“There’s Zo, but…”

June 24th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , ,

I read the Robin/Spoiler Special the other week.

Basically, the special is two stories. The a-side is about Robin and Spoiler catching up and going out vigilante-ing sometime after she revealed that she was back. They go out as Tim and Steph to hang out in an abandoned warehouse with a bunch of a kids in a rough crowd (where there are water guns, but somehow no drugs) and rescue a toddler from kidnappers together. There is also flirting and an examination of their relationship. The b-side is a story about what Spoiler did after she left Gotham. She went to Africa with Leslie Thompkins after the events of War Games. They stay there for over a year, doing charity work, when some… well, I don’t know what to call them. A mix of medicine men and a death squad come to the village they’re at and Spoiler has to dress up to save the day.

Both stories have pretty awesome art. Rafael (Blue Beetle) Albuquerque does the art chores on the first story, while Victor Ibañez gets it done on the second story. It’s a seriously handsome book. We all know how awesome Raf is, but Ibañez has a style that reminds me of the great work going on in Secret History of the Authority: Jack Hawksmoor. Rock solid and visually interesting.

It’s also basically the book that explains why Spoiler is back in Gotham after War Games. If you think of it as an apology or peace offering for War Games, which is basically the worst crossover I’ve read in years, you’d be more or less right. (this is a dope cover, though, and i own a print of it signed by dustin nguyen) She was done dirty there, so here’s what basically amounts to Spoiler: Rebirth.

Yeah, I gotta say, I didn’t feel it at all. I realize Chuck Dixon has had a hard week or whatever, but that comic was no good, man. I’ve got three reasons and I bought visual aids.

Leslie and Steph are in east Africa. Kenya, Somalia, I dunno. Maybe it’s Outer Heaven. I just know that they have to know Swahili to be there. They’ve been there a little over a year, according to Steph, and she’s had trouble with the language. The whole reason that they are there is that Leslie Thompkins faked Spoiler’s death after the torture and near-murder she experienced in War Games to rescue her from the life of a vigilante and give her a chance to start over.

from robin 174

Dr Thompkins felt that she’d suffered enough, and Stephanie agreed, so they left the country. She voluntarily went with Leslie to Africa in order to catch a break, but felt guilty about it. This makes sense, because Stephanie forgot about something important while she was skipping town.


So, think about it. Since War Games, Stephanie’s mom has had to go through 1) her daughter disappearing without a word or a trace, 2) finding out that her daughter is dead, 3) finding out that her daughter is Spoiler in War Crimes, which was inexplicably worse than War Games, and now 4) finding out that her daughter is not only alive, but faked her death and moved to Africa.

Why did Stephanie and Leslie fake her death? To protect Steph from being a vigilante. Essentially, she got in too deep and had to find a way out. That way out just happened to be going completely off the radar.

One problem with this is that I don’t think anyone knew who Spoiler was until War Crimes, which happened specifically because she “died.” She still had a secret identity. It’s been a while since I read it, though, so I’ll grant that I may be off, but I don’t think I am.

My other problem with this is actually also why I feel like the return damaged Spoiler as a character. Batman, more so than pretty much every character other than Peter Parker, has family as an important backdrop to his franchise. He does what he does to both avenge and please his parents. They are a constant specter over his work. He’s chastised other characters when they screw up their parenthood (Plastic Man) and respected others for their relationships with their parents (Superman). Family is important to him.

I can’t really imagine his reaction to Stephanie having faked her death just being a “Yeah, I figured.” If Batman is going to put Huntress on blast for almost killing Prometheus, or fire Dick Grayson for whatever reason that was years ago, he’d definitely put the boot to Stephanie, too.

Faking Stephanie’s death put her mother through a ridiculous amount of trauma. There’s the old saying about how no parent should ever have to bury a child– it’s true. What makes it worse is that Stephanie did it for reasons that boil down to “I had something horrible happen to me and I didn’t want to be a hero any more.” What was stopping her from just quitting being a hero and living with her mother? Why did she have to fake her death and leave the country? She could’ve told her mom she was Spoiler, explained what happened, and then moved to Metropolis. What would her mom say? No? Yeah, right.

That’s my breaking point with the character. I guess family is really important to me, too, because I just find this ridiculous. Anyway, Stephanie went along with all of this, save for maybe the faking, voluntarily. She felt guilty (“I kept feeling like I’d run away”), and with very good reason, I’d say, but didn’t do anything about that until after she’d tried to forget that feeling and over a year had passed.

Also, she went back to being a hero before telling her mother she was alive. Slick move, that.

Now, it’s like, why should I care about this character? She hasn’t had the wealth of stories that’d let you skip past a negative character development. Is the terrible return going to be played down like Spider-Man trying to kill his pregnant wife was? I figure yes, because it frankly makes Stephanie look like the worst kind of selfish idiot.

