Last weeks comics had an interesting confluence: three of them showed how female characters — or, more specifically, female superheroes — handled massive trauma, both physical and emotional. It turned into a study of contrasts and similarities, of people trying to process their own pain and often failing, of making the right decisions and the wrong decisions in response to that pain.
First up: Jennifer Walters in Hulk #1.
The first issue of Mariko Tomaki and Nico Leon’s Hulk is a great illustration of someone trying to overcome a painful trauma, both physical and mental. Jennifer Walters was put into a coma by Thanos and when she came out, she learned that Hawkeye had killed her cousin, the closest family member she had. (Pretty much the only family member she had.) So how do you cope with that trauma? Well, Jen goes back to work, with encouragement from her best friend Patsy “Hellcat” Walker. Her old firm takes her back and she even handles cases to the best of her ability.
It’s when a journalist ambushes her to ask her questions about her trauma that she falls apart. Rushing into her apartment, she goes through the transformation that she used to revel in...but this time, it’s painful. It’s like she’s dying.
Learning about cooking is an actual, real world way to treat depression. It focuses the mind on something simple and good. This is how Jen copes now.
Second: Stephanie Brown in Detective Comics #947.
Stephanie “Spoiler” Brown has not had a good life. Her father was a supervillain who tried to kill her, her mother also tried to kill her, but she stayed once step ahead and always managed to come out on top. Until the current run on James Detective Comics, when her boyfriend and fellow superhero Tim “Red Robin” Drake died (sort of) and she was left traumatized.
A lot of the time, when someone dies in a comic, the other characters grieve and then move on. But Stephanie was different. When they confront a supervillain group called the Victim Syndicate, who claim to show how the those in Batman’s wake can be affected, Stephanie finally lets her trauma manifest in issue #947, by James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez.
By taking down the entire team.
She’s doing it because she wants everyone to have the life they wanted, instead of the life that was handed to them. She wants them to have normal lives. It’s a noble goal, but one that’s impossible, especially in the world they live in. But that is how her pain manifests.
The third one: Violet Paige in Mother Panic #2.
“Fuck the Bat.” With those words, Jody Hauser and Tommy Lee Edwards’ Violent Paige shows how much she doesn’t care about justice. She is not out there to prevent violent crimes or muggings or whatever. She is there to take her pain and inflict it on the people responsible. She is not a superhero.
And even though her trauma was years ago, it still holds tight.
The flashbacks to her childhood show how she turned from a young girl to the pain-filled person she is today. And yet, even with all that pain, she can’t bring herself to kill.
She can’t kill, but her pain still propels her. Unlike Jennifer Walters, who tries to move on with her normal life, or Stephanie Brown, who tries to make sure others can have that kind of life, Violet Paige tries not to care. There is no normal for her. There is only pain.
So there are the three women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Each of them dealing with their own traumas, their own pain, in three very different ways.