DCAU #160: Balance of Power

IN THIS ONE... Livewire's back and she's pushed all the men off the airwaves.

CREDITS: Written by Scott McCloud; art by Bret Blevens and Terry Austin.

REVIEW: Livewire's motivation in her introductory episode wasn't very interesting. The comics fix this by making her come out of her coma, in part because of a misogynist radio show. She decides to get men off all media, putting static on whenever a male face or voice comes on. This proves a boon to Angela Chen, who becomes news anchor during the crisis, though Lois' attitude is less enthusiastic. One might say that regardless of her gender, she's at the top of her profession, and has forgotten whatever sexism Angela still struggles with at work. But of course, she's right to call Livewire a terrorist, even though her meritocratic advice to Angela, to simply apply for a position that isn't actually vacant, is either naive or patronizing.

McCloud's script is, at times, upsetting, because he refuses to condescend to his audience. The initial radio broadcast's misogyny is repeated at the end with the lascivious paramedics, and though they're painting feminists with too broad a brush, Livewire is a real example of the paint they mean to use. This IS a story about a dangerous woman who's feminist agenda is defeated by men - Superman and Lex even teaming up - and McCloud does not give us moralistic speeches to put the story into proper political context.

What he does is better. The news show's regular anchor snatches the microphone out of Angela's hand. Superman and Lois give a sad look. Mercy looks back at Livewire with disappointed admiration. If you're a good person, you're naturally identifying with these characters, not with Livewire (who preaches superiority, not equality, though one could make the argument that she's really after an extreme brand of equity), and not with the sexist who go unchallenged at story's end. And it's that very lack of challenge, that lack of a moral victory, that makes the story so shocking and, like it or not, realistic.
REREADABILITY: Medium-High - Off-putting, but mature in its treatment of subject matter that's sadly still topical today.

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