NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Detective Comics #948
There were too many bombshells to count in the comic book world of 2016, but on the list of characters who rose from the gathered masses to new heights, DC’s Batwoman must be among them. As the self-taught vigilante (and cousin of Bruce Wayne) Kate Kane who was kicked out of the military due to her sexual preference, and decided to follow in the Batman’s footsteps, Batwoman was always guaranteed to find a devoted fan base. But that group swelled after the launch of DC’s “Rebirth” event, with writer James Tynion IV re-tooling Detective Comics into a Bat-Family team-up – with Kate recruited as the team’s eventual leader (and tough as nails drill instructor).
After battling skycraper-sized monsters, and even the covert forces commanded by her own father (ouch), Kate finally got a bit of good news when DC announced that she would soon lead her very own Batwoman solo comic. Better yet, the book itself would actually spin out of the pages of Detective, with writers Tynion and Marguerite Bennett joining forces for a story spanning from one book to the other, and Bennett taking the lead on Kate’s solo adventure. And at long last, that time has come, in a story titled – fittingly – “Batwoman Begins.”
It’s the perfect place to hop aboard Kate Kane’s next chapter, but to make sure nobody gets left behind, we’ll fill you in on the story beats it’s building off of.
Batwoman’s Rebirth Rise
Despite what casual readers might expect, “Batwoman Begins” comes at a particularly low point for Kate. Back when “Rebirth” began, Bruce Wayne set about recruiting his former allies and sidekicks: Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, Clayface (the odd man out), and of course, Batwoman. His motivations were kept secret from the group for some time, but his decision had actually been made in response to the appearance of mysterious surveillance drones… drones dispatched to pay close attention to the heroes in question. Assuming something bigger was coming, Batman gathered them into a unified, organized team with Kate in place as the only leader qualified to actually run a military unit. But things got complicated when the unknown enemy was revealed to be “The Colony” – an army of soldiers trained in the methods of the Dark Knight and led by Kate’s own father, Colonel Jacob Kane.
It wasn’t a completely evil reveal, since Jacob still extended an offer to have Kate lead these men in a massive offensive against an even more shadowy group of legend known as the “League of Assassins.” But the willingness to harm countless innocents showed Jacob’s fanaticism, and Kate and her Bat-allies eventually brought the group down, and Jacob into custody (losing one Robin in the process). Which is where “Begins”… begins: with Kate observing her father imprisoned in the Belfry, the new base of operations in the heart of Gotham.
The Colony may be dead, but Jacob and Kate’s relationship has yet to be sorted. And the flashback of Kate’s earliest days training to become a vigilante– training with her father to become a vigilante together confirms this chapter of Kate’s life is still bound to be a painful one. Thankfully, Batman calls her away.
Batwoman Begins: Kate Kane’s Mission
Comic readers may be used to government cover-ups, clandestine science divisions, and even mutated monsters striking for no reason, but we’d wager the sudden plunge into sci-fi here will leave most stunned. Once the human/seagull hybrids screeching and clawing at Batman and Batwoman are dropped to the streets below, their connection to previous Batman story arcs is explained. It turns out that the twisted, Venom-based toxin Hugo Strange used to turn cadavers into kaiju – the stars of DC’s “Night of the Monster Men” crossover – doesn’t break down as quickly as the kaiju’s flesh. The massive rotting corpse has been entrusted to ARGUS in the time since, but as Kate soon learns, scavenging birds turning into nightmarish monsters is just the beginning of their problems.
The pair are soon met by Dr. Victoria October, the scientist placed in charge of Gotham’s Quarantine Zone – known affectionately to those who work in it as Monster-Town – and who has apparently requested the assistance of Batman directly. There’s no one better for the job than Dr. October, proclaiming herself to be “the foremost expert on post-human bioweaponry on the planet.” And as such, the looming threat of a terrorist or enemy force getting their hands on the monster-making toxin is all to clear. Unfortunately… it’s already happened.
And to make matters worse, the operatives who infiltrated the ARGUS facility to swipe enough of the toxin to create a dozen other building-sized monsters were no amateurs. They were members of The Colony.
A Villain of Her Very Own
With the mission at hand suddenly becoming extremely personal for Kate, her father undoubtedly shoots to the top of her list of interrogations. But with The Colony back in action and hatching a monstrous plan in Gotham City, it should come as no surprise that freeing Colonel Kane from the Belfry’s prison is a top priority as well. When one particularly well-dressed member of the Colony breaks in to the Bat-Fortress, Colonel Kane isn’t in a hurry to make his escape. Regardless, Batman and Batwoman arrive just moments later. The bad news for them is that The Colony soldiers – trained to think and fight just like Batman – already succeeded in taking Bruce down once. The really bad news is that this is no ordinary soldier.
While he’s referred to as simply ‘Simon’ by Colonel Kane, the soldier refers to himself by his callsign: “Colony Prime” (if that’s not a bad sign, we don’t know what is). Proclaiming himself to be a one man army and the best The Colony has to offer, he begins the battle with Kate and Bruce with gusto. Tynion, Bennett and artist Ben Oliver make a point of presenting the story as a two-hander between Batman and Batwoman, positioning them side by side, with what minimal dialogue there is divided between the two. That might be expected in a story titled “Batwoman Begins,” but the clear decision to present not only Batman and Batwoman, but Bruce and Kate as equals speaks volumes. Not only is it a chance to reiterate that exact sentiment, originally offered by Bruce while recruiting Kate, but to dictate the tone and structure of the coming Batwoman spinoff.
This issue makes it clear that as Kate’s story continues into her own book, it won’t be a case of a heroine “spinning off” into her own corner of the DC Universe at all. Instead, Kate will simply be taking a step to the side: her rightful place as yet another of Gotham’s caped crusaders (with, admittedly, more substantial family issues).
Detective Comics #948 is available now.