As we all no doubt know by now, in Batgirl #19-- which I bought and read on Comixology last night-- Barbara Gordon and her roommate Alysia Yeoh have a heart-to-heart and readers learn a lot about both of them. Well, Barbara doesn't tell readers anything we didn't already know, and she doesn't tell Alysia exactly everything. Alysia tells just enough. You don't have to convince me LGBTQ characters have always been under-represented and dealt with in tawdry, tacky ways or simply for humorous purposes. So this a welcome move by Gail Simone and DC Comics.
But when you're an avid comic book reader and you encounter lazy-ass headlines like "DC Introduces First Transgender Character in Mainstream Comics," and you happen to remember a number of previous transgender characters, you have to wonder if it's so. It took me a few minutes to parse through all the shape-shifters, gender-changers and body-jumpers running around my brain thanks to a lifetime of comic book reading to figure this all out. Now I get it. There's a better article on Autostraddle that breaks it all down-- why Simone has been careful to add certain qualifiers to this event and why Alysia is a cool character. From what I can gather given how late I've come to this party, Simone created Alysia to be a lot of things and this isn't one of those, "PS-- Dumbledore was gay" moments. Just in the brief scene I read Simone gives Alysia a lot of soul.
The coming out scene is a nice moment in an issue that desperately needs one. Simone doesn't spare Barbara Gordon emotional or physical pain. From some of the narration in this book, I gather that's been the case from the start. Getting out of her wheelchair and back into costume-- even one with an armored cowl, apparently-- hasn't brought back the happy-go-lucky Batgirl of yore. Her life sucks. I have to say even though this is only the second New 52 Batgirl I've read, I didn't have any trouble figuring out where we are in the story. And unlike a lot of newer books, it didn't leave me feeling ripped off. You know, the five-minute read that leaves you saying, "I paid three bucks for THIS flimsy thing?"
It reads heavier than its page count, and that's a huge plus. I don't think I'm going to keep reading it, though. My heart belongs to Cass and until she makes her return, my DC purchases-- at least of the new stuff-- are going to be sporadic at best. If Katana ends up cancelled, it'll be just this upcoming Batgirl Beyond story and nothing else.
I might reconsider, too, if they give Alysia her own title without any fantasy trappings at all. One day there might be a truly mainstream American comic that features a diverse cast of well-rounded characters without having to sweeten it by having fight scenes and magic powers. One of my favorite comics (sans qualifiers of any kind) is Takako Shimura's Wandering Son (Horo Musuko in Japanese). It stars two young trans people and while it's probably a bit more dramatic than your life or mine-- I mean, I never went through training to be a junior model when I was a kid; the fashion world's loss-- and it needs to be making headlines just for being a well-told poignant coming of age story. You're really missing out on something special if you're not reading it.