where Harper and Cullen were that night someone pulled a weapon in an alley. He hasn’t lived it like they have, though. He was born into a world of privilege and one act changed his whole life. They grew up in the Narrows and have seen things like that since they were young, they lived it with their abusive father.
The first half of this issue was drawn by Becky Cloonan and the remaining by Andy Clarke. While both works are great I have to say I much preferred Cloonan’s artwork. It was fresh and fun, perfect for Harper’s personality and still worked with the colors the FCO Plascencia has been gracing the pages with. Clarke’s felt old-school and, dare I say it? Boring. I wasn’t sold on his artwork in this issue and it doesn’t work, I think, with what’s been established so far. But I very much look forward to Greg Capullo coming back for Issue #0!
On a personal note, however, the gay-bashing Batman brought to an end struck me. In the real world we have Lady Gaga and even the President standing up for us, now. It’s wonderful. But growing up how many heroes did we, as gay children, have to look up to? My parents didn’t let me watch Will & Grace and I only discovered Queer As Folk after I grew up. There wasn’t the same level of representation or tolerance as there is now, I didn’t have many places to go. But it was in books and comics that I found my heroes. True back in the nineties they still weren’t the gay-friendliest of places, but I had no doubt that Batman or Wonder Woman or Spider-Man would save a gay person just as they saved the “normal” ones. But actually seeing Batman take to the streets and beat up a bunch on homophobes . . . it hits home. These are our heroes, too. And it’s awesome to see that.
The first trade, Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls, is available now! And let us know what you think of this issue in the forums! Is Harper a great character or was this a throw-away issue? And what does Snyder have in store for our girl?