Although this is officially Batwoman's first volume set in the New 52 universe, it actually follows on from her pre-New 52 run in Detective comics which was collected as Batwoman: Elegy and which I covered here. In that story we were told the story of how Kate Kane became Batwoman after being dishonerably discharged from the army for being homosexual. She tangled with a villain called Alice who turned out to be her twin sister Beth who was kidanpped when she was a child although her Army officer father Jacob had told her she was dead which leads to a big rift between the previously close father and daughter. Kate Kane in her civilian identity had also met the lesbian Gotham police officer Maggie Sawyer at an offical function and had a dance and flirt with her. Now the big change with this new series is that Greg Rucka had left DC and so is no longer on writing duties, alas. JH Williams III still provides most of the art and shares a writing credit as well with W. Haden Blackman. Kicking off this collection is an odd little zero issue, not to be confused with the zero issues that every DC comic ran at the start of the New 52's second year. I believe it was an aborted start to a Batwoman series post the Detective Comics run before it was decided to delay the start of the series and make it part of the New 52 launch leaving this issue orphaned as it were. So having it collected here for completists sake is a nice touch. So without further ado, let's dive into the murky and somewhat magical world of Batwoman.
|Batman stalks Batwoman.|
The Batwoman sequence is her fighting the Religion of Crime on a dockside over a sarcophagus which I assume either contains or she thinks contains the remains of her sister Alice who fell in the harbour at the end of Elegy. Batman assesses her fighting styles with approval and notes she appears to use military training. When it looks like she might have met her match and he thinks about stepping in, she uses some tech to overload the cybernetic arm of her attacker. Unfortunately for her, the Religion of Crime keep her away from the sarcophagus long enough for it to leave by boat.
|Kate visiting her mother and sister's grave.|
Lurking outside her building he sees that her father comes regularly but she refuses to let him in. While she is clubbing, he feels a little envious that she can let herself go "in a way I can't". Next day he contrives to bump into her in a bookshop and sees she is reading a book on Exorcism. Finally he decides on one last test. He comes up behind her and swings a baseball bat at her head. She predicts the attack, flips and kicks him in the face. Impressed he runs off, he decides his theory is correct, Kate Kane is Batwoman. and he thinks:
Batman: "...She has the one thing I cannot teach. That hole inside her that can never be filled, no matter how many criminals she takes down... it gives her the drive to do this. It's time she and I have a serious discussion about her future.
|La Llorona, the Weeping Woman.|
Maggie then tells them that twelve kids including their own have been abducted, she says it would be unethical for her to give them the same promise Batwoman did. "But I promise I won't ever stop looking". She takes them out to the lobby and they leave. Waiting there for her is Kate Kane.
Kate notices a photo of Renee Montoya on the wall of rememberance for cops killed in the line of duty on the wall, and says to Maggie that she and Renee were involved for a while. Now this is where the book strikes a somewhat sour note for me. Although he didn't create the character, Greg Rucka in Gotham Central and later the maxi-series 52 spent a lot of time developing her, including having her outed as gay, getting involved with Kate, leaving the police force and becoming the new The Question. So The New 52 not only undoes her becoming The Question, it also has her killed off as if to spite Greg Rucka for leaving DC (I think the parting was less than amicable). Now when there was a backlash against this, DC said they'd bring Renee back when the time was right. However she never returned until after The New 52 officially ended (yay!) after Convergence. She's now a Gotham PD cop again, her missing time being accounted for as being in Seattle. Her relationship status with Kate Kane in the new continuity is as yet unknown as Batwoman was included in the mass wave of cancellations that ended The New 52 (boo!).
|Kate Kane flirts with Maggie Sawyer.|
We then are introduced to Agent Chase who works for the D.E.O or "Department of Extranormal Operations". Her boss is Director Bones, a skeleton in a suit who smokes cigars. He has some work for her in Gotham. He wants to find out more about the Operation Jacob Kane covered up in Book One. There is a new terrorist threat appearing there called "Medusa" and finally she is to discover Batwoman's real identity.
|Agent Cameron Chase.|
Kate and Bette are back after their night patrol. Kate says she thinks Bette isn't taking things seriously and not pulling her weight. Then her father appears. She chews him out over lying about her sister then tells him to get lost. Later that night as Batwoman she checks out the place where the drowned kids were found and Batman approaches her, "I have a proposition for you" he says.
Later Kate and Better are out crimefighting and Kate says she told Batman "I'd think about it." She says Batman Incorporated is "either a stroke of brilliance or totally insane." She doesn't like the idea of taking orders from Batman:
Batwoman: "I don't even want to think about the daddy issues that might imply."
