The Batwoman comic books definitive issue-by-issue collecting guide and trade reading order for omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics Guide to Collecting DC. Last updated February 2017 with titles scheduled for release through October 2017.
There is not another character in comics today quite like Batwoman: A female legacy hero who has never been a “girl” or “ms” version and whose power, wealth, and training matches her “man” counterpart – and, who also happens to be an out lesbian with a complex romantic history.
The original Batwoman was introduced in the early Silver Age of DC, when every hero had a female counterpart, teen and kid version, and pet.
The Batwoman we’re reading today is not that Batwoman.
The current Batwoman, Kate Kane, put on her cowl in Batman’s absence during the aftermath of Infinite Crisis. Despite bearing the Bat codename and costume, for her first decade of publishing she was at best a distant cousin in the Bat family, disconnected from both their camaraderie and their drama (though she has forged a connection with Nightwing).
Kate Kane’s history is a twisted mirror of Bruce Wayne’s. Like Wayne, she is an estranged aristocrat who experienced childhood tragedy that fractured her family and relationships. While Wayne escaped Gotham for his lost years, Kane sought a path in the military before her career was prematurely ended.
Without her military career, she descends into a party-girl life of solipsism before a brief encounter with Batman shakes her out of it. Heroism fills a void for her, and she filled a void in Gotham in Batman’s absence.
In her earliest appearances Kane is shown as a long-haired, high-society bombshell, but as her story progresses she transformed into a pale-skinned, tattooed, punk-rock social pariah with a severe bob haircut. This standoffish, counter-culture version is the one that persisted.
While Batwoman was intriguing as a foil and love interest to Renee Montoya for her first two years of stories, she comes into her own in her starring run in Detective Comics penned by Greg Rucka with sumptuous art nouveau illustrations from J.H. Williams III. Williams would continue illustrating and writing the character into DC’s New 52 in 2011.
Batwoman disappeared for a while at the end of that period, only to pop back up as the co-lead of Detective Comics with equal standing to Batman in DC’s Rebirth in 2016 before returning to her own ongoing title in February of 2017.
- Batwoman: Full Reading Order
Where should you start reading Batwoman? There are three excellent options:
Batwoman by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
Collects Detective Comics (1937) #854-863. This is Batwoman’s entire initial run in Detective Comics. It’s great, it’s beautiful, and it’s the first time she ever had her own solo focus. (Elegy had almost all the same contents, and should be cheaper to buy second-hand now that this new volume is available.)
Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology
(hardcover / paperback / digital)
Collects Batwoman (2011) #0-5. This arc by JH Williams (co-writing with Hayden Blackman) is beautiful and creepy, and does a good job recapping Batwoman’s must-know history.
Batwoman (2017) Rebirth #1 (digital)
Want to jump right in to new monthly comics? Marguerite Bennett and Steve Epting are a stellar creative team, and they gave a great single-issue recap of Batwoman with their Rebirth special in February of 2017. A new regular series began the next month. (That said, her appearances directly preceding this in Detective Comics are fantastic!)
Want only the best of Batwoman with no filler? Stick to this slimmed-down list of issues to read all of the essentials.
52 (2006) #33 (digital)
While Batwoman was mostly a sidekick in this weekly anthology series, this story shows her second encounter with Nightwing, which helps to establish her tentative relationship with the rest of the Bat-Family.
Her 2011 series continues for three more volumes, listed below. Note that Vol. 4 is by the Williams/Blackman creative team, but Volumes 5-6 are not. More on that below, but if you’re doing an essentials-only read you can skip them and leap directly to Rebirth.
Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen (paperback / digital) – Collects #934-940. This fundamentally alters Batwoman’s history and ongoing story. While the following stories are just as good, they aren’t as critical.
Kate Kane made her debut in 52 – first as herself in #7, and then as Batwoman in #9. 52 was an weekly anthology series telling the a real-time, year-long tale of heroes surviving in the wake of Infinite Crisis, when DC’s trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were nowhere to be found. Each issue was split into two or more brief stories, serialized across several issues.
52 (2006) #7, 9, 11: 52, Volume 1
This introductory story is more about Renee Montoya than it is about Batwoman. Though it gives some basics about Kate’s wealth and her relationships, these are recapped comprehensively later on – so this is really for completists only!
In #7, former GCPD detective Renee Montoya spots Kate, an old acquaintance, in the society section of the newspaper. Montoya visits the Kane mansion for a gala, and we quickly learn the two women used to be lovers – and it didn’t end well!
Batwoman cameos in #9, silently watching over Montoya from a rooftop at the close of the issue. In issue #11 she joins a fight with Montoya, who recognizes that it’s her old flame Kate behind the mask.
Montoya’s story continues through 52, Volume 2 with no appearances from Batwoman.
52 (2006) #28, 30, 33-34, 36: 52, Volume 3
The first few issues of this run – #28, 30, & 33 – give us our first real development of Batwoman as a character with her own plot and agency rather than her simply intervening with Montoya’s investigation. While these issues aren’t essential, they could be worth a read to establish the context that Batwoman is not an established part of the Batman family like Nightwing and Batgirl. You can safely skip the rest – Batwoman is only there as a supporting character for Montoya.
Issue #28 opens with Montoya shining a bootleg Bat symbol on the clouds, hoping to summon Batwoman to save her from a dire prophesy related to Intergang’s destiny of world domination. It results in a team-up between the two women and The Question. Issue #30 shows the aftermath of that, including some personal scenes for Montoya and Kane, a solo outing for Batwoman, and her first meeting with Nightwing.
