In case you haven’t heard, Batman and Catwoman are getting married. And in a new spin-off series leading up the wedding, appropriately titled Batman: Prelude to the Wedding #1, former Robin turned vigilante Red Hood prevents a riot — during Catwoman’s bachelorette party — that would have been started by a few white, angry incels.
Unfortunately, the politics of the comic quickly get murky, but at least in the beginning, it’s pretty clear Red Hood puts the warrior in “social justice warrior.”
Spoilers for Red Hood vs. Anarky ahead.
In Red Hood vs. Anarky — the fourth in a multi-part miniseries leading up to Batman #50 — writer Tim Seeley (Nightwing) and illustrators Javier Fernandez and John Kalisz follow former-Robin Jason Todd as he squares off with Anarky, a punk villain whose radical politics seem to shift with every writer.
This time, Anarky recruits a gang of angry, white male nationalists, whom Seeley seems to hint they’re incels, based on their dialogue.
Incels, for those who aren’t aware, are self-described “involuntary celibates,” men who believe they are deprived sex from women. And the public rise of incels has been on the heels of white nationalist resurgence.
While Seeley’s comic doesn’t have explicit vocabulary incels like to use, such as “Stacys,” “Chads,” or “Beta,” the use of violence as “revenge” against women is a documented incel action.
It all begins when Batman gives Jason Todd an odd assignment: Shadow his fiancé, Selina, during her bachelorette party in the seedier parts of Gotham City. Batman insists it’s not spying but making sure her night goes off without a problem, which makes sense in the superhero lifestyle, but also screams toxicity on the part of Bruce Wayne. Nevertheless, Jason accepts it, with a payment of $150,000. (Remember that, it’s important.)
During duty, a hologram of Bizarro (long story) notifies Jason to a nearby disturbance. As the Red Hood, Jason follows the signal to the roof of the male strip club, where a group of white men in “XY” hoodies are arming a bomb.
“Civilization began with men like me,” one guy says. “Strong, white and unashamed. If I am forced out of it… I will destroy what I created… with fury and fire.”
When one of the guys question if they should “do this” (as in, fire the bomb), the leader says: “Remember what your genes decree. Men should never debase themselves for the pleasure of women. It is an abomination.” Cue the Red Hood.
Red Hood makes quick work out of these bozos, but it’s not long before Seeley gets a little muddy with the social politics. Anarky, whom Bizarro profiles as a “socialist/populist” (which is true), the leader of the bombers tells Red Hood they were recruited by Anarky along with other anti-feminist “revolutionaries.” Because, like them, Anarky is “fed up.” And there’s something even bigger going down at midnight, leading Red Hood to investigate.
When Red Hood and Anarky finally meet and throw punches, Bizarro informs Red Hood on Anarky’s true plan: Anarky isn’t the new avatar for incel rage. Instead, he’s trying to start a riot between opposing sides.
As Bizarro puts it:
Bizarro: “They aren’t all members of ‘anti-feminist’ groups. They’re… Well… Militant feminists. Anti-fascists. Gun rights activists. Pro-lifers. Anti-abortionists. Capitalists. Socialists. They only thing they share… anger.”
All the “invited guests” were given electronic masks, which would have identified every person’s beliefs. Suddenly, total strangers would know who is a “militant feminist” or “anti-fascist,” which would have started an ugly riot in the middle of Gotham City.
With Anarky down, Bizarro and Red Hood hack into the masks and deliver everyone a message to go home. In exchange, Red Hood uses the fat $150,000 from Batman to give everyone $300 as donations “to your cause.” And if they don’t, the money “will be donated to the opposition.”
Putting aside the novelty of a fun side-story adjacent to a larger narrative in the Batman universe, it’s difficult to see what Red Hood vs. Anarky is getting at. It obviously takes a hard stance against white male rage, with the added insult that even Red Hood — a character archetype those kind of dudes romanticize — would totally beat the shit out of them.
But Red Hood’s centrist solution to bribe everyone with money, including pro-gun activists, feels like a massively inefficient one, even if it’s probably the most peaceful. It’s not how Batman would have handled the situation, but when it comes to the Red Hood, that’s precisely the point.
Batman: Prelude to the Wedding #1: Red Hood vs. Anarky is available now.