Batwoman is about to up her game in a big way by becoming the newest hero to join The CW’s Arrowverse. And while the name Batwoman dates back to 1956 when Kathy Kane was introduced as a one-note love interest for Batman in a rather transparent attempt to put to rest the idea that Batman and Robin’s relationship was homosexual in nature, that character is a far cry from what will be appearing on your television screens this fall. Renamed Kate Kane, and now a lesbian herself, this version of Batwoman was introduced in 2006, making her practically brand new in comic book years. Batwoman is a fair bit newer a franchise then the kind we usually discuss here, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a franchise that’s still finding its footing.
Core Concept: Batwoman is a soldier. A soldier who was told she wouldn’t be allowed to serve because of who she was. So she finds a different way to serve. That’s not the only difference between Kate Kane and her more famous cousin, but it is the core of who she is and informs her decisions while under the cowl. As a soldier, she does not automatically rule out the idea of killing in order to save lives. She considers it a last resort, but it is an option she leaves on the table. This sets her apart from the rest of the Bat-Family who abide by a staunch no killing policy.
Essential Moments: Like most members of the Bat-Family (or superheroes in general) Batwoman has a childhood trauma that defines her. On her twelfth birthday she, along with her mother and twin sister, she was abducted by terrorists. She survives but her mother and sister are killed. This leads to a need to serve and protect, which leads to her enrolling in West Point, which leads to her dismissal from West Point as a result of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Being denied the right to fight because of who she loves is deeply traumatic to Kate and sends her spiraling. This both sets her up as an LGBTQ hero and sends her into a downward spiral and a desperate search for purpose.
Rogues Gallery: Wearing the Bat means that any of Gotham’s villains can decide to make you a target at any time, but as a fairly new comic book character enemies with a particular enmity towards Batwoman are limited. The two exceptions are The Religion of Crime whose Crime Bible makes specific mention of Batwoman and Alice whose psychotic nature and family connection make her more a Joker type foil than the Mad Hatter knock off as her name and mythology might imply. In truth, Kate Kane’s best antagonist might be her father, Colonel Jacob Kane. The Colonel would do anything to protect his daughter but his tendency to keep secrets and dual allegiance to shady government agencies can often but him at odds with his daughter’s mission.
Best Stories: “Elegy” (Detective Comics #854–860)- The first time Batwoman takes the lead in any series and the first time any character other than Batman had been the lead character in Detective Comics since the 1930s. This story establishes why the Batwoman is who she is, defines her relationship with her father, and establishes her connection to the Religion of Crime. “Detective Comics: Rebirth” (Detective Comics #934–981)This whole run sees Batman and Batwoman taking a team of young Gotham vigilantes and preparing them for a major conflict to come. While there is significant character growth on all fronts, this run is critical in establishing Batwoman’s place in the Batfamily and answering the question “What does Batwoman do that Batman doesn’t”. The run also is an excellent examination of the relationship between Kate and her father.
NEVER DO IT THIS WAY AGAIN: “The Unknowns” (Batwoman Vol. 1 #35-40)- The last story arc of the first ongoing Batwoman comic is painfully awful. The story features flashback within flashbacks, with time skips so jarring you’ll swear that you’ve read the issues out of order. In addition to bad storytelling decisions, it brings in a cast of DC D-listers form a team to deal with a supernatural threat. None of these characters have a prior relationship with Batwoman save Alice who goes from arch-villain to acting-out-of-character ally for no discernible reason. The whole arc comes out of left-field which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so poorly plotted and paced.