Batwoman is arriving in the US this Sunday, 10/6, on the CW — and I though I was going to go into it with tempered expectations. With the launch of the Arrowverse in 2012, the CW took my second-favorite DC character: lefty, snarky, rash Oliver Queen and turned him into a dour, neo-liberal quasi-incel Batman-lite. I thought I’d be jaded about Batwoman‘s prospects, but I jump up and down with excitement every single time I see an ad for Batwoman on the subway. The costume is looking MUCH better than than that initial photo.
Between Batwoman and Stumptown, Greg Rucka has blessed Americana TV viewers with not one but three fast-talking, hard-nosed, Disaster Queers. (Kate Kane, whatever character the make up to be the Renee Montoya surrogate in Batwoman, and Dex Parios on Stumptown, who is essentially a Renee Montoya surrogate after Rucka’s GCPD got the ax.) Viewers of both shows will see that Rucka certainly has A Type, but you won’t care since he’s so good at writing that person.
Since her introduction in 2007’s 52, Kate’s been out and about in the DC universe, sporadically having her own book and then unceremoniously getting those books yanked away. Here’s hoping Batwoman will revive interest in a monthly book. James Tynion IV, who gave her an incredible voice on his Detective Comics run (see below) is now helming Batman, and I’m sure Kate will show up to make an honest vigilante of her cousin. She also seems to have a role in the upcoming Gotham City Monsters series.
1. Batwoman: Elegy
So…I’ll admit I haven’t exactly had a chance to read this one yet. When it was released as a trade paperback, I assumed it was just the first few issues of the Batwoman run, which I already had. It is, in fact, Ruck and artist J.H. Williams III’s first run with Kate in Detective Comics #854-860. This is almost definitely the basis of the show’s first season, as it tells us more about Kate’s military background, the events that led her to vigilantism, and her arch-nemesis Alice, who will change everything Kate understands about herself.
2. New 52 Batwoman #13 – 17
Obviously, it’s worth going in chronological order. But if you’re in a rush, this is by far my favorite Batwoman arc. It’s also the last one that Rucka and Williams III worked on. It begins with Batwoman teaming up with Wonder Woman teaming up to quell a monster uprising led by none other than Medusa (Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman in the early 2000s was so fantastic it brought me back to American comics.) At this point, Kate has broken up with Montoya (sniff!) and is getting serious with Maggie Sawyer. (Apparently Kate has A Type, too.) She’s girl-crushing all over Wonder Woman, but knows where her heart lies. At the end of the arc, Kate proposes to Maggie Sawyer.
This would prove to be fateful both within Kate’s world and without. Rucka left the book and DC altogether, claiming that DC would not allow him to depict a gay marriage. (If they had, Kate and Maggie would have been the first same-sex married couple in DC Comics history.) DC claimed they wanted to make all of the heroes appear younger — including Superman, so there wasn’t a place for a married couple in their long-term marketing scheme. The subsequent Batwoman book completely ignored the events of New 52 and Rebirth, which brings that motive into question. The decision also brought us Mark Andreyko, and I’ll get into that later. Less dramatically, the arc also cemented Batwoman’s association with the strange, supernatural villains of Gotham’s underworld.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read this series since it came out almost 10 years ago, so I have no idea if it holds up. I do remember it turning into a thoroughly confusing hot mess by the end. However, it’s our very first introduction to Kate and we see her rekindling her flame with Montoya. It’s also where we see Montoya transforming into The Question. (BTW, you can see her team up with Lois Lane in Rucka’s new Lois Lane series!) Personally, I like 52 because it’s the first and last time we see Kate unencumbered by a truly painful backstory, replete with queer trauma and addiction.
4. Detective Comics #934 – 981
Not only should James Tynion IV’s run prove to you why he deserves to write Batman, it was a refreshing depiction of Kate considering how New 52 Batwoman ended. Int he almost 50-issue run, Bruce tasks Kate with creating a Bat-team to handle matters while he’s otherwise occupied. Each character in the ensemble receives penetrating arcs that show Tynion’s command of character: Batwoman, Clayface, Azrael, Spoiler, Tim Drake, and Orphan/Cassandra Cain. We get to see Kate as a leader — and we also get to see what differentiates her from Batman to dramatic effect.
5. Batwoman #35 – 40
As I’ve said elsewhere, Marc Andreyko’s run on Batwoman is something I wish we could all forget. It should have been good. Andreyko’s Kate Bishop/Manhunter, introduced around the time Batwoman was in 52, was just the kind of fierce protagonist his Kate Kane should have been. Andreyko, an out gay man, may have been chosen to dispel rumors of homophobia within the DC offices. There were strong points to his run: Kate cobbles together a group of supernatural misfits (including Etrigan!) to battle…Morgan LeFay?
More devastatingly, Andreyko breaks up Kate and Maggie and sets her up with a — yes — vampire named — for real — Nocturna. (Maybe he watched that one episode of The L Word?) The relationship was a poorly developed metaphor for abuse and sexual assault — something that is discussed all-too-seldom in same-sex relationships. But it was poorly executed and upsetting. The fact that the book’s art had declined from the JH Williams III’s stunning visuals to flat, poorly-executed figures did not help at all.
So why am I including it on the list? Because Kate being seduced by an abusive vampire is exactly the kind of campy drama the CW was made for and I’m certain they’ll use it down the line. Hopefully they’ll do a better job. At least it’ll look better.