Fantastic Female Friday: The Crimson Avenger

AKA Jill Carlyle.

Justice Society of America member, Ultra Humanite plot thwarter, bad ass, highly educated, super powerful.

Jill Carlyle was technically the third Crimson Avenger. She was also the most powerful. Jill Carlyle was a lawyer. She took up the original Crimson Avenger’s guns after failing to convict someone who was obviously guilty. In pursuit of justice, she purchased pistols at a pawn shop. From the origin story comes something very potentially Batman meets Dexter. Unfortunately, this was set forth by Geoff Johns, who I think is an misogynist ass. And racist. I hate him. Which is unfortunate, the Crimson Avengers third incarnation was a fucking bad ass.

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The good: Carlyle was the most powerful of the three, she got added bonuses of teleportation and was able to dematerialize in order to avoid enemy attacks. She can’t die and she can’t miss. The original crimson Avenger, Lee Walter Travis (1938), was a trained soldier with martial arts skills who worked as a reporter and was the first official masked crime fighter. The second Crimson Avenger, Albert Elwood, made his single appearance in 1963, he was more trouble than he was worth. In 2000, the third Crimson Avenger found the guns and sealed her fate. Jill was something terrifying, she wasn’t some masked vigilante, someone hiding the skin around their eyes and toting a smoke gun; she took up the cause for a righteous reason and ended up cursed. Left with an eternally bleeding wound on her chest that made the hyper-masculine Lee Travis’s golden “bullet-esque” costume look weak. It’s deeper, the knowledge that if you set out to do the right thing you might get more than you bargained for. You might not be able to stop. 

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But unfortunately, a great character was undone by bad writing. During the time when she joined the JSA to team up against the Ultra-Humanite and Thunderbolt, Jill’s personality was consumed by the power of her weapons. (In the same string of events, the only other female; Powergirl, was artistically strong and stunning, but unnecessarily catty and impulsive to the point of incompetence- not that impulsive and irrational behavior is out of the norm for her. And the only other African American character was the one who accidentally gave the Ultra-Humanite a Genie that made him be able to take control of ALMOST all the world’s superheros. (Jakeem does set it right -but after a pep talk from HourMan… like I said, Johns doing inclusion.. HA!) 

At the end of the “Stealing Thunder” story arc we get a good glimpse at Jill. Ready for a new assignment, she wakes up in an electric chair, out to avenge Charles Durham. Charles Durham was framed. She gets to tell her story, and she shares that Lee Travis was cursed too, but left it behind for a costume and a sidekick, the curse was broken until she picked up the guns. The guns compel her, the holsters never come off (how does that work?) and she ends up after Wildcat -who helped save everyone from the Ultra-Humanite. 

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Jill Carlyle, educated black female from Detroit, from an unapologetically urban background, drawn to violence by grief -the way so many heroes are… Jill could have been more, if crimefighting was an itch she needed to scratch (a la Dexter) if she went home at night rather than turning into mist and drifting off to her next assignment she would have been more. It is a great disservice that she did not have more agency. 

That being said: Carlyle’s justice was universal. Wildcat didn’t get a free pass. He framed a man who died as a result. No amount of good deeds on the side made up for it. Jill Carlyle does not believe in affluenza. Jill Carlyle does not care about your upbringing, your excuses or who you know, she doesn’t care if you’re a “nice guy” or a pillar of the community. Her justice is universal. She can stop anyone who stands in the way.

And she does. Even the impervious Power Girl. 

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Jill Carlyle: “I am on no one’s side.” 

She spares Wildcat after hearing his testimony, he committed his crime for the same reason that she took up the guns. It was the only way. She fights against her curse and saves him. Using strength and will against the curse upon her. And sets off for a more worthy kill. 

She has been absent from The New 52! But I’m holding out hope that she can find a home under a worthy pen somewhere in the DC Universe. 

4 thoughts on “Fantastic Female Friday: The Crimson Avenger

  1. Terrific write-up! Never knew much about the character but I’d love to see her pop-up in the New 52.

  2. Pingback: The Comic-Verse: Awesome Art & The Top 15 Featured Links (02/22/14-02/28/14) | The Speech Bubble

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