Posted - January 1, 2012 | Updated March 26, 2012 | August 27, 2015

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Batwoman Primer

Batwoman and the New 52

"The New 52" was meant to be a fresh start for most of DC's heroes, theoretically making it easier for new readers to start reading DC without getting confused by half a century of continuity. Batwoman is a newer hero than most, having her start in 2006's "52" maxi series (not to be confused with the "New 52"); she had an out-of-costume appearance in issue 7 of that series and came out in-costume in issue 11.

Here is a portion of Batwoman's appearance in "52" no. 7. She appears as Kate Kane and has a run in with sometime lover Renee Montoya. Batwoman is unique in being one of the few lesbian superheroes.

By the way, Renee Montoya too will eventually become a superhero - inheriting the mantle of the Question from the late, lamented Charlston hero, Vic Sage.

batwoman panel from 52 : kate kane and renee montoya

"52" no. 11 is appropriately titled "Batwoman Begins". In that issue, we see Batwoman in costume for the first time.

batwoman panel from 52 : batwoman in costume

Seeing as Batwoman is a fairly recent hero with not much backstory to confuse new readers, she comes into the new DC universe with her old DC backstory intact.

Batwoman : Elegy

After her appearance in "52", Batwoman was given her own series. Well, sort of. When Bruce Wayne "died" Kate Kane took over Detective Comics for issues 854 to 866. The run is known as Batwoman: Elegy. The events in this run are referenced in Batwoman 1 signalling that these pre-New 52 issues are still valid for the new DC universe.

Batwoman 1

Here it is at last! A Batwoman series that bears the Batwoman name.

Every review I've ever read about this issue is unanimous : the art is amazing! Let's take a look at just one panel :

Look at the layout in this two page spread. Notice the shape of the panels on the lower part? It's an amalgam of Batwoman's symbol on the left and Flamebird's symbol on the right.

Flamebird is the blonde you see in these panels. Her name is Bette Kane - she used to be called Betty Kane and was the Batgirl of the 1960s - a time frame also known as the Silver Age of comics. We'll talk more about Batwoman and the Silver Age later. Back to the art.

A lot of artists have done action illustrations showing multiple figures in one big panel to denote action. I can remember truly wonderful panels from Daredevil and Spider-Man for example. This is a wonderful sample showing the refined lines and perfect anatomical rendition of J.H. Williams III. The dress-up panels from the top showing such gorgeous figures and culminating in that wonderful Batwoman costume in the upper right panel is just "wow" material. What you should take away from this is that the entire comic is this beautifully wrought; it is one of those books that, if you're like me, you'll just take it out to look at. J. H. Williams III obviously spent a lot of time on these panels and I intend to spend a lot of time just looking at them.

The writing for Batwoman used to come from the legendary Greg Rucka. Sadly he's not here and the writing has been split between writer/artist J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman.

The main plot involves kidnappings perpetrated by the supernatural "Weeping Woman" - the work begins, satisfyingly, with an action sequence introducing this main plot. Then Williams and Blackman dial it down with a quiet series of panels focusing on the past relationship between Kate and Renee and the possibility of a Kate Kane - Maggie Sawyer relationship for the future. I'd like to note that the former GCPD Captain Maggie Sawyer is now Detective Maggie Sawyer in the new DC.

What follows are four gorgeous two-page spreads. Big, collage-like panels. Two of these panels show the dynamics between Batwoman and Flamebird as well as showing them in action. Another panel goes back to the main story as the mystery of the "Weeping Woman" disappearances deepens. The last panel points directly to the Batwoman Detective Comics stories from the old DC. They present "Alice", Kate Kane's twin sister and the villain of those Detective Comics storylines; we are also introduced to the strained relationship between Kate and her father, because of his decision to keep Alice's existence a secret.

The comic ends with a cliffhanger, and what better cliffhanger than Batman showing up with "a proposition"?

The decision to build on the Batwoman story dating back to 2006's "52" and and going on through the Detective Comics issues has defeated the reader friendly intent of DC's New 52. Lots of history on these pages that could baffle the truly new reader. I wouldn't worry though, I'm confident the art will dampen down any complaints. More than that, I applaud the decision to carry over Batwoman from the old DC - I think Rucka and company handled it well from the start and its only right that Williams and Blackman get to build on such a solid foundation.

The Other Batwoman

Kate Kane isn't the first Batwoman. The original Batwoman was Kathy Kane, introduced in the pages of Detective Comics 233 circa 1956. Here she is :

The original Batwoman - Kathy Kane

Kathy Kane has got an interesting backstory. She was added to the DC lineup as Bruce Wayne's love interest in order to refute allegations that Bruce and Dick Grayson were in a homosexual relationship! Such allegations stemming from the infamous Seduction of the Innocent - a book that resulted in the late, and unlamented, Comics Code Authority.

The original Batwoman was a part of the DC Universe until the mid-60s when Julius Schwartz decided to clean house, perhaps as a reaction to the ever increasing popularity of Marvel Comics. Kathy was unceremoniously swept under the rug. 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths made the change permanent as it retroactively erased any trace of Batwoman's existence from DC's past history. Enter Infinite Crisis an event that reversed some of Crisis on Infinite Earth's changes. One of this reversals was the return of Kathy Kane in DC history, where she is now the "old" Batwoman, while Kate Kane is the "new" Batwoman.

The Origin of Batwoman

Just like the Batman, Batwoman doesn't have any inherent powers.

Kate Kane was a West Pointer who got booted out of the military because of an illicit lesbian affair.

Her arsenal, including a stab resistant, small arms bullet-proof costume, was provided by her father. She also took a year to train herself for the role of Batwoman. And there you have it, no aliens, or mystical amulets.

Next: The Dark Knight Returns