They could’ve easily New Earth-ed it– Infinite Crisis had the Earth come back with little minor changes all over. One of which was Stephanie didn’t die after all, she was just convalescing before coming back! People act like the One More Day/New Earth retcons don’t work, but they do and have for decades. That’d be much better than the faked death that we got, if only because Stephanie comes out of it smelling like roses. She almost died, but she fought through and recovered and did therapy and now she’s back. Easy.

My second problem– those were some idiot Africans in that b-side. I mean, I realize that thugs are generally portrayed as slow-witted idiots and stumblebums, but seriously. You don’t exactly get to be a witch doctor feared throughout the region by being stupid. Case in point:


At least the stupidity is shared, though, yeah? Leslie has her own dumb thing to say, I’m sure because she doesn’t want to be shown up by African Joker.

“Medicine goes back to the Greeks.”

Leslie obviously forgot about Imhotep, who predates Hippocrates by a couple thousand years or so, and the fact that Hippocrates studied Greek medicine. She’s too busy bringing light to a blighted region to worry about minor worries like that. You keep on fighting that good fight, Les.

(Ha, does this make medicine the original rock & roll?)

So, anyway, African Joker gets all het up and straight up orders the murder of Pinkeye. His men turn on Leslie just in time for Spoiler to reappear… wearing the goods that she and Leslie were traded in exchange for medicine in what is apparently an accurate representation of Katavi, the village’s protector. Google tells me that Katavi is also a national park in Tanzania. Maybe that’s where they are.

Anyway, she dresses up like Katavi and does the ooga-booga Batman thing and scares the death squad/witch doctor/militiamen/whatever. There’s some firing into the darkness and then she beats all of them up. Let me rephrase– the sixteen or seventeen year old girl from the suburbs of Gotham, whose skill set as a hero amounts to “adequate” or “needs improvement,” puts on some scraps that were given to her, such as animal heads and skins, to make a costume of the village’s boogieman to scare away some grown men with guns who have terrorized the region for years.

Like I said before, you don’t get positions of power by being stupid. (If you really think that Bush is as stupid as you think he is, you’re just as stupid as you think he is. Dude got into office twice. That’s no accident.) You can’t sustain that power by just sheer thuggery. It’ll work for a while, but eventually, sense and desperation are going to win out. You’re gonna keep telling people “I’ma kill you!” and then you’re gonna find that one dude that’s like “Well, shoot me!” and then you got a martyr on your hands.

So, you’ll pardon me if I don’t quite buy that scene at all. That’s an entirely different class of criminal Spoiler is going up against.

Finally, my third point. This is a short one.

If Tim leaves another girlfriend for Stephanie, I’m gonna be pissed. He’s already lying to Zoanne about where he’s going to be so that he can hang out with his ex.

Tim, seriously though? Why are you hanging out with your ex-girlfriend, who let you think she was dead for over a year, like things are all good? That’s at least twice as bad as getting cheated on. You’re looking like a sucker. Don’t get caught up and have to explain yourself.

Do you really want to have to beg to be taken back after Steph fakes her death again?

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8 comments to ““There’s Zo, but…””

  1. Yeah, Tanzania is probably right then – Swahili’s a more central-Eastern diaspora language on the continent (my mum is Tanzanian and speaks it, as well as the Iringa tribal Kihehe language.) Interestingly, after the opening scene in Invincible Iron Man #1 this would be the second time of recent loaction use in American comics. Not so sure about the witch doctors these days, really, but this is a Chuck Dixon comic.

  2. Hrm, no defense of a rough retcon, but wasn’t Stephanie essentially still beat all to hell when she got airlifted out to Africa? I may not have read it all note by note, but I had gotten the idea that at time of transit she was a turkey.

  3. Thanks for saving me a few bucks. I almost bought this to see how they brought her back. I’d have been POed if I wasted money to read that bunch of malarchy.

  4. Does it make sense for the character to know the history of medicine across the globe all the way back? I don’t know, personally, and I’m curious. It really seems like this is a case like your dislike for Patriot.

  5. What does this have to do with Patriot? What are you connecting here, Andrew?

    David, I think you’ve done a good job of spotting some bad plot holes here, but I don’t think this makes Stephanie a bad or soured character because of it. You even mentioned that Steph was done dirty, and DC felt compelled to bring her back. Now look at what they had to deal with. Steph had holes drilled into her and Batman was calling Leslie a murderer. Yikes, I wouldn’t touch that repair job with a 30-yard pencil. But they had to bring a street-level character back with a street-level answer (which meant no hokey Jason Todd-esque ressurctions), and I expected way worse than “hid out in Africa.” Under that context, I’m a bit more sympathetic to the writers who had to deal with this editorial treadback, and there’s only so many pages per comic to deal with all this garbage. I’m glad they even dealt with the mom situation, as I think most people would gladly overlook it just to have Steph.

