Brave and the Bold 33 coverThe Brave and the Bold #33, June 2010: "Ladies' Night" Writer: J. Michael Straczynski, Artist: Cliff Chiang, Editor: Joey Cavalieri, Cover: Jesus Saiz.

Heaven help me, but I despise all-one-gender entertainment anything. Imho that makes things boring, and can lead to some awful conclusions.

Take Brave and Bold. Since this particular volume relaunched, Wonder Woman had been in the book twice. Once, she was part of a large team of disparate heroes, male and female. Just one of the crowd. Once she teamed with Power Girl, making a girl-girl team.

Supergirl has been in the book many times, partnered with males. Catwoman had shown up with Superman in tow. But Wonder Woman partners only with other women: Peege and here, Zatanna and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). Why is that?

It's all a matter of separate playing fields. I wrote a column about this Wonder/DC phenomenon, and had been distressed to see the problem pop up so much in recent books such as the Gail Simone era...and this book.

The (beautiful!) cover just compounds the problem. Our heroine trio walk through a pack of downed villains—all of them male. We're keeping the idea of separation of the genders front and center. Would it have hurt to put ONE female villain in the conquered pile?

Let's get to our story. We see Zatanna waking up from a nightmare that she realizes is more than a dream. From there we quickly switch to the site of piracy on the high seas from people who are possibly Syrians. (Odd to have a hostile nation actually named in a comic book story!) The leader wears a bomb array powerful enough to blow up the ship.

But a blur takes him off the deck and leaves him naked, bound inside in Wonder Woman's lasso. After authorities take him away, Zatanna appears in window reflections behind Diana and compliments her and her signature moves.

"I've never had much trouble geting someone's clothes off," Diana replies, infuriating a surprisingly huge number of WW fans. Why, this could mean the woman's actually had sex. Many times. Or so they claim. I just thought it was a poorly-thought-out line, considering the star-spangled virgin's history.

Zatanna invites her to a girls' night out. We next see Batgirl—Barbara Gordon, in full fighting form—hauling in some criminals in Gotham. This time both Zatanna and Diana invite her to come along. It takes some cajoling, as Babs is a bit of a workaholic, but Zatanna convinces her she needs to de-stress, and Babs agrees.

The three arrive in elegant but hip civvies to a dance club. Zatanna uses magic to get them in, composing it like Obiwan Kenobi charming the cops at Mos Eisley. "These aren't the droids you're looking for." Was that really necessary? Seems cutesy script overkill to me.

The three gorgeous ladies dance with each other. A guy comes up to Diana.

Diana is insulted and apparently CRUNCHes something in a guy's pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next panel has him shouting, "Dude, she reached into my pocket and totally crushed my iPhone!"

So just because Diana's enormous vanity is bruised, she feels free to destroy someone's personal property. Yeah, that's our Diana, for sure. ???

And note: the iPhone was marketed first in 2007, three years before this story was published.

Zatanna finds that Barbara is hiding in the ladies' room, ashamed that she hasn't had any offers to dance. She mentions to Z that she doesn't see her dad, who gave her the uncomfortable shoes she's wearing, as often as she likes.

On her way back to the dance floor, Zatanna magically has to charm some guy into asking the gorgeous, hot redhead, Babs, to dance. ??? Later on, Babs—the hyper-observant Batgirl—finds Diana hugging Zatanna in the ladies' room and thinks they're making out, which is odd, because Diana is really comforting a weeping Zatanna.

The evening continues and Babs dances like crazy with the other girls (hm, if she thought they were lesbians, and she's dancing with them...), with some white-haired dude (possibly JMS?), and then does karaoke with Z and Diana... to Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies," a song released in 2009.

They break for food and conversation. They call each other by initials: "Z," "B," "D." Babs says she hasn't had a night out like this since (we think she'd finish the sentence with "forever"), and then asks Diana why she's so quiet.

Diana replies with an awkward spiel about ancient oracles. Our story script helpfully has Babs volunteer that "They could see the future, but only imperfectly. And if they TOLD you your future, and you did anything to try and CHANGE it, you'd only make things a thousand times WORSE."

Gee, I always thought the Oracle at Delphi had a pretty good hit rate. And enough Greek heroes certainly did their best to get around the prophecies, which were vague enough that they often succeeded. But Diana takes over and relates how her people have always relied on oracles for the information they gathered. (I wonder if anyone ever told Menalippe that?) Diana claims "it was considered the highest honor of all to become an oracle of information," and then hints that knowing something was going to happen but not having enough info to stop it was the greatest burden of all.

