December 16th, 2010
‘Wearing this wig reminds me that if Kane is Batwoman, she must wear one too.’
Oh right, that’s interesting Bruce, because seeing you in that perm-wig (and accompanying IT salesman goat-beard), that absurdist eurobaddie nightmare of a disguise, has made me remember – love you, missed you, glad you’re back alive and all that – remember just what a massively weird bloke you are.
Batwoman #0 is a very straightforward re-intro issue – Bruce Wayne (in various guises)/Batman is following Kate Kane/Batwoman around to see if they are one and the same person. It’s a reasonably natty way of having a look at Kate’s day-to-day existence, run alongside a straightforward nighttime Gotham-style bundle, with Bruce’s narrative voiceover making sure we all feel very comfortable. Supposedly. It might work like that if they didn’t make Bruce out to be such an abjectly strange man, who can’t apparently go a day without busting out some deeply maladaptive fashion choices.
Before we get into the real weirdnesses lurking just beneath the unconvincing syrups of this issue, a couple of points need to be said about this issue: 1) This is Batwoman’s big re-entry into the post-Return of Bruce Wayne DCU. As such, it is a little troubling that the entire issue is entirely voiced by the main man, robbing her of the active, autonomous and directive presence in the issue that she deserves, seeing as how it’s supposed to be her comic and everything. These men, these millionaires, these ultraviolent cosplay fucking lunatics, they can’t ever let a girl catch a break, can they?
2) The traditional rejoinder/twist/get out of jail free card in this kind of story – where the lead character is supposed to be our focus and the narrator has been acting in a wholly smug and assholeish fashion – would be to have her stick her Vs up to Bruce in the last panel, make it clear that he’s not as smart as he reckons, she’s been on to him the whole time. This doesn’t come, spoiler, and so the whole issue has this really odd off-balance feel to it, ironic given the way the art duties are split. If you haven’t seen it already, I can’t be bothered to explain – check the issue out for yourself, but they divvy up the art duties between JH Williams and Amy Reeder quite neatly.
The issue overall is only unintentionally funny really, unless it’s a masterpiece of delicate deadpan humour which – if true, is going to make the next few hundred words a bit pathetic – but it’s still Williams, so it’s still got a couple of semi-breathtaking moments in there. But the general feeling you get from it is is a bit disconnecting – does this comic think that Batman is as weird as I – on the evidence of this issue – do? Is that where Batwoman’s victory comes in, by pointing out what a wankbreak Batman is, letting him look like a freak in comparison to her well-adjusted normal life? Allow my ludicrous opinions to influence you for a moment, then go away and decide for yourself…
Basically, the whole issue is about Bruce following Batwoman and Kate Kane around, trying to deduce if they’re one and the same person. Now, you’d be thinking, ‘Of course they are. Kane clearly has the money and physical skills to do it, ergo it’s her. Because not that many people, even in crazy old GC, are rich and bellicose enough to *don the cape* and take to the rooftops. Plus, y’know, they look identical. Same hair, same build, and, oh yeah, same face.’ Although any child could perform this pitifully easy feat of deductive reasoning*, Bruce has been devoting every waking hour (which for him is about twenty-two a day – get some sleep Bruce! Listen to me: The sleep loss is making you creepy and obsessive) to this conundrum for like a fortnight before the issue even starts.
This kind of brings me to the point of this post, beyond having a look and a laugh at Bruce’s erratic and ill-advised fashion choices, get to that in a minute: Bruce acts like a fucking crazyman in this comic, revealing in some detail the depth and range of his kinkinesses. He is undoubtedly getting total bigbone jollies from trailing this hot, rich girl’s girl around town all day, but has to use, y’know, ‘the mission’ to justify it to himself. While doing this he has to engage in several small but definite acts of self-delusion. Chief among these is: if he pretends that Kate’s disguise is actually really good because it takes Me – the World’s Greatest Detective, three weeks to crack it, when clearly, no it’s not, then he also gets to continue pretending that his Batman disguise is also actually really, really good, even though blatantly everyone in town knows Batman=Bruce Wayne by now. As is highlighted quite deftly in the recent movie, it’s just they’re too scared to publicly say anything about it because Bruise Vein, as the local tabloids most definitely wouldn’t call him, is so obviously so rich and so mental and so dangerous. (And vindictive – those poor corner boys didn’t kill your parents Bruce. Stop stabbing them in the knees with your special, and one suspects rather expensive, bat-knives.)
But mainly, despite his strange justifications, he just really likes spying on folk. (Unreachable-but-hot chicks a bonus.)
(And playing dressups.)
(And loads of other things – oh look, he does have a superpower after all, and it’s his polymorphousness.)
Lurking inside all of this is a very democratic, kind of enlightened and positive in a self-helpy kind of way, acceptance on Bruce’s part of the truth of the sadistic and masochistic urges that lurk in the hearts of men. When it comes to dealing with these difficult dimensions of his personhood, Bruce most definitely has his cake and punches it too. The act of spying and stalking and ‘detecting’, of subjecting an unsuspecting woman to the full glaring judgement of your superhero gaze (and superhero baseball phallus), is an act of profound violence, heroic mission or not.
Yet the way Bruce goes about exercising this (not ‘naked’, but certainly ‘strangely-attired’) aggression is so secretive and both physically and personally humiliating, that it incorporates a healthy, if slightly non-credible, balancing dose of the masochistic impulse too. Just look at the humiliating lengths he’s willing to go to for the mission:
These scans are really bad, aren’t they?
Again, it’s kind of self helpy though, isn’t it? Posing as a beggar, see from the opposing side the sharp corners of the symbolic boxes Big Other places us into blah…? Bruce is obviously enjoying it, trying to milk the moment a little bit, get right into the character, take the Honor Jackson route to enlightenment and see the Buddhamind in every wretched atom. How else to explain his weird comment about Batwoman’s dad, who is clearly a shitbag of the first military rank:
‘He can’t be all bad…He gave me money.’
