Grab the Sick Bags, It’s A DC Valentine’s Day Special !
Let’s get one thing completely straight here: there is nothing on this Earth I find more thoroughly worthless than Valentine’s Day, with the possible exception of head lice. The idea of a socially-mandated day in which people must declare their love for one another and express it with a variety of ridiculous gifts (don’t get me started on the practice of giving loved ones dismembered flowers which will wither and die before the week is out) or risk a previously happy relationship disintegrating into bitterness and rage, does not sit comfortably on my soul. Oh sure, when I was a naïve wee thing I held delusions that the year’s object of my awkward teenage desire would choose that special day to tell me how strongly and completely they admired my ironing-board body and dandelion hair, but that quickly gave way, first to a bitter cynicism, and then to a more peaceful, zen-like state of simply not giving a fuck. It remains a point of great pride with me that I continued to ignore V-Day even after I achieved the teenage holy grail of a relationship with another human, and that my husband and I make it safely through February each year with our wallets and marriage intact.
So I was as puzzled as anyone to find that I picked up DC’s Young Romance one-shot with all the squealing delight that an actual valentine would be expected to bring. Because, whilst I hate V-Day with every fibre of my being (except those special fibres reserved for the work of Rob Liefeld) I do love love, and I especially love when characters I love are in love with each other. The Young Romance special contains six stories, with first dates, lovers’ tiffs, reunions, and, of course, lots and lots of fighting.
‘Think it Through’ – Batman and Catwoman
This tells the story of the Bat and the Cat’s first meeting, which led to Catwoman turning into the responsible thief she is today. The subtle flirt-and-fight interplay is an immeasurably vast improvement on the shallow shagging of ‘…And Most of the Costumes Stay On…’ thanks in no small part to having female writer Ann Nocenti on board. Sadly, it feels a little bland and lacking in sexual tension, not to mention Catwoman’s Robin Hood style of theft being retconned into something she did to impress Batman, rather than a result of her own moral code. Personally, for those looking for a good Bat/Cat date night, I’d recommend going retro and looking up ‘A Town on the Night’.
‘The Lighthouse’ – Aquaman and Mera (featuring Felicity Merkham and Samuel Wentworth)
Aquaman and Mera snuggle up in their lighthouse to wait out the storm, when Mera discovers some letters written by the former lighthouse keeper’s daughter and the sailor she loved, and their story begins to unfold. It’s a simple, sweet little story, with an ending that brought me pretty close to tears.
‘Dreamer’ – Batgirl and Ricky
Ricky (the ex-con Batgirl rescued from a gang of torturing, murdering vigilantes) asks Batgirl out. It goes about as well as expected. This story has none of the short attention span scene changes seen in the others, and it works perfectly: two characters, just chatting in the street about the real reason it’s unwise to date superheroes. Plus, Ricky is such a wonderful person -just cocky enough so you don’t see him as a victim, just sensitive enough that he doesn’t seem like a jackass- that I, a die-hard member of the Nightwing/Batgirl fan club, kinda want to see them together.
‘Seoul Brothers’ – Apollo and Midnighter
Stormwatch’s on-again-off-again gay couple, Apollo and Midnighter, have had something of a tiff, so Apollo strides purposefully through the grimy back alleys of Seoul to find his chin-spiked amour. Midnighter, in a revelation which surprises exactly no-one, is beating the ever-loving shit out of, well, pretty much every human being he sees. The sexual tension between these guys is everything that the BatCat story lacked, and I found myself wishing I had the foresight to keep a hand fan by my desk. Or, as George Takei might put it, “Oh my!”
‘Another Saturday Night’ – Nightwing and Ursa Major
Nightwing stands up a date to go fight crime and the date promptly (and understandably) ends things over the phone. It’s at this point he bumps into new girl on the block Ursa Major, and the two mop up a fairly standard rent-a-mob. The two eat dinner on a rooftop at the urging of Ursa’s employer, who shrewedly notes that these costume types never seem to take time out of their schedule for boning. Now, when I saw that Nightwing and Batgirl weren’t paired together in this collection, I was aghast. Aghast and possibly even offended. But since Batgirl and Ricky made such a nice pair in the end, I was prepared to give this Ursa Major bitch a fair shot. And you know, she’s a pretty great gal- she’s got the delicate balance down between being aloof enough to be interesting, but not so cold that you don’t want to get to know her. Which just made the ending so much worse. Poor, poor Nightwing.
‘Truth or Dare’ – Superman and Wonder Woman
DC’s ultimate power couple are on a dinner date in a place personally recommended to Wonder Woman by her cousin (and demigod of love) Eros, which sounds fantabulous on the surface, but when the gods get involved, you know there’s going to be some drama of epic proportions. The sirens are stirring up havoc of the mind-controlling variety, and Wonder Woman is forced to fight, not only Eros and the sirens, but the entire population of the restaurant- including Superman! It’s a good look into Wonder Woman’s world, where their relationship up to this point has been mostly centred around Superman’s home and hobbies, but the real high point of this story is how the ending manages to please both fans of the SuperWonder pairing, and canon devotees who want Clark to be with Lois. Impressive.
This wasn’t a perfect collection; I personally would have included confirmation of the Black Canary/Starling relationship (which is so clearly happening and no force on earth will convince me otherwise) a Red Hood and the Outlaws three-way and a Tim Drake/Stephanie Brown moment (even if it was only in Tim’s head, because dammit I want Steph back!) but that is probably because I’m confusing Young Romance with the smuttier corners of fanfiction.net. But the best thing about this one-shot has got to be the puntastic valentine’s cards at the end. If I were the sort to celebrate V-Day, I’d probably be giving out this one…