Kate Kane punches a ghost in the face and readers in the heart in “Batwoman #3”

During the reign of Terry Moore‘s Strangers in Paradise I practically camped out in the yard every Wednesday night waiting for new issues to arrive. I was inconsolable when SiP ended its run, convinced that I would never, ever love comic book characters the way I loved Francine and Katchoo. But this week, Moore’s How to Draw Women appeared in my mailbox on the same day I picked up Batwoman #3, and to my enormous surprise, I laid Fran and Kat aside to dive into the adventures of Kate Kane. Oh, Fran and Kat will always be the lesbian loves of my comic book life — but Batwoman makes a damn fine mistress.

Batwoman #3 is somehow even denser than the first two issues. Again, we’ve got Batwoman dealing with the Weeping Woman. (She knocks her out in a stunning underwater sequence in the first five pages. Yeah, you heard me: Batwoman punches a ghost in the face.) And Batwoman dealing with Agent Chase, who very unwisely tries to arrest her just as she’s catching her breath from nearly drowning. And Batwoman dealing with wannabe sideick Bette Kane, who she unwittingly sends out into the night in her Flamebird costume at issue’s end. And we’ve got Batwoman dealing with her love life.

It’s the last thing that continues to shock me — in a pleasant way! — about Batwoman. I’ve said it a hundred times before, but it bears repeating that DC’s relaunch has featured some of the most pornographic imagery in the history of mainstream comics. But J.H. Williams and W.H. Blackman haven’t even hinted at objectifying Batwoman. Her burgeoning relationship with Detective Sawyer provides the emotional anchor of the entire series. Watching Kate try to navigate the tempestuous waters of falling in love while fighting a supernatural super-villain only makes us love her more. This time around she stands up Maggie because of that whole drowning thing, but when Maggie confronts her later, she falls apart in her arms. The two-page spread is so real and so raw it feels like a punch in the heart.

The issue opens with a gorgeous splash page of Batwoman fighting the Weeping Woman underwater, and here’s her intro:

Following in her father’s footsteps, she vowed to server her country and attended West Point until she was expelled under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now she is many things: Estranged daughter, grieving sister, proud lesbian, brave solider, determined hero. She is BATWOMAN.

I think that’s the thing that really makes this this title so special. For starters, Williams and Blackman aren’t shying away from Kate’s lesbianism; nor are they playing it up for fanboy titillation. Her sexual orientation is actually a catalyst for her becoming a superhero, and they’re not afraid to embrace and explore that fresh concept. But they’re also aware that being gay is just a part of Batwoman. She isn’t defined by any one thing — not by the cape and cowl, and not by the fact that she’s attracted to other women.

For the first time in a long time, I am ready to start camping outside and waiting for a comic book. I can’t wait to see what happens with Kate and Maggie, with Kate and Bette, with Kate and Agent Chase. And I’m not alone. Even teenage Batwoman is one of DCnU’s most beloved titles. Substance over sluttiness. DC, can you hear us?

What do you think about Batwoman #3? What’s your favorite part of her story so far?