DC Pride 2022 Review: DC's LGBTQ+ Celebration Makes an Electrifying and Poignant Return

When DC Pride first launched in 2021, it felt like an absolute revelation, with the 100-page anthology uniquely spotlighting DC Comics' LGBTQ+ characters and creators. In the 12 months since that one-shot was first released, the topic of showcasing the LGBTQ+ experience has only further evolved, in ways both negative (with legislation like Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill) and positive (with increased LGBTQ+ representation in the world of media). DC has made headlines several times over in the latter category, with major established characters like Jon Kent/Superman and Tim Drake/Robin having buzzworthy coming-out storylines in their respective comics. All of that context further strengthens the journey of reading DC Pride 2022, the publisher's second-annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community — but even outside of it, the issue is still absolutely incredible to behold. DC Pride 2022 is somehow an even more ambitious and beautifully crafted anthology than its predecessor, with some of the most heartfelt storytelling mainstream comics have had this year.

DC Pride 2022 presents a collection of stories that are largely about the publisher's LGBTQ+ characters, with stories that highlight a wide array of experiences and identities. The individual plots of these stories range from the slice-of-life (the Aqualad-centric "A World Kept Just For Me" tackles introducing a partner to your hometown, while the Nubia-led "Confessions" involves telling a partner an embarrassing story) to the fantastical (without getting into spoilers, other stories involve elements such as hostage situations, shapeshifting monsters, and the debut of a new Fearsome Five). The issue then closes with "Finding Batman", an autobiographical story from iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, reckoning with the homophobia he faced during his early life and career.

While a lot of elements stand out in DC Pride 2022, one of the most impactful is its sense of confidence, both among its characters and within the convictions of each individual story. There's a sense of narrative excitement and electricity on display on practically every single page, as each character and their narrative is able to truly flourish to their best abilities. Even if a central character in DC Pride 2022 might still be coming to terms with a component of their identity — such as Jon Kent embracing the Kryptonian and bisexual parts of his identity in "Super Pride," or nonbinary Flash Jess Chambers proving themselves as a superhero in "Are you ready for this?" — those stories are presented in a way that remains joyful, and unburdened by many of the traumatic or triggering tropes that have surrounded past LGBTQ+ media. The key exception to that is "Finding Batman," which recounts Conroy's life as a gay man and actor prior to being cast in Batman: The Animated Series in a way that is poignant and tough at times, but incredibly necessary. (A content warning page does proceed the issue, advising reader discretion "for younger audiences, or those with firsthand experience of hate.")

Another part of what makes the stories of DC Pride 2022 feel so strong — both compared to last year's anthology and to a lot of similar LGBTQ+ storytelling within the mainstream superhero world — is the feeling that these stories are significant within DC itself. This anthology could have still been delightful if it was just a parade of the various LGBTQ+ characters that sporadically existed over the years, and are largely doomed to either being reinvented in the next line-wide retcon, or being stuck within the annals of Who's Who. But there's a sense that each character's story is absolutely worth being told, either because it'll directly tie into an upcoming book — particularly "Are you ready for this?", which essentially functions as a prequel to Multiversity: Teen Justice — or it will simply introduce readers to the awesomeness of an existing and prominent character. Even the stories that feel more unconnected from current continuity, like The Ray's "Public Display of Electromagnetism" or Batwoman's "Bat's in the Cradle," are still delightful in their execution. Part of that might be the array of genres that the issue utilizes, dipping into neo-noir with the Jo Mullein-led "The Gumshoe in Green," Bronze Age pulp with "Confessions," to everything in between. 

Along the way, the stories of DC Pride 2022 tackle a surprising variety of incredibly specific LGBTQ+ issues, some of which are refreshingly overt — Alysia Yeoh's "Up at Bat" uses a trans conference to address the good and bad of being transgender in the present day, and "The Gumshoe in Green" addresses negative bisexual stereotypes in a way that I'm amazed to see in a mainstream superhero comic. As one would expect with superhero storytelling, a number of the stories also use allegories to address their LGBTQ+ issues, including "A World Kept Just For Me" which tackles how Jackson had to hide his powers and his identity growing up, while "Public Display of Electromagnetism'' uses a fight with a prejudiced supervillain to help The Ray embrace his relationship with JLA engineer Xenos. Arguably the most clever example of this is the Connor Hawke story "Think of Me," which uses a fight with the Music Meister to brilliantly mirror him coming out as asexual to his mother. There's also a confidence in the smaller, more endearing LGBTQ+ details, between multiple stories that center around Pride parades, and dialogue between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in "The Hunt" that will make the day of their respective fandoms. 

On an aesthetic level, DC Pride 2022 excels, with an array of art and lettering styles that fit their respective characters. While there really isn't a weak link in the bunch, there are some highlights — Evan Cagle's art and Lucas Gattoni's letters on "The Gumshoe in Green" marry the aesthetic of Far Sector with the best parts of noir, while Zoe Thorogood, Jeremy Lawson, and Aditya Bidikar's work on "The Hunt" is a dream of playful purples and pinks. Even the stories that are more in line with DC's traditional house style are still full of gorgeous and colorful aesthetic flourishes, like Nick Robles, Triona Farrell, and Aditya Bidikar's work on "Super Pride," or Lynne Yoshii, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher's work on "Up at Bat." 

Much like its predecessor, DC Pride 2022 is a pitch-perfect and endlessly-delightful celebration of the publisher's LGBTQ+ characters. But this year's installment manages to be something so much more significant, cathartic, and triumphant than anything else in the space, in a way that could not be more fitting for DC's ever-growing roster of LGBTQ+ characters. While some stories might be a smidge more impactful than others, the entire experience of reading DC Pride 2022 is unparalleled, with stories that will make readers emotional in all of the right ways. This just might be one of the best and most important anthologies DC has put out in recent memory, and that's a cause for celebration.

Published by DC Comics

On June 8, 2022

Written by Devin Grayson, Stephanie Williams, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Jadzia Axelrod, Alyssa Wong, Tini Howard, Greg Lockard, Stephanie Phillips, Travis G. Moore, Dani Fernandez, Danny Lore & Ivan Cohen, and Kevin Conroy

Art by Nick Robles, Meghan Hetrick, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Lynne Yoshii, W. Scott Forbes, Evan Cagle, Giulio Macaione, Samantha Dodge, Travis G. Moore, Zoe Thorogood, Brittney Williams, and J. Bone

Colors by Triona Farrell, Marissa Louise, Tamra Bonvillain, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Jeremy Lawson

Letters by Aditya Bidikar, Ariana Maher, Frank Cvetkovic, and Lucas Gattoni

0comments

Pinups by P. Craig Russell with Lovern Kindzierski, J.J. Kirby, and Jess Taylor & Rye Hickman

Cover by Phil Jimenez and Arif Prianto