Bruce is sitting there, his billionaire arse taking up perfectly good downtown begging space by the way, whatever though, and before you can say ‘guilty conscience’ Kaptain Kane has put like , ooh, maybe a dollar, in his little begging cup. The first thoughts that come too good ol’ Bruce’s mind aren’t ‘extraordinary rendition’, or ‘School of the Americas’, or ‘Fallujah’ or anything like that, but ‘Oh shucks, he can’t be all bad – he gave exactly the guy he’s spent his life ordering into warzones a buck. A buck! He has guilt! What a guy!’
That was day seventeen buy the way, well over a fortnight into the Dark Knight Detective’s epic investigation. Things get really interesting four skulky days later, when Bruce follows Kate to one of her favourite hangouts, if you get
what I mean.
It’s not, I mean really, it’s not all that clear how Bruce got in there – maybe he just tagged on to the end of a group of girls, maybe he slipped the doorman a hundred, or maybe dressing up like Top Gun era Tom Cruise is a surefire way of getting into any gay club anywhere in the world, though I can’t think why it would be…
I may go and get some proper ones later
Shit Bruce that’s so a bad look for you. Not to mention an even worse disguise than your usual. Maybe under the parallel physics of the DCU certain assumptions are safer to make than they would be out here, such as ‘Gays are rubbish at seeing through disguises, I learnt that at ninja school.’ Jesus Christ. No wonder the barman’s taking the piss out of you. ‘Okay Mr. Wayne, sure Ok, you’re not gay, you’re just here to spy on someone. Enjoy your appletini! Nice glasses too… err, I’m over here?’ All you keen eyed amatuer Marples out there might be interested to spot a few strange details in the Bruce panels of this club sequence. Those famously strong, well defined jaw muscles are clearly undergoing some kind of unusual contortion, clenched into a lock-tight spasm, even beyond his normal gritty crimebustin’ grimace. He quickly ditches the booze in favour of bottled water. He pops outside to chill out (and watch the cool kids snogging). What can it mean? Hey Bruce, it’s cool, you don’t have to explain yourself to me man, it’s a victimless crime anyway as far as I’m concerned. Yeah sure, it’s research for the mission, I understand totally. Yeah I love you too man, I said that right at the start of this post. Do you want some gum?
(Although I can’t let it go unsaid – that’s a fucking horrid leather jacket you’re wearing there. It wasn’t expensive was it? The way it bunches in at the waist is really hideous… )
(That jacket cost about ten grand, didn’t it Bruce? Oh Bruce.)
But don’t hold your breath, OK?
Disguise Three. Day Twenty-Three. Twenty-Three? Have you honestly been fannying about with this bollocks for nearly four weeksh? Look at that. He’s reading the Art of War. Come on Bruce, surely you know that only dull rappers and sales reps read that book?
For this disguise Bruce has gone for the predatory sex offender classic of a random library geek who just can’t help but bump into fit girls and knock their books out of their hands, even when there’s no-one else around…
So there he is, spying on Kate again, who’s not sad enough to be checking out the books on her own but has gone there with her cousin, who is, seriously, a superhero called Flamebird. Even this isn’t enough for Bruce – ‘Just because her family member is a superhero doesn’t mean she is too’ he reasons, betraying a staggering lack of understanding of how superheroes work, and pretty clearly suggesting that Bruce should be spending this valuable library time checking out the Graphic Novels, rather than the Business for Bastards section. He bumps into her, peers down her top, I mean, looks at the weirdo Crowley books she’s reading, and the look of utter pity on her face says it all.
I haven’t scanned that bit in though. Sorry. It would have really helped at this point.
The fourth and final disguise takes us back to where we began:
Jesus Christ – state of that
It’s frankly incredible that a man as apparently clued-in as Bruce could bear to be seen in public dressed like that, disguise or not. This is also where he decides to pass comment on this weird beard micro-fetish thing he’s spent the last month working himself into a frenzy with:
‘Sometimes a simple wig is the best disguise of all’.
Wrong. Reality time Bruce: It’s basically impossible not to clock a bloke who’s got a wig on from right the way downd the street. Even if it looks half normal, half a million Elton Dollars thrown at it, the way humans process social information is so quick and multivariate and unconscious that people instinctively realise that that geezer’s got something odd about him , even before they can actually see him clearly enough to get a proper look at his barnet. No no, thinks Bruce, it’s a good disguise. Moreover, I look cool like this.
This sequence is simultaneously the sartorial low point and dramatic high point of the issue. Bruce’s internal monologue goes into this thing about how he’s not actually assaulting a woman with a large and potentially deadly penis substitute, he’s actually carefully doing some internal jujitsu where he directs enough ki or, y’know, ‘killing energy’ from samurai comics* at her so the attack feels real. This is all total bluff of course, the masochist hiding from himself even when the moment of orgasm is imminent.
And there it is. that by any reckoning is one of the best facekicks I’ve ever seen in a comic, its crushing acrobatics made all the keener for the look of release and satisfaction on Bruce’s face. i’ll say it agaibn: you’re a fucking weird bloke Bruce. You need to get out a lot less, for everyone’s sake – maybe you should go and beat up a drug addict or something?
* Like you know that bit where Lone Wolf has to kill like the buddha of compassion or something, but he can’t do it becasue the buddhaman deflects any killing energy that comes his way, so Lone Wolf has to go and chill on a mountain and kill wolves and stuff to ascend to the position of buddha-of-killing, so he can kill the goodiebuddha with perfect desirelessness? That stuff.