How smooth. The women adjourn and Babs goes home to a taxi Diana whistles loudly for. ("Hawkgirl taught me that one," she explains to an impressed Babs. Again, we have a single-gender mention. Why???) As soon as Babs leaves, Zatanna begins to cry.

We next see Babs at home with her father, even as we flash back in parallel panels to the complete conversation that Zatanna had had on the ship with WW. Apparently (has this actually happened before, or is it something out of left field, just for this story?) Zatanna has the occasional prophetic dream, and she's seen Babs' upcoming injury and paralysis. The two women will give Babs a night to remember.

In the present of the story, Babs answers her door, thinking it's a friend, when instead it's the Joker, who guns her down and ultimately leaves her wheelchair-bound for life.

The very end of the story is Babs waking up and taking her customary position as Oracle in her wheelchair to answer a call. "It's okay," she tells the caller. "I was having my favorite dream. I have it all the time. I was dancing. I was beautiful. I was dancing."

Now, people either loved or hated this story. I didn't love it. Though the story went to great lengths to tell us over and over that fighting prophecy just made things worse, this is comics. Plus, we've seen Wonder Woman fight certain-doom scenarios, including prophecies, again and again to winning effect.

Here are Zatanna and Wonder Woman, two of the biggest powers in the DCU, and they don't lift a finger to try to help Batgirl. It's because she's doomed, boo-hoo.

Balderdash! If these had been men, say, Superman and Dr. Fate (or even Dr. Strange), they would have had a huge adventure that would have them battling fate's forces, even if in the end they lost.

But these are ladies. Ladies don't do such things. They just cry and have girls' nights out and look pretty and get REALLY upset when others don't think they're pretty, and even if they are pretty they don't think they are and men snub them even though they're gorgeous red-haired sex kittens and boo-hoo and...

Rrr.

Also, look at the dates of the story. The iPhone. The Beyonce song. This story purposefully took place within one year of DCU present-day.

Yet Barbara Gordon has recovered (except for the wheelchair part) from her injury, gone through rehabilitation, and been in her career as Oracle for how many years now? This story would place all that rich history within the span of months, or perhaps weeks.

Quite a disservice to Barbara Gordon!

And how about the friendship angle? I get that here are Wondie and Z making friends with Babs, making me ask why they hadn't done that before, but okay. So Babs gets hurt bad. Did they show up afterward? Did they offer their services to help her in ANY way? Did they let her cry on their shoulders? Did they send flowers? Nope. They didn't do a THING. They dropped her completely.

That's friendship.

The choice of participants is also puzzling. Lord knows fans know that Babs is the ONLY person in the entire DCU, ever in the history of time and throughout the infinite multidimensions, who has become paralyzed and not been cured through superscience, magic, what have you. Pure and simply, the reason originally was that Babs was a female, an unimportant character, and could easily be dismissed. These days of course, and no thanks to the guys who came up with The Killing Joke, Oracle is so much more interesting than Batgirl ever was, that it'd be a shame to cure her and thus do away with the need for Oracle being Oracle and giving us such entertaining stories.

But here were two of the few DCU characters who could not only cure Babs, but could do it within a few minutes. To NOT have them come to her after her accident and cure her (since they weren't able to stop the accident in the first place) merely rubs the reader's nose in the idiocy of the story's logic.

If the story had utilized two other characters, perhaps both female, perhaps, oh, Black Canary and, uh, Gypsy or Fire or someone like that who had received a prophecy from some DC psychic, then we could have known that these heroines weren't really able to fight fate (though it'd be nice if they tried) or cure Babs afterward. We could understand the situation. It would indeed be heart-breaking.

As it was, this story was an awkward construct designed to make no logical sense in order to bring a tear to the eye of the reader. It didn't do that for this reader. The characters involved were badly served. Diana was way out of character on the negative side of things: overreacting, egotistical, violent without cause, cowardly, complaisant, and making sexual comments when she hasn't shown such a side before. Zatanna suddenly had precognitive powers in order to set up the story and also easily gave into fate. Babs was treated as if she were an ugly duckling, when she had DC's sexiest man, one Richard Grayson, enthralled, as well as others. Her decision to become Oracle isn't even her decision any more, but rather an idea planted by Wonder Woman. Story fail!

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