Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, was first introduced in 1956 as a love interest for Batman. Over the decades she was dropped and reintroduced as a minor character. In 2006, she was reintroduced to the world with her own solo book, which was rebooted in 2011 as part of The New 52, and now with DC Universe Rebirth. (If you’re not familiar with the DC Universe Rebirth: it takes the original story lines from the beginning of the superhero’s creation as well as the storylines and continuity from The New 52, to be the basis for DC Universe Rebirth. The idea is to introduce new readers to the superheroes without having necessarily read previous books or knowing previous storylines while keeping the main history intact.)

When selecting a new title to review, I choose Batwoman, hoping that as a DC Universe Rebirth book it would be easy to get into Batwoman’s world without having known her prior backstory and I was right. Intercut with the present day storylines, the reader is given Batwoman’s origin story. This volume is not a linear arc as for nearly every movement Batwoman makes in the present, we flash back to her past for the explanation. This switching back and forth can be a bit disarming but once you get acclimated to it, it clarifies Kate’s motives and it forces you to pay attention to the story.

In 2006, Kate Kane was officially introduced as a lesbian character in DC’s efforts to diversify their comics. Marguerite Bennett, one of the main writers of this DC Universe Rebirth Batwoman, states in the intro to the book, “This book is dedicated to a girl in high school the week that DC Comics announced a queer superheroine by the name of Batwoman. You went into the bathroom and cried because you couldn’t believe it. To that girl—it’ll be okay. Keep working. Keep going. It’s all gonna turn out in the end.”

This part of her origin story is preserved—in a flashback we then find ourselves with Kate at age 20, being discharged from West Point for “making love, not war.” While we are not given specific dates, it can be inferred this is in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. A few pages later, Kate officially comes out as gay while being hit on by a man at a party. Kate’s sexuality, and her love life, are integral to the storyline.

Outside of Kate’s origin story, there are a few storylines happening in this book. Kate battles a mad doctor, Dr. Martin, who has created a serum, Monster Venom. As you can guess from the name, the serum turns people into monsters. The second storyline, which vaguely ties into the first, is Kate and her right hand woman Julia Pennyworth’s efforts to find and destroy The Many Arms of Death, a masterminded evil group partly run by the international conglomerate, the Kali Corporation. Kali Corp’s main objective is to create an “international incident” which is later translated to mean, “to kill the most people and nations at once.”

I had a problem with that particular story arc because it’s a trope that is often overused and beaten to death. I think with Marguerite Bennett and James Tyrion IV’s writing chops, they could have come up with something unique and different but alas, that was not to be.

The other storylines are Kate’s grappling with her past and how it affects her future, her past romantic relationships, and her struggles with who she has become. Juggling four or five storylines in a single book is ambitious and and with The Many Arms of Death, it reads as if each and every storyline is the primary one. I agree it’s important to give Kate’s origin story some spotlight, but it makes the other storylines a bit scattered. They should have picked one or two story arcs and introduced the others in later books.

The other hiccup is a few of the smaller storylines are not resolved and since they are not mentioned again, I have no idea if they will make an appearance in future books. One of the major arcs is supposedly wrapped up, but the final boss fight was lacking and a bit of a letdown. The final chapter in the book introduces us to the next volume in the series (not yet out), but it felt out of place in regards to continuity of the old threads from volume one.

The colors and line art seemed to be appropriate for the book in that when Kate is in a fight, the colors and line art are dark and bold to match her mood (serious, determined, defensive); when colors are brighter, you know her mood is happy, content, safe.The colors are also very rich and have a depth to them, like oil paintings.The same artists and colorists are retained through the book so there was continuity to the art which surprisingly can be a rare thing. The book also includes a few cover variants but I love the main one used.

It may seem like I nitpicked the plot and characters a bit, but overall I really did enjoy the book. Kate Kane and the other female characters are fully realized on their own and their bodies are not gross stereotypes. Kate’s sexuality is used respectfully, not as a device to shock readers. Even with the dropping of a few story arcs, I enjoyed the feel of the book, and Bennett and Tynion’s writing is top notch.

I would recommend this book to libraries for its representation of queer and people of color as well as women, its handling of difficult storylines, and a fresh introduction to a well known superhero who finally gets to return to the spotlight.

Batwoman, Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death
by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV
Art by Steve Epting, Stephanie Hans, Renato Arlem, Jeromy Cox
ISBN: 9781401274306
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

  • Lisa R.

    | She/They

    Reviewer and Content Editor

    Lisa (she/they) is a GenXer about town and can be found at https://linktr.ee/heroineinabook. Her favorite Elizabeth Bennet is Keira Knightly. Lisa is @heroineinabook.

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