It’s June, Pride month, when the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community is celebrated and DC releases a giant anthology starring heroes and villains of a different stripe.
The cover is awash with stripes in the form of the rainbow Pride flag colours, superimposed on a typically fine Phil Jimenez illustration. There’s Aquaman Jackson Hyde (gay), Nubia (lesbian), Green Lantern Jo Mullein (lesbian), Kid Quick (non-binary), Tim Drake (bisexual) and Superman Jon Kent (bisexual). A powerful bunch and a powerful statement of DC’s efforts to embrace identity diversity.
All have stories inside, beginning with Jon, who’s gifted a rather gruesome, but sweetly meant, new cape for his first Pride parade by boyfriend Jay. The script’s fun if you ignore Jon’s narrative musings on symbols, which read like a Wikipedia entry. The art is a treat, illustrations and colours.
Next up, a Nubia tale set during the early Nineties run of Mr Miracle, which is unexpected. There’s Big Barda, Giganta and sundry female wrestlers in a tale that’s fluffy, fanciful and fun. There’s even a clever mock cover in DC’s contemporary trade dress, for which production person Sandy Alonzo likely shares credit with artist Meghan Hetrick (and if not, apologies, someone let me know!).
DCAU villain the Music Meister motivates a painful extended musical metaphor as Connor Hawke composes a letter to his mother explaining that he’s asexual. The way Connor explains his feelings is pretty good, but he really should be explaining the shockingly bad costume, he looks like Ragman’s sidekick… presumably it’s from his recent appearances in the Robin series but heck, change it! Nice, kinetic art, though. As in the Jon story, Damian Wayne shows up and is super supportive. The kid is an ally! At the close he drags Connor off on a new adventure which, from a line of dialogue, may connect to current issues of Batman/Superman World’s Finest.
A lovely surprise is the inclusion of a strip starting Alysia Yeoh, former flatmate of Barbara Gordon from her Burnside days. I thought she had been consigned to limbo, but here she is defending an injured Batgirl from Killer Moth in a sharply scripted piece with outstanding visuals. She does well via a weapon familiar to readers of the old Bombshells series, but the ending hints that we have yet another Gotham vigilante on our hands. Please, just no! Let someone known to the Bats have a relatively sane life, we already have a couple of dozen sidekicks. Alysia is a brilliant trans woman who has been through a lot, she’s already a hero – leave her be, DC!
Jackson Hyde and his new boyfriend, Ha’weaaa, explore one another’s backgrounds and our young Aquaman frets about his heritage. Again. And resolves to move on. Again. He should change his name to Groundhogdayman. The date goes well, the gorgeous art works hard to give us a sense of undersea life and, refreshingly, Ha’weaaa doesn’t have a superhero physique – but there’s no real reason for the story beyond Jackson visibility.
I’ve not much experience of Green Lantern Jo Mullein but the basics of her world are explained on the first page of her strip, an amusing sci-fi noir tale which challenges the assumptions many people make about bisexuals. The art is grey toned with green highlights and rather excellent – when full colour arrives, it’s earned.
After the return of Alysia Yeoh, another surprise – the Justice Foundation are back. They’re the Justice League offshoot created by Steve Orlando whom I never expected to see again. But here they are in a strip which sees the gay Ray being a bit silly – I identify – and a tad preachy. The art is bright and breezy, but boy, Ray Terrill really has the worst headwear in comics.
Batwoman rescues her dad as he thinks about what a great, strong daughter she is. The art is suitably kinetic.
Tim Drake’s attempts to deliver a present to his new boyfriend – Bernard, I think, but I didn’t notice him named here – are rudely interrupted by obscure and amusing Robin villains Macro and Micro. Writer-artist Travis Moore truly captures what the first flush of love feels like in a tremendous blend of action and character. My favourite story.
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn’s twee sex games are interrupted by a passing emotional vampire. The delicate art is interesting but I’d like it more with a less limited colour palette. The story is embarrassing.
Kid Quick Jess Chambers runs up against the Fearsome Five of Earth Genderflip, sorry, Earth 11, in an an amusing tease for the upcoming Teen Justice mini-series. This is the most characterisation Jess has had… finally they’re becoming more than Flash plus Gender Fluid.
Finally, a very personal tale from Batman voice artist Kevin Conroy, telling of how events in his life helped a good guy play a very intense good guy. The considered rawness of the prose is complemented by the unshowy yet emotional art of J Bone. The whole is thoroughly affecting.
DC Pride 22 also contains three pin-ups, one of which is actually an ad, and an introduction by Supergirl TV show actress Nicole Main which I expect is pretty darn inspirational.
Congratulations to editors Jessica Chen, Michael McCalister, Andrea Shea and Arianna Turturro for squiring this 100+page project to fruition and thanks to DC Comics for making it available gratis on the DC Infinite App.