Today, Patrick, Mikyzptlk, Shelby, Michael, Drew and Jack are discussing Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special 1, originally released February 6th, 2013.
It’s Valentine’s Day, which means that we here at Retcon Punch are going to do our best to pretend we’re not angry, misanthropic nerds for one day to discuss the six love stories laid out in the oddly titled Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special. As we like to foster as much conversation as possible here, we’ve pulled in six of our sappiest, most sentimental writers to hit these stories one at a time.
Batman and Catwoman in Think It Through
Patrick: Ann Nocenti’s Catwoman short story is exactly like her Catwoman series: you’ll feel better about your life choices if you just skip it.
But let’s recap it anyway. Having just bungled an art-heist getaway, Catwoman spies a Valentine’s Day billboard that says “…get her all that she deserves…” (those aren’t my ellipsis, that’s what the sign actually reads). This makes her recall the first time she met Batman. FLASHBACK TO: the first time Catwoman met Batman. Back in her early thievin’ days, Catwoman once tried to steal electronics from the poor to purchase of pair of $3,000 boots. Batman shows up, they fight, and he tells her not to steal TVs from poor people because “the TV is probably the center of a (poor) family’s life.” Batman goes on to advise: “When you steal, think it through. The quicker you learn that–the faster you’ll make your way over to my side. To me.” Upon reflection, Catwoman thinks:
First of all, she does see Batman. They fucked – notably with their costumes still on — in issue 1. Second, what the hell is she saying to herself? I can’t even follow the syntax. Look, this whole story is dumber than a can of soup, but this last page is utterly perplexing – both offensively bad and just straight up offensive. I know Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, but… man he sounds like an asshole when it comes to poor people.
Mikyzptlk, let me ask you this: how silly are Selina’s breasts in this issue?
Mikyzptlk: It’s sad that’s even a question. I’m sick of DC treating Selina like this. Here’s a clue DC, she’s a kleptomaniac NOT a nymphomaniac. I know that you know better than this DC.
Hey look! It’s Catwoman!!! But she’s not being drawn or portrayed as a hyper-sexualized cartoon? It’s almost as if she’s being portrayed…artistically! This version of Catwoman was brilliantly written by Ed Brubaker and appropriately drawn by Darwyn Cooke. This is proof that DC once knew how to handle this character with class.
Oh right, we were talking about this specific story. Patrick, you nailed everything that was wrong with it. It will be forever ignored in my mind. Especially with Nocenti’s awkward dialog (“You’ve got huge spunk”) and the fact that she shoehorned in that Batman and Catwoman first met on Valentine’s Day. Blech! There was NO reason to include that other than this is a Valentine’s Day special. What utter garbage.
Aquaman and Mera in The Lighthouse
Mikyzptlk: Let’s tell a love story about two characters that no one knows or cares about, and then utterly fail to connect it with the two actual main characters of the story.
Arthur and Mera are working at the lighthouse, when Mera finds a stack of letters. We are told the story of Felicity and Samuel. The two fall for each other, write each other a bunch of love letters, and plan to spend the rest of their lives together. Unfortunately, Samuel’s ship is lost at sea and Felicity never sees him again. In the present, the light goes out at the lighthouse and Aquaman and Mera go out and lead some ships into port. Mera finds the masthead of Samuel’s ship and leaves it at the gravestone of Felicity, finally reuniting lost lovers. This makes Mera feel better about the tragic story she just read and so embraces Arthur, promising that “true love always comes home.”
Except it doesn’t. The tragic story just read to us by Mera shows that it doesn’t. Reuniting a masthead and a gravestone doesn’t make the loss suffered by the lovers any less tragic. Unless you’re Mera, because then it’s romantic or something.
Above are our old pals Sam and Felicity. Hey, they look just like Arthur and Mera! This is the only connection I could find to our modern day lovers, so what was the point of this story? What does it say about the relationship shared by Aquaman and Mera? I’m actually asking you Shelby, because I have absolutely no idea.
