This is a comic review that has been rewritten about six times.
Every time I sat down to write out my thoughts on this book, I find myself constantly having to re-evaluate my feelings on particular topics that I felt were settled in my mind. Some of these feelings border on feckless and trite, but others on matters of contemporary importance. Even now, I still have conflicting feelings about this book days after it's release.
Maybe that is a sign of a good book.
The premise of this book is fairly simple. Kate Bishop has adopted the code name of her mentor Hawkeye and has opened a private investigation agency on Venice Beach, which is about as opposite a local of NYC you can get. It's not all bad, she can take in the sights of buff beach bods all while stopping the occasional bank robbery, but what she really needs is clients ... and well that goes about as well as you might think when using the name of another super-hero.
She does manage to bag a client though. Mikka has a troll problem. She works for her college news paper and runs a student blog. She is often inundated with inappropriate messages and comments directed at her. The comments have moved to the realm of violence and has her fearful of her life everytime she leaves her house. The police can do little in this regard, due to the fact that the troll skates right up to the line of what may be constituted a credible threat. Mikka wants to hire Kate to scare this troll strait so she can return to normalcy.
Kate, shadows Mikka the following day with the assumption that whoever is trolling her is also probably stalking her. This leads her to rather unfortunate problems of not having a student ID and her having to "borrow" one in order to access the computer lab. She has no idea what she is doing, and when what seems to be a genuinely nice guy offers to help, she ends up "hiring" him to be her tech support after showing him all the texts that Mikka has received (not what a professional gum shoe would do, I might add, that a betrayal of client confidentiality).
After leaving the library she follows Mikka some more and ends up catching a guy taking pictures of her. She chases and subdues him. Finds hundreds of pictures of her and some rather terrible emails and messages and feels that she has this case wrapped up. The problem is, Mikka is abducted later at the end of the comic, so either Kate got the wrong guy or there is something bigger going on.
So I simultaneously love the message and story of this comic while hating the delivery. Articulating the problems I have often make me question my own beliefs on subjects like women's liberation, feminism, objectification, and internet trolling: things I thought settled. I thought myself to be the furthest thing from a "men's rights activist" but maybe I still have some work to do and recheck privilege more. Maybe I have become more of a prude (not likely). Maybe I'm just completely wrong.
One of the things that bothers me in this book is the blatant voyeurism and objectification that the hero, Kate Bishop, displays. It seems silly for me to bring this up because the behavior we see that is stated explicitly in this comic, is often only inferred at by male characters in other comics. Yes, women can oggle men too, yes male superheros and comic fans have been objectifying women sense time immemorial. Maybe this is empowering? Yet in 2016 if a male character were "bulls-eyeing" a women in the same manner, I would be outraged.
This, in a very real sense, is a double standard that I myself have had. Every time I make a crack (giggle) about Grayson ass, I should think back on this. We live in a sexual world and comics can, and even should, reflect that; let's just be deliberate of our portrayal.
Blech... where am I? what was I talking about? Why do I feel like I owe women of the world an apology? Moooving on.
The story, I do believe, is very good. Kelly Thompson tackles the very real problem of internet trolling. As "Gamergate" has pointed out, internet trolling can lead to the ruination of innocent peoples lives. Chelsea Cain has experienced this very recently while writing Mockingbird. It is horrible bulling that boarders on the criminal behavior and we as a society should not tolerate it. The problem of addressing it is a very real one, and one that this comic points out. Civil conversation and education doesn't solve the immediate problem. The answers to these problems are tricky; how we define free speech and even freedom of the press extends to virtual spaces. However, people behave very differently on the internet than the do in personal situations. Anonymity coupled with a large audience often brings out the worst in people.
So, do I like this comic book? I'm not a big fan of Leonardo Romero's artwork, but it's not a deal breaker. I like the message, but not really how it's delivered. But, it did make me think and question. Despite how you feel about the use of legacy superhero character names, this book is worth reading, and you might be better off because of it.
Rating: 8/10 Sassy Deposits