Bette says her father will keep calling on Kate until she agrees to talk to him. Kate says Bette gets either her or her father in her life and she needs to decide which soon, or "I'm going to take the decision away from you."
|Kate and Bette fight crime.|
Maggie and Kate are on a date flirting heavily with each other. Maggie tells her about having to deal with the Weeping Woman while having a government bureaucrat breathing down her neck who thinks she is Batwoman. Maggie then says she'd arrest Batwoman for intefering in her case. Then she says "can we get out of here?" They walk back to Kate's place and kiss goodnight. Kate says she wants to see her again soon and they part.
|More Kate and Maggie flirting.|
Batman appears behind her and she tells him she hasn't made up her mind about joining his organisation. She asks him what Agent Chase wants with her, he says Chase will tear Gotham apart to find her real identity. He also advises her to keep Flamebird out of the Weeping Woman case. "Murdered sidekicks tend to come back from the dead as super villians."
In a house on the pier, Batwoman is having a look round. She is surprised by Maggie but says to her, "It started in the boat house didn't it?" before escaping. Maggie calls Chase saying she knows where she can find Batwoman, who is currently exploring under the pier, and who then gets dragged under the water by a mysterious force.
|Batwoman faces her past underwater.|
She clambers out of the water and is greeted by Agent Chase and her people. She says Batwoman is wanted in connection with a terrorist attack, that being the situation in Book One her father covered up. Batwoman breaks free and knocks out the men guarding her motorbike and races off on it.
She's missed a date with Maggie. She arrives back home and tells Bette she is done trying to train her, she "doesn't have what it takes." She cruelly says that the only thing Bette ever lost was a beauty pageant. Bette slaps her and runs off saying she's a control freak.
Kate: "You're a bitch Kate Kane".
She says sadly as she sits on the bed. Meanwhile Agent Chase has gone after Jacob Kane next. She asks about the cover-up but he refuses to speak about it. She needles him about the way his daughter is living her life right now and if he is proud of her. He says he will be proud when "she starts doing something worthwhile with her life." He then asks Chase if her father would be proud of her and leaves.
|Bette suits up to crime fight despite Kate's rejection.|
As Maggie and Kate make tasteful black and white love, Flamebird is fighting La Llorona and a large man with a sycthe for a hand. He guts her and leaves her for dead.
|Flamebird meanwhile is nearly killed.|
Back with Agent Chase she tricks the barely alive Bette into giving her a name so she doesn't die alone. "Kate Kane" whispers Bette. Chase says that's an interesting coincidence, then orders Bette to be dropped off at Gotham Central Hospital.
|Tricked by Agent Chase.|
Director Bones: "...there's no way I'm missing what comes next."
Batwoman goes to the boathouse and calls for Maria, who appears saying "you can't be here. This is desecration. This place is sacred." Batwoman says it is the site of her suffering. Maria says she will share her suffering with everyone starting with Batwoman. She gets into Batwoman's head, Alice/Beth bursts out of Batwoman's body. Maria says "now face what you have lost".
|Batwoman faces down La Llorona.|
Maria: "The others are in Medusa's coils. But you can still save them. Please save them".
Then she is gone. "Who the hell is Medusa?" says Batwoman to herself. Then back at home she finds Director Bones and Agent Chase in her flat. She goes to attack Chase who fends her off saying they know she is Batwoman.
She shows her Flamebird's blood-stained costume and tell her they found Bette bleeding out in an alley and that she is now in a stable condition at Gotham General. Director Bones gets to the point, he wants Kate to work for the D.E.O and dismantle Medusa. When she asks what it is, he says it is a criminal cartel getting a foothold in Gotham. If she joins them she gets access to technology not even invented yet and her father won't go to prison for orchestrating the cover-up of the events of Book one.
|Director Bones gives Kate no choice.|
This is a good start to Batwoman's New 52 run. It goes without saying that JH Williams III's art elevates the thing as a whole, even if the writing isn't as tight and focused as it was under Greg Rucka. Giving Batwoman a more "magical" enemy to face off against makes her stand out from the run of the mill criminals and psychos that the rest of the Bat-family deal with and of course give JH Williams III carte blanche to go crazy depicting the ghostly and monstrous across gorgeous double page spreads. Agent Chase, the D.E.O and Director Bones aren't new characters, in fact JH Williams III drew a miniseries they starred in early in his career and which I may feature on the blog at some point in the future. The romance and instant connection between Maggie and Kate is well written and the love scene treated as erotic and sexy, rather than tacky and explotative. Now I know some people will say that any sex scene between two women is pandering to the male gaze, but guess what? Us lesbians quite like seeing two women fucking as well and I don't see why our fun has to be curtailed just because we share predilections with heterosexual men. Anyway, Batwoman at this point was one of the high points of the New 52, gorgeous to look at and an enjoyable read, roll on the next volume "To Drown The World" which continues the hunt for the lost children and what exactly is Medusa.