Issue #33 (digital) is a Christmas story, with Nightwing giving Batwoman a significant gift while Montoya and Kane watch over a convalescing Question. That story continues to #34 (in which Kane has a blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance) and #36 (where Kane helps Montoya with a special journey), but neither are essential reads for Batwoman.
52 (2006) #48 & 52: 52, Volume 4
Issue #48 begins to resolve Montoya’s ongoing story and features Batwoman purely as a damsel in distress (as set up by her absence in #47). We briefly see her recovering from this in #52.
Kate Kate next appeared in another weekly title, Countdown, which appropriately numbered its issues in reverse. It also had an ongoing focus on Renee Montoya’s story.
Batwoman has a single-panel, non-continuity cameo in #41 and a final panel reveal in #39 as The Question’s backup. That continues into a brief alleyway confrontation with some thugs in #38.
Crime Bible is a Renee Montoya series that continues her quest from 52 and Countdown. If you decided to read all of the early stories in this period, this is a fine epilogue to Kane’s connection with Montoya. However, if you’ve only read the essentials, this won’t mean much to you.
A silly three-panel cameo of dubious continuity in Ambush Bug: Year None (2008) #4 fits here.
This is another Renee Montoya series, here teamed with The Spectre. Issue #2 includes one (bad-ass) panel of Batwoman in action and then shows how she has been corrupted by the Anti-Life equation, which sets up her appearance in the main Final Crisis series. There’s nothing to learn about her here – she’s essentially cameoing as a mindless henchwoman in #3-5.
Appears in the final panel of #3 and cameos in #4-7 tagging along with Wonder Woman as an evil version of herself.
After three years spent exclusively as Renee Montoya’s supporting character, Batwoman breaks out into her own stories as she shares a year of Detective Comics with The Question.
Batwoman has a single-panel cameo in Batman: Battle for the Cowl (2009) #1 at the beginning of this period without Bruce Wayne.
Batman and Robin (2009) #7-9 in Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin (Absolute / Deluxe Hardcover / paperback)
Though these issues were published during her run in Detective, this story work as Grant Morrison’s direct epilogue to what he put Batwoman through in Final Crisis. I can’t call them inessential, because they happen to feature her death!
Justice League: Cry for Justice (2009) #4-5 – Blink and you’ll-miss-it cameo in 4 and in a page of her own side-mission in #5, but not in #6 (as listed in some guides).
Wonder Woman (1942) #600 – Speaking role in the first story, an all-female-heroes bash’em’up lead by Wonder Woman.
Justice Society of America (2007) #43 – A splash of Earth’s heroes during Blackest Night.
Batwoman (2011) #0: Collected below with New 52, Vol. 1
Batman Incorporated (2011) #4-5 (Absolute/ hardcover / paperback)
Essential reading! Morrison gives our Batwoman a run-in with her Golden Age counterpart as he deploys Kane as part of Batman’s globe-spanning anti-crime network. Also, she meets Wayne as Batman for the first time on the page a half a decade after her debut! It’s a crackling solo story that connects to her main plot and her relationship with her father. It also cements her somewhat dubious spot in the wider Bat-Cast.
Batwoman appears in the background of a panel with the other Gotham-based Bat-heroes fighting off the Earth itself in Brightest Day (2010) #23 and in a similar everybody-fights splash against the Eclipso’d heroes and villains in Justice League of America (2006) #59, where she is getting punched by Bane.
Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance (2011) #2 has a deep background appearance of Kate Kane as a part of Grifter’s Team 7! This isn’t cannon anywhere other than Flashpoint, but it’s pretty cool.
Convergence The Question (2015) #1-2 in Convergence: Flashpoint Book 1
Despite Batwoman remaining seemingly unchanged in New 52, with Renee Montoya no longer having a secret identity it’s clear that some aspects of her backstory have shifted. This 2015 Convergence series from Greg Rucka continues Montoya’s pre-Flashpoint story, though it’s not very significant for Batwoman – she’s mostly there to be jealous of Montoya’s new partner in crime.
As with most of the Batman cast, Batwoman transitions into New 52 continuity with relatively few alterations.
Secret Origins (2014) #3 – A brief re-telling of Batwoman’s origin. Reprinted in Volume 6, below.
Batman: The Dark Knight [II] (2011) #2- Batwoman appears briefly in a montage of beset Bat-heroes. Joker’s appearance in this issue while bearing his own face pegs it as an extremely early story in this new present day continuity.
Batgirl (2011) #11-13 in Batgirl Volume 2: Knightfall Descends (hardcover / paperback)
Batwoman has a final page cameo in #11 and only a page or two in #13, but #12 is a significant Batwoman story in that it shows her as an agent of DEO (and perhaps a mole for Knightfall), plus has her fighting Batgirl. Not only that: it’s the first time Batwoman has been written by a woman in a starring turn! Gail Simone also used her brief in Wonder Woman #600, but here gets to use her in a bigger role.
Animal Man (2011) #13 – Batwoman cameos in a montage of heroes being killed in the event of Rotworld actually occurring.
Batman (2011) #25 – A wordless blink-and-you-miss it cameo set in the far past (along with her own issue #25).
Detective Comics (2011) #28-29 – Batwoman briefly cameos under the corruption of Scarecrow in these Gothtopia chapters.
#25-34 & Annual 1: Batwoman Volume 5: Webs
Annual 1 is the conclusion of “This Blood is Thick,” but it was written