This is part 2 of my 24-part-series “Super-Heroes: Best Place to start” [Link to complete list… here!].
To me, the best place to start is:
“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka (Writing) and John H. Williams III (Art), a trade paperback collection [Link: review] published in 2010.
What’s the appeal of… Kate Kane?
A socialite, a military brat, a proactive, aggressive vigilante with a personality, every bit as intense as Bruce Wayne…
Ever since Kate Kane was introduced in 2006, she provoked great character moments and raised smart questions on the nature of morality, duty and loss. A mature, charismatic hero – and the first high-profile lesbian protagonist in superhero comics.
Kate’s main storyline starts in „Elegy“. But her foes, friends and romantic foils were introduced in other, earlier „Batman“ series.
- The Question: Zen and Violence [Dennis O’Neil, Link] (and the sequels)
- Batman: No Man’s Land [Greg Rucka, novel, Link]
- Batman: Evolution [Greg Rucka, Link]
- Batman / Huntress: Cry for Blood [Link]
…as well as „Gotham Central“, a Greg Rucka / Ed Brubaker series that (co-)stars Renee Montoya, the most important side character / romantic foil in „Batwoman“:
- Gotham Central: „In the Line of Duty“ [Link]
- Gotham Central: „Half a Life“ [Link]
- Gotham Central: „Unresolved Targets“ [Link]
- Gotham Central: „The Quick and the Dead“ [Link]
- Gotham Central: „Dead Robin“ [Link]
- related to the finale, but not recommended: „Day of Vengeance“ [Link]
- optional, after the finale: „Infinite Crisis“ [Geoff Johns, Link]
after this – lengthy – backstory, the Batwoman character gets introduced in an important ensemble story (co-)starring Renee Montoya:
- 52: Book 1 [Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Link]
- 52: Book 2 [Link]
- 52: Book 3 [Link]
- 52: Book 4 [Link]
both Kate’s and Renee’s story continue in:
- The Question: Five Books of Blood [Greg Rucka, Link]
- Final Crisis: Revelations [Greg Rucka, Link]
- Batwoman: Elegy [Greg Rucka, Link]
- The Question: Pipeline [Greg Rucka, Link]
If you’re okay with missing *some* details, I recommend you skip these more peripheral and / or weaker volumes:
- Dennis O’Neil’s „The Question“ run
- Batman: Evolution
- Gotham Central 1, 3, 4 (all excellent – but not Renee-centric)
- The Question: The Five Books of Blood
- Final Crisis: Revelations
for a complete list of Kate’s appearances, please see [Link]
common problems / grievances in “Batwoman” books:
- Kate’s family has seen much drama, and Kate’s love life is equally complex. Since most „Batwoman“ characters bottle up their feelings *very* hard, it constantly feels like important conversation just… fails to happen: The comic has many cold, angry and bitter character moments.
- Both Kate and Renee are fan favorite characters. Still, months can pass without either of them making an appearance. Where *is* Renee, right now? What is her status?
- Introduced in 4 different books and drawn by too many different artists, Kate’s main foes, the cultists of the ancient „religion of crime“ have been a part of DC comics for 10 years… but still don’t feel conceptually strong or well-realized.
Is the current monthly “Batwoman” book, launched in September 2011, any good?
Yes. Even though Greg Rucka, the writer who created Kate Kane in 2006, has left DC Comics, the current „Batwoman“ storyarc, „Hydrology“, is even better-paced and more complex than „Elegy“. It’s a busy story with lots of side characters and backstory – but it still works as a starting point, and draws you in very quickly.
Update, 2014: The first 4 books of the new „Batwoman“ series are excellent and tell one continuous and exciting story. Collections 5 and 6 are pretty bad and can be ignored.
Interested in other comic book heroes / heroines?
I’d recommend the character „The Huntress“ (Helena Bertinelli), „Manhunter“ (with vigilante attorney Kate Spencer) and „Starman“ (Jack Knight), another artful, atmospheric and more mature series.
Plus: the 1990ies DC cult series „Chase“, drawn by J.H. Williams III, has story connections… and seems to have a similar tone / appeal.
Here’s my full list [Link]!
- 30 years with “Green Lantern”: my interview with Sally Pascale, blogger, feminist and suburban comic book reader [Link]
- An industry in crisis: my interview with CEB, comic book critic at “Collected Editions” [Link]
- September 2011: all 52 new DC books – read and reviewed [Link]
my German comic book journalism:
- Green Arrow und Black Canary: “Helden auf der Kücheninsel” [Berliner Tagesspiegel, Link]
- Supergirl: “Mit dem Kopf voran” [Berliner Tagesspiegel, Link]
- Starman: “Alles ist erleuchtet [Berliner Tagesspiegel, Link]
- Wonder Woman: “Stolz und Vorurteil [Berliner Tagesspiegel, Link]