Wed
Jul 13 2011 4:10pm

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Batwoman

Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: BATWOMAN!

The Concept and Characters: Batwoman is Kate Kane, lesbian crimefighter.

As a character, she was nothing more than a sexual orientation and a costume when she debuted to widespread media coverage even before her on-page appearance in the DC event comic 52, back in 2006. Her superhero identity, and her civilian alter ego, alluded to an almost-forgotten Batman character: Kathy Kane, the Silver Age Batwoman, from the time when Batman hung out in the Batcave with a bunch of pals who wore variations on his favorite motif.

But this new Batwoman was different! Because she was…gay.

Of course, that didn’t make any difference in her approach to crimefighting, and now that even Archie Andrews has an openly gay friend, the media attention on a gay Batwoman way back in 2006 seems almost quaint.

Here’s something else, besides her broadcast-to-the-world sexual orientation, that’s not-at-all-a-secret (though less written about in major newspapers or television news websites) regarding this new Batwoman series—it’s going to be very good. We know this series is headed toward quality for four reasons:

  • Reason #1: It’s a follow up to a critically-acclaimed 2009 Detective Comics run by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III (repackaged in the collected edition as Batwoman: Elegy).
  • Reason #2: J. H. Williams III, one of the three greatest comic book artists working today, is heavily involved in this series as a co-writer and as one of the rotating artists.
  • Reason #3: Amy Reeder (formerly known as Amy Reeder Hadley), artist of the beautiful-looking, if not-amazingly-written, Madame Xanadu series is the other rotating artist on the series.
  • Reason #4: The zero issue for this series already came out months ago, and this relaunched book is actually a comic that was supposed to come out earlier this year. With the delay to time it for a September release as part of the line-wide relaunch, the creative team will have even more completed stories, which means far less possibility for delays for the first year of the series.

The character and concept are truly secondary to the creative team, as all four of those reasons illustrate. But if you want to know more about the character and concept, know this: Batwoman: Elegy is still widely available. Read that. Because it’s great, and I don’t want to spoil all the twists and turns of that story to explain the status quo of Kate Kane and her crimefighting world. (Note: it may have werewolves and surprise reveals in it. But not surprise reveals about the werewolves, don’t worry.)

The Creative Team: I mentioned above that J. H Williams III is one of the three greatest artists working in comics today, and I mean it. (The other two, for the official record, would be Frank Quitely, who draws almost nothing anymore, and whoever else I’m obsessed with at the moment, and that could be anyone from Moebius to Brendan McCarthy to Dave Gibbons to Jerome Opeña, depending on my mood. But Williams III is always in the Top 3.) Williams III has used a variety of styles to suit the scenes in previous Batwoman issues, and I expect that he’ll do the same here, but he’s such a constantly surprising artist—so capable of doing anything with the form—that I wouldn’t want to pin him down with any kind of specific expectations. Other than the expectation that his work will be astonishing.

Amy Reeder isn’t as revolutionary as stylist as Williams III, but she’s very good. Good enough that I would buy this comic if she were just drawing it without rotating with Williams III.

I don’t know much about J. H. Williams III’s co-writer, Haden Blackman, other than what I’ve read about his experience working on some video game stories. He is a wild card, but this is a comic where it’s all about the art, and the art looks to be some of the best stuff you’ll ever see. If the writing’s good, then it’s gravy on top of a mashed meal of gorgeous illustrations.

Recommendation: Definitely buy it. Buy extra copies of the Williams III-drawn issues so you can cut out the pages and frame them, because it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the original art, though you should probably buy that too, if you have a few thousand extra bucks just sitting around. Seriously, though, this is one of the must-buy series of the relaunch.


Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.

9 comments
[da ve]
1. slickhop
Your comments minimizing the coolness of Batwoman being a lesbian sit sort of funny with me, but I couldn't agree more with your opinion of Elegy and all JH Williams III's art ... stunning... I never thought of buying a second one to cut out the pages, but now I just might.
John R. Ellis
2. John R. Ellis
Eh, Batwoman was far from DC's first openly lesbian super-hero. She was just the first one they made a Marvel style trumpet-it-to-the-media beforehand fuss about.
Scott Harris
3. vitruvian
While I suppose it's fair to say that simply being a lesbian crimefighter wasn't enough to hang a character on by itself, the other aspects of the character as they developed her more than made up for that, such as her military background and dismissal from West Point because she felt honor bound to be honest about her orientation, her interesting relationship with her father (who plays a role like a cross between Alfred and Oracle for her), the kidnapping backstory with her twin sister, her partying days and the details of who exactly she's been in relationships with... all of that.
Joseph Blaidd
4. SteelBlaidd
Only read the origin bit in the trades While I thought the character backstory and execution were pretty coo,l the religion of crime and prophesied twin sister thing just broke my suspension of disbelief. There's no way Batman would let a unknown handle something like that as its very premise would be offensive to his deepest soul.
John R. Ellis
5. iola
Mr. Williams' art is quite lovely, but there are two things that make me a little crazy about it. #1 Some of his more "creative" panel layouts make it near impossible to figure out how to read it right the first time and thus draw you out of the story. #2 Batwoman's boobs are super distracting. Kudos for rendering them in such a realistic way, but by that same token we see all of her areola and a I'm-not-wearing-a-bra boob shape. She's a damned crimefighter and that makes me wince. Yeah, I think he drew a bra on her once, but I'm not buying it. Put a bra on your model JH! ;)

The Elegy collection was excellent, though. I rarely read super books but this one came highly recommended and I'm glad I tried it out.
John R. Ellis
6. libertariansoldier
Well, young whippersnapper, some of us remember Kathy Kane just fine, and thought of her immediately when we started reading your article and saw "Kate Kane"
John R. Ellis
7. JoeNotCharles
SteelBlaidd @4: I've only read her first appearance in 52, which was her initial confrontation with the Religion of Crime, and then summaries of her backstory and what happened afterward.

She was not very well served by her intro in 52, in which they didn't give enough of her backstory to say why she had a personal connection with the Religion of Crime or even to make her believable, so she just came off for me as a distraction from Renee Montoya's much more compelling story. Now that I've read the background her part in the story makes a lot more emotional sense.

But pacing issues aside, the story in 52 does a good job of integrating her into the Batman world. If you missed 52, you may not realize that when she first started operating in Gotham and confronting the Religion of Crime, Batman was missing. So he probably wouldn't have been pleased with her taking them on, but he didn't get a say in it!

By the time Batman returns to Gotham, she has already achieved major successes and fought beside Nightwing, who gives her his blessing. Andaccording to the wiki I read, she continues to partner with Renee Montoya, who's known to Batman from her time with the Gotham police. So I don't think he would see her as a total newcomer at this point.
John R. Ellis
8. coryj
Very good. Censoring comments that are critical of the writer.
John R. Ellis
9. jonmwilson1979
Hello, Batwoman. I look forward to meeting you.

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