I heard some buzz a while back about 52, and as a longtime comic book fan, decided to give it a go.
After plugging along for a few issues, I was buying into the story. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have disappeared, a bunch of heroes are either dead or scattered into space, and the world has been broken, awaiting repair, by a league of super-villains. Who will save these cities?
Great. Excellent. Promise of super-villains to come, and the combined weight of Metropolis, Gotham, and Star City mean I might get to read about at least three women over the course of the graphic novel!
So then I get to Power Girl, aka The Boob Window.
I can't find an image from this book, but almost every frame manages to show both her boobs jutting out and her perky little butt pointed in the air. Simultaneously.
To illustrate my many problems with this stance, let me refer you to the immortal genius of Jim C. Hines.
I have been reading superhero comics since I was young, and I dig the corny dialogue, the amusing fight sequences, the underlying social messages. I can get past the spandex and some of the latent sexism in the Golden and Silver Age comics. I've always felt that the female costumes were kind of dumb, but this was the first one to yank me out of the story in a very long time. Power Girl's token fight sequence wasn't particularly interesting, but I got to see a skinny blonde with bulbous boobs getting her butt kicked by a Big Strong Man. And it annoyed me.
I kept reading, because surely the plot would distract me from this nonsense. While I read, I discovered that there were quite a few female additions to the cast, all in various types! While reading 52, I met women who were:
Okay, I liked Batwoman. She didn't take the crap Montoya was dishing out, and she got to wear clothes, even when suited up to fight crime.
Basically, I liked one of these women, and she wasn't even a main character.
I'd even give you Montoya if she weren't the only female cop/investigator archetype, Natasha or Supergirl if we had any teen girls being reasonable, or any of the minor women who talked sense if they were major characters. But here's the thing: the only women who had their shit together were just that. Minor characters.
Why oh why couldn't any of the main female characters act with dignity, grace, or at least wear some clothes? Sure, Montoya got to at least put on a bra most of the time, but this is still the most sexualized version of her that I have come across in recent years. In addition to being bustier, more slender-waisted, and developing Sensual Comic Book Hair, the tough-talking cop I remember from Batman has extraneous lingerie shots. They femmed her up quite a bit as if compensating for the fact that she wore clothing in most of the panels.
So, what. We're allowed to have one woman character who routinely gets to wear pants, but she has to either be a histrionic teenager (Natasha) or lose the pants half the time so we can remember she's a woman? Really?
Why is it that in order to read these comics, I have to shelve my objections to the marginalization of the female characters? I always read comic strips for the allegory, or the biff bang pow. Now that the campiness has all but vanished from comics, I expect to see a strong story.
And you know what? If the story is strong, it shouldn't need to showcase the impossible, unrealistic, and gratuitous nature of the nonexistant woman all female comic characters are now being modeled after. If the story and plot integrity is what matters, then the ladies can put on a shirt and still be able to kick butt and fight crime.