    And I really don’t see the stupidity you’re seeing with the witch doctor here. The man is ruling people by fear and thuggery, and that in itself takes smarts. Insert George W. Bush analogy here. Who in the village is really going disagree with the witch doctor toting an AK-47? My memory on Steph’s fight with them is a bit fuzzy, but I do know they were running away from more than just a scary person — they were retreating against someone that outmatched them. Wikipedia lists her abilities as being a skilled acrobat and martial artist, and like most Batman protagonists I’m assuming that means she’s as agile as the writer needs her to be to defeat her enemy, regardless of being “adequate” or “needing work” (did Batman mention that?).

    I will say the Greek/Egyptian thing does look like splitting hairs. I’m willing to give Leslie the benefit of the doubt when talking about the history of medicine. The Egyptians did make some great advancements in medicine, but they did have a more psuedo-magical edge to it. The Greeks were also ones that formalized medicine into a more ethical code with more emphasis on empiricism, something that Leslie is more likely to recognize and respect.

  6. I know you already know that I agree with you but man, I totally agree with you.

    Even a throwaway line about having to recover before coming home would have helped a lot. You know, running and hiding rather than show mom the horrible injuries that happened and then not knowing to come back again or something would have worked at least a little bit better I think. Though I’ll be very surprised if she has any visible scarring from the whole uh, power drill thing.

    And if Tim gets back together with her I’ll be pissed >:(

  7. Dane,

    The ‘What these brown/black people need is a honkey – dressed up in superstitious mumbojumbo to save them from the mumbo-jumbo witch doctor evil brown/black man’ is in bad taste all around.

    Combine that with Leslie ‘forgetting’ that Egypt (more brown folk) were doing brain surgery in their time – successfully and it’s all but so much ‘The darkest savage Africa where there’s no law but the law of the houdo voudoo man.’

    It wouldn’t have been a bad time for a thinking writer to have Leslie be aware of the medicinal history and practices of the area she was then living in; Or doing or saying something that proved this one bad guy was costuming for power – as David did by calling him ‘African Joker’.

    I also don’t think it’s hair splitting to wonder how an individual who was so damaged and injured and who was taken away from modern medical marvels might have fared against armed men when she’d apparently be doing her rehabilitation and muscle strengthening etc completely on her own. If Batman had to do PT cause his back broke then surely Spoiler has to have a little program after having holes bored into her.

    I caught 1st part of this at a bookstore, I didn’t feel inclined to look for the second part. It seemed like a bandaid they slapped on in hopes of looking at GirlWonder(and/or other people making a similar point) and saying “See? Are you happy now? We fixed it.”

  8. No argument here on the band-aid comment. I just felt bad for the writer here. It was either this way-out solution or “It’S MAGIC!”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on the bad taste comment. I get where you’re coming from about the trope, but look at the situation presented. The witch doctor guy from the comics is clearly fucking with people to get their servitude. I didn’t get the vibe he believed what he was spouting at all, but was resorting to misinformation and thuggery to bring himself to a powerful position, which is a universal evil be it a Joker/Penguin in Gotham or a mercenary in Africa. Steph was there, she believed she had the ability to protect the people she was living with, and did what she had to do, color be damned. To be fair, I don’t quite remember why she had to disguise herself in those animal skins. I wish I still had the comic to find out, (hid her identity, maybe? Strike fear?) but in retrospect it just looked kinda hokey.

    I already stated why Leslie may have chosen Greeks over Egyptians, but I also have to say you could be right; it could have just been a writer’s mistake. We hear more about Hippocrates than Egyptian medical practices in school, after all. However, saying Leslie should have been more aware of the medical practices of the area she was living in isn’t really fair, because even though the comic doesn’t specify where they are in Africa, it certainly isn’t Egypt. They mention the people speak Swahili there, and that’s a language spoken in Eastern Africa, such as in the Congo, Kenya, or Rwanda. Swahili isn’t even a secondary language in Egypt.

    And Steph had been healing for a long time — well over a year — by the time the thugs came to Leslie’s medical camp. In fact, it was that incident that made Steph want to go back to Gotham, so her health was on good terms by that time. The Batkids have fought crazier things than guys with guns before, so the fight works for me.

    The story was a patch job, I’m with you there, but please don’t turn this into a “Whites = savior of the poor Africans” thing. It really wasn’t that kind of story. No matter where Steph was hiding out, she’d have to fight some evil, because that’s the way superhero comics are set up.