I love Miss America. She’s really fucking angry, she likes punching things and she’ll tolerate a great number of things for barbecued pork belly. She’s also sensible and intuitive and curious and has a fierce not-just-survivalist instinct that enjoys scraping through things but doesn’t want that to be the end achievement. She’s not out for fame and you couldn’t pay her to join the Avengers (according to Vengeance) and she likes dragging small chaos-oriented types around by their feet. She’s great; I love her, indeed, so much it briefly warped my brain into cosplaying her at ComiCon last week.
But she’s not Kate Bishop. And I love-love Kate Bishop. I love Kate Bishop to such a terrifying degree that the idea of attempting to cosplay her makes my palms go sweaty, not just because of the idea of all that lycra in a humid convention centre but because I would be panicking about attempting to both do her justice and convey all of my feelings about Kate Bishop As A Thing. Because I really truly relate to Miss America and I think she is the coolest but Kate is my favourite.
WARNING: There are some BIG SPOILERY SPOILERS in this for Young Avengers volume 1 and volume 2 through to #5.
Firstly, Jamie McKelvie’s art is so gorgeous here; the lights and darks and neutral tones and Kate’s fresh prettiness, mixed with a little wiser-than-she-is-old. The art has been totally exceptional through the series but every now and then when I’m screencapping things to put in these pieces I’m struck by a sort of ‘Damn, son’ moment and have to stare at it for a bit.
That motion, that self-comfort, that ‘closing eyes and centreing and perhaps remaking yourself a little into something more resilient than you suspect yourself to be because you’re not entirely certain of the circumstance’ -this is something that is easy, with a superhero costume but with an oversized, borrowed t-shirt it’s something I profoundly recognised to a degree that almost freaked me out a bit. No one’s looking at Kate in this panel, she doesn’t have to make that motion- it’s her female gaze to an even greater degree than the alien abs panel later.
Kate is the sort of girl that gets a diss in a Taylor Swift song. And I’m down with that because so am I. Kate is self-assured, a little bit of a drifter (having had all her roots pulled out with her mother’s death and being too rich to have an urge to cling to the money) and Kate- like, I am going to project a bit here but- Kate is trying very hard to live fast while being sensible. She is constantly in mortal danger and its a hazard she relishes, the survivalist challenge of getting herself and her team (and Young Avengers really is Kate’s team, in volume 1) not only through the next five minutes but to the point where the world is saved, then do it again, immediately, irrespective of fear or concerns or risk management, just doing the next thing they can possibly do.
And in the middle of this, Kate also wants to snog boys. Because what is a continuously ending world without a touch of romance? And Kate has a lot of self-control, except that (and like the Hawkeye before her, of course) she can be a bit of a romantic hedonist. It’s not a self-esteem thing or some shit like that, it’s just not having the thing in your brain that tells you to stop and that in Kate and Clint’s brains says ‘this is interesting and/or cool’ -not just ‘going along with it’ but lacking whatever inhibition stops other people. And it’s not exactly thoughtless, it’s just thought-different.
And just to delineate: Kate is a girl who likes hot-makeout-time. The sort of girl who gets described as ‘having loose morals;’ that is bullshit. Kate has morals shooting out of her fucking eyeballs, covered in fucking bolas arrowheads. This is not a question of morality, this is a question of seeking out experiences and wanting to have them.
So Kate is the sexy one out of the original Young Avengers. Billy and Teddy have a relationship and no doubt there’s some shagging involved, Vision and Cassie and Kang had a tangle of intensely-felt, young-love-which-might-not-wholly-be-love-but-more-the-idea-of-it angst and Tommy and Eli? Well, they got caught up with Kate.
Kate, who felt weird going on a horse and carriage date with Eli but him breaking his hand in combat makes her want to fuck him. Who (tempestuously, viciously, wholly) found his wanting to be superhuman, to be better, to live up to something so opposite from her own desire to drop out of expectations and use only her own exacting standards to measure by so irresistable that the conflagration might as well have had ‘TEENAGE LUSTSPLOSION’ as some sort of onomatopoeic ‘BLAMMO’ across it. Kate who, despite all that intensity, could go dancing with escaped convict Tommy and snog him on the pavement.