Shelby: The only thing we know about Mera and Arthur’s relationship post-relaunch is that Mera was originally sent to assassinate him, and fell in love with him instead. Their love is most certainly not meant to be, the same as Samuel and Felicity’s (just with more attempted murder). Even still, why do their stories have to be similar at all? Why can’t we just have a classic tragic love story, complete with storms at sea and the ghosts of broken-hearted lovers? Even though it was pretty cheesy content-wise, I liked the way the two stories were woven together; I especially liked seeing the two stories laid out side-by-side as they unfolded together in the past and present. And I’m a sucker for a ghostie happy ending.
Batgirl in Dreamer
Shelby: Remember back when Batgirl kissed Ricky the car thief in the Batgirl Annual? It’s been on Ricky’s mind, so he fake broke into a car to get Babs’ attention. He kind of asks her out, to which she appropriately replies, “you don’t even know me, and I’m Batgirl.” Ballsy little shit that he is, Ricky asks for another kiss, and surprisingly enough gets it.
Adorable. Ray Fawkes has done a great job with balancing Babs and Batgirl; she says she doesn’t have time for romance, and that she can’t just take off the mask and be a normal girl, which is totally true. But, then she kisses the cute boy just like a normal girl would, because under the mask and Kevlar, that’s what she is: a normal girl. And when a dreamy someone tells you they want to spend more time with you, that’s a hard thing to say no to. Even when you know you have to say no.
What did you think Michael? Were you as enamored as I with Ricky fake stealing a car to get Batgirl’s attention? Poor kid, can’t even send her a clever text message, has to resort to potential jail time just to ask her out.
Michael: Ricky, don’t even bother. Batgirl comes off like a big handful. This struck me as the least romantic meet-up in this whole issue. Batgirl starts out with admonishment and offering to direct Ricky to a job-center, which comes off as pretty condescending even though she is somewhat of a civic representative. She blames him for generally being in danger and then gesticulates and pontificates at Ricky over what it means to be Batgirl. Sure, there was that nice little kiss, but then Batgirl zooms away, telling Ricky to dream on. Jesus, Batgirl. This boy is a fan! You need them.
Apollo and Midnighter in Seoul Brothers
Michael: I usually dislike superhero flings. They seem to turn every comic into an “Archie.” The conflict is always about priorities — citizens or lover. Even that short set-up sounds tiresome. But now having read Apollo and Midnighter’s segment, Seoul Brothers, I have to ask myself: does having two gay superheroes fix everything?
Apollo flies around looking for Midnighter in a broad cross-section of gay bars. He turns away a cute little so-and-so, determined to find Midnighter, who’s actually busy kicking ass on a job. In a low-fi panel from Simon Bisely, Apollo swoops to obliterate a dude in an awesome display of power — and love!
Then they both tell each other “it’s over” and bolt — Apollo goes back to that cute guy and Midnighter flies away smugly, having read Apollo’s vital signs, determining them to be…in love?
Pointing out the homoerotic subtext in superhero comics is a turkey shoot. That’s why it’s not surprising when ditching the subtext works well for this romance issue written by Peter Milligan . The result: two supers, staying true to their alpha-characters as they emotionally stonewall each other, then fly/fall away with their feelings safely and powerfully bottled up. Ok Drew, so I might be generalizing, but regardless of the sexual identity take, this issue gives us a pair of supers that seethe, hunt, detect, and obsess in the extreme way I assume they would, because they can.
Drew: I certainly enjoyed the “two friends/coworkers lie to each other in order to avoid a potentially messy romantic entanglement” angle. It’s a surprisingly mature — not to mention relatable — way to end a superhero relationship. My only complaint is that this feels more like a teaser than the bon mot I think would have been more appropriate. This sets-up a “will they/won’t they” that I’m simply not inclined to pick up Stormwatch to follow. Taken as a standalone, this story ends with Apollo seeking consolation fucks while pining for his coworker. It’s a surprisingly down note that isn’t quite leavened enough by the concluding question mark.
Nightwing and Ursa Major in Another Saturday Night
Drew: …not that every Valentine’s Day story needs to be upbeat. Nightwing’s story finds him being dumped over his comm system as he battles ninjas. Apparently, he’s stood up his new squeeze a few times too many. No worries! He actually meets a cute girl while fighting those ninjas, and they share some lo mein and a rooftop chase. Dick is smitten, and invites Ursa back tomorrow for some pizza. She agrees, but totally stands Dick up.
Frankly, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of this ending. The fact that Dick stood up his date at the beginning of the issue is not lost on me, but since we never got the sense that he was un-remorseful about it, this doesn’t really feel like a moral. Instead, the defensively cynical high-schooler in me just wants to laugh at just how overwrought Dick’s misfortune is. Alone? Stood-up? In the rain? Couldn’t they have had him fall to his knees and pull at his hair?
But seriously, my sympathies lie with Dick here. He’s unlucky in love when we meet him, but hope comes in the form of someone who might just understand the rigors of his job. Then those hopes are dashed when she doesn’t show up. Again, this feels like a surprisingly down note, made all the sadder by the emphatic (and otherwise unnecessary) full-stop after “END.” Jack, did you get any more out of this than Sad Nightwing?
Jack: No, Drew, I think that’s pretty much the tale of woe. The good(ish) news is that often enough, that’s a valid lesson to take: sometimes stuff doesn’t work, abruptly, pointlessly, embarrassingly, and with all the tools to facilitate a moment of extreme angst if you’re into that. I’m not exactly enriched by the message, but I certainly can’t argue the point. Instead, I’ll argue about his point:
Two observations: First, while it is often true that you can more or less smell a marine, active or retired, sometimes literally, that phenomenon is an awful lot more ambiguous when it comes to female marines. It’s not that they don’t share their cohorts’ maniacal commitment to discipline and esprit de corps; it’s that they learn over time to carry themselves differently about it. Secondly, due to a combination of inter-service rivalries, widespread post-traumatic stress, and the famous spikiness of marines generally and ex-military security contractors in particular, Dick Grayson should be advised that this is really more of a second-date question.
Superman and Wonder Woman in Truth or Dare
Jack: Superman and Wonder Woman are minding their own business on a romantic rooftop dinner-date and commiserating about the unique trials and tribulations of being superheroes. It’s super-accessible and resonant, because everyone can relate to those problems. Things are really starting to look up for these young lovebirds when Superman falls under some dark enchantment/siren’s song cast by the restaurants’ live musicians. The jig is up: the whole romantic venue was a clever trap to hold Superman hostage, enchanted, brainwashed, and fighty, in exchange for the golden lasso of truth. Fortunately, the lasso itself is sufficient to extricate our heroes’ from this grim situation. The sisters are beaten, and Superman comes to his senses. Wonder Woman’s cousin, though enchanted and brainwashed himself just minutes earlier, decides to take Superman’s role in this fiasco personally and elects to punish the Man of Steel by shooting him with some kind of magical mystery bullet which will apparently prevent him from falling in love with anyone else for the rest of his unnatural life. Wonder Woman declares her full-throated objection, but Superman promises he would have loved her forever anyway.
I have been accused of being unfair to Superman and Wonder Woman in the past, and I’m probably being unfair to them right now. It all strikes me as an overwrought and intensely contrived attempt to show me how these superheroes have the same struggles and tendernesses as the rest of us, and I can’t say I’m taking the bait. Lesson: Valentine’s Day invariably makes other people’s relationships more annoying.
How ‘bout it, Patrick? Is there wisdom to be drawn from this segment? As is sometimes the case with the demigods and me, I must ask you, again, what am I missing?
Patrick: Oh the Superman / Wonder Woman relationship is about this boring and pointless where ever it appears in the New 52. This story suffers from the same kinds of problems Jack had with the Batwoman / Wonder Woman team-up (no, not like that!) — introducing Diana’s family, a.k.a. the Greek Pantheon, into superhero-town. The span of 8 pages is not quite enough to get one acclimated to such nonsense, and as is apparent from the above — not even my smart, abstractly minded sister could make the connection between “Wonder Woman’s cousin” and who is effectively Cupid. Give him his Greek name and guns instead of arrows, and suddenly Eros just seems like a dude with golden guns.
I’ve read Wonder Woman, so I understand all that, but it still seems like Supes would have been able to take the bullet and then just love Diana… right? Also, I’ve read Wonder Woman, so I know she was able to take the bullet and shrug it off as she “loves everyone.” So, whatever.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?