Monday, November 24, 2008

Free DC Comic Character Profile : Talia al Ghul

Speak the name Talia, and you think of pungent spices, exotic eyes, silk scarves fluttering in a sandstorm, all the props of an old Rudolph Valentino flick. It's not surprising: Talia's exotic beauty is her livelihood. It's her job to be lovely, to seduce, to be loved.

Her love is another matter.

Talia is defined by her love: her love for her father, the 600-year-old madman Ra's al Ghul, proprietor of the immortality-granting Lazarus Pits, executor of humanity's eventual demise. Ra's is an extreme environmentalist who's decided to kill off the human race before they kill off any more flora and fauna. There is little evidence that Talia agrees with her father. The point is moot: she is a loyal daughter. Whatever dreams she has for herself, we do not know. She has put them all aside for her love.

Because her father has a criminal bent, Talia learned the arts of stealth and combat. She can use guns with precision and ease, and sneak through high-security compounds with the best of cat thieves. Upon her father's behalf she has committed assault, even against members of the JLA. She subjects herself to her father's "punishment" when she fails in her missions. She is willing to kill, and willing to submit her body to other men, all on her father's behalf, and on his orders. Like I said, an obedient daughter.

Batman met Talia when saving her from the insidious Dr. Darrk, a former employee of her father's cartel. Though at first she seemed an innocent med student, she proved her deadliness by killing Darrk to save Batman in turn. Ra's later used his daughter to seduce this bright young man because he needed a male heir to his criminal empire -- Talia, for all her loyalty and hard work, would not do, being "merely" a woman in his eyes. Ever dutiful, Talia did her best to seduce the dashing Bruce -- and for the most part, failed. But she fell in love with him.

Hence the second love that defines Talia: the one she holds for Batman. Her simpering coos of "Oh, my beloved!" aside, Talia is often as loyal to Bruce as she is to her father. She helped him focus after No Man's Land, helped him to put his self-beratement aside and do something. Numerous times she's assisted him, even when it meant betraying her father.

Problem: Talia is torn between her two loves. Her father and Bruce are enemies, and whenever their paths cross, Talia must choose who to be loyal to. Who to obey. Both men use her and manipulate her: Ra's uses her daughterly loyalty, her sexuality, her life, to achieve his ends. Bruce manipulates her love for him, to achieve his own ends. I often wonder, when is this girl going to come to her senses and stop these men from using her? I suppose that's why I don't have much "use" for Talia. I can respect loyalty, but not loyalty that lets a woman be used, abused and manipulated time and again. One is tempted to air drop some Gloria Steinhem leaflets into her tent.

And maybe someone did. After a confusing and macabre affair involving drug smuggling, animal morphing, and murder, Talia finally got fed up with the testosterone tug-of-war, told both her father and Batman where to stick it, and stormed off. About time, I cheered.

But --

Ah, with Talia, there's always that word. But, she's still working for her father's interests, albeit at a distance -- heading up Lexcorp in Metropolis. But, she still betrays that duty by giving Batman the odd foot up in his investigation against President Lex Luthor. Plus ca change...

Talia needs what is called in the social work field an "intervention." Drop her into Catwoman's crib for six weeks. Or Oracle's. Let her see that it's a woman's world, after all.
Honestly, Talia. You have nothing to lose but your chains


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