“Oh no!” the wails went up, “she’s cheating on Eli” yeah, she is, “and she doesn’t care about him!” Oh- nope. Kate cares, Kate cares deeply. Probably about too many people. And because people conflate caring with kindness-in-the-way-someone-wants-it that might look confusing. But Kate Bishop grew up in a world full of etiquette and demands on her behaviour, of functions and society and doing not the right thing but the polite thing. The nice thing.
And deep down? Kate Bishop isn’t nice. Nice is too insipid, even aiming to be nice is too constrained a pleasantry, too empty an acquaintance for Kate. Kate is good, yes. Maybe the best. But beyond the moments with the bow taut and the impromptu plan forming, I don’t think Kate knows that much about who she is. She knows she can do things when it counts, she knows she can lead, she knows she can hit the target every time, she knows she is, fundamentally, a badass on the field. But that means she knows what her life is like as a weapon, not when she’s just, y’know. Hanging out. So, a Hawkeye then.
Of course, Kate is the Young Avenger we know the most about, currently, precisely because of all that stuff I just shoehorned in references to, in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. Which brings me roughly around to these panels;
So: Kate Bishop. Having sex. With aliens. Being ok about it. I am down with this- I am especially down with the fact it’s annoying people who don’t want her to do that. I am extremely down with the idea that it challenges people’s ideas of what a young, strong female character is. There’s a tendency towards forced sexlessness or over-sex or angst about sex, whereas Kate is continuing her curiosity. She likes kissing people, she likes entering the worlds of people who want to kiss her and it doesn’t fuck her up to do so. It’s fine, more than fine, awesome to show this aspect of teenage sexuality; that point at which it’s all exciting and maintains some level of being able not to get emotionally complicated through lack of significant material complications.
[“Hold the fuck up, Mog, I thought you were talking about those panels” -Continuity Ed]
Wiccan was totally down with that. Wiccan was totally down with Kate meeting cute boys and indeed, Skrulls (guys, we need to talk about how great the ‘I’m saying we’re in deep trouble, also, hugs’ in issue #3 is) and that all sort of fitted into Billy Kaplan’s Precious Little Life with his own sexy alien chap but not four issues ago, Billy would not have been at all ok about Kate superhero-ing it up. Or maybe he would- she is Kate, I don’t think even Wiccan imagines he’d be able to stop her.
But Kate’s nervous about revealing it. Maybe because this actually was a bit of a cheat, an emotional complication against the memory of her old team; she’s been hanging around with older guys, taking them places in her VW Beetle, checking out their abs. And if she’d given a running commentary of how continually 5000% done with Clint she was at the time, maybe that would work but now… now she has to guiltily cop to it at a point when the universe is clattering down on them and they’re cut off even from the sub-adult coping methods of Mr Barton.
And I like that sudden note of lack of surety. I was an absolute headcase when I was a teenager and certainly no kind of superhero but Kate Bishop has all kinds of familiar flashes to her. The reservedness, the not-even-defiance-just-doing-it-ness, the willingness to take the pain sometimes and the fear when exciting, adrenalised schemes face an examination.
If Young Avengers is a comic about being a teenage superhero then… well, Kate is the non-powered one, here. Kate thinks it’s amazing, though and everyone should try it. Experiencing things, especially shared experience is an enormously important bit of growing up, of this last tentative stage before full adulthood takes a lot of the relish out of things and Kate is a master collector of those moments, these things that become their very own vintage, artisan memories of spectacular, beautiful, skillful things. Dancing in some club skeevy enough to let people a full six years below the US legal drinking age in and kissing on a pavement, that first breath of air after being buried under tons of Asgard, alien boys dancing in their underwear, the sing of the Soul Bow as it hammers through a dead parent, METAPHOR.
Maybe. I don’t know, of course. She might get killed off next issue. But Kieron, I probably know where you drink.
Further ~feels~ reading:
A note on some interesting phrasing that probably isn’t all that interesting: “I’ve been with Clint.” Ah, I don’t think they’re fucking; I just like that they’re together -not, like together, I mean. You know. Staring-at-your-shoes-trying-to-explain-it-closeness-that-isn’t-all-that-close. No, not like that -oh my GOD, stop asking, Cap. More rambling on that here.
And via Jamie McKelvie’s Tumblr and me going off on one, clearheaded thinking on Jamie’s part and some bibbling on on mine re: Young Avengers and Tegan and Sara.