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Girl Power 

Three recent comics show lesbians as 3-D characters

If representations of women in comics have been skewed, representations of lesbians are doubly so. Woman-on-woman action has been just that in comic books: solely about the physical acts. In a male-dominated industry in which women are seen as sex objects, lesbians have gotten the worst roles as either peripheral characters who kill themselves (i.e., The Watchmen) or nameless beings going at it as a form of comic porno. Even worse is the sexual "flip-flopping" that lesbian characters have shown when they get page time. Lesbians in comics are phenomenons rather than fully developed characters. However, a few convention breakers allow lesbians into their comics without having the characters' sexuality consume their personality, a welcome open-mindedness that the rest of the industry would benefit from. Here are three good ones that blow up the old comic stereotypes:

Y: THE LAST MAN, VOL. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and José Marzán (Vertigo)

What would happen if all the men in the world died within an hour? All except one named Yorick did in this exceptional comic from the creative team of Vaughan, Guerra, and Marzán. This latest volume tracks Yorick, his pet monkey and his female friends as they try to find a way to prevent the plague and repopulate the earth. While it takes some imaginative leaps, I like the gusto of this series. It gets into a world of women and really works from all the angles. From human moments of survivor guilt (every woman seems to think she personally caused the plague) to roaming tribes of New Amazons (who say the change was for the good), these graphic novels take chances time and again. A quality moment occurs in Volume 4 when Agent 355, a major player and sympathetic character from the beginning, reveals she had girlfriends. Prior to the loss of men. That's it; no sex scene, no elongated explanation, just a nice, concise statement. It shows 355 as something beyond a lesbian and proves that sexuality doesn't always have to dominate. I enjoyed digging into the world of Y, but even more, I enjoyed the conversations I had after reading it. I asked myself and a few friends if the world really would go into total chaos if men were gone. My conclusion: men or not, if half the world's population was wiped out in an hour, of course we'd be toting guns and chopping off breasts.

CRISS CROSS by Doug Miers, Michelangelo (Arcana)

Christine isn't an ordinary Robin Hood, but she does just fine humiliating and fleecing rapists. Put together by the late Doug Miers, this series is a pretty punchy look at a woman out to get revenge for the entire female sex. She sets up bad guys and takes clients to bed. Not exactly a man-hater, she simply doesn't trust them, and won't let them get away with anything. Christine holds her own and manages to not become a total sex object while smooching with a gal in the backseat of her limo after tossing her newlywed husband to the curb. Due to the inherent evilness of the men (white slave traders, rapists, etc...), one has to wonder if any man is good. The story falls shallow quite often, but there is room for development.

GOTHAM CENTRAL: HALF A LIFE, VOLUME 2 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (DC Comics)

Police Officer Renee Montoya is a great character, tied closely with Batman arch-nemesis Two Face. The first two stories in the novel cover Montoya's interactions with Two Face and the relationship they form as she realizes he is a man governed by chance and his evil is merely rooted in the laws of probability. That alone makes a fantastic story. There's nothing I like better than digging into the humanity of bad guys, and Montoya proves to be a great spade for the job. It is in the third story, for which the book is named, that Montoya becomes a more well-rounded character. Simply a hard-nosed law officer in previous books, she gets a promotion to detective and is suddenly shown as a woman with family issues, work conflicts and a growing secret. When her case gets hairy, photos of Montoya with her girlfriend are exposed to the station and her traditional Latino family. Not only is Montoya solving a case, but she's coming out of the closet at 30. And it isn't pretty. While the detective story is weak, the true focus is on the emotions surrounding Montoya's change. Rucka, a novelist by trade, is elevating comic writing into a more literary arena. I look forward to seeing more of Montoya in the future.

As an afterthought, I'd like to note that even though these comics gave positive representations of lesbians, all three were put together by men. I'm not saying a man can't write a lesbian character, but I am asking: Where have all the comic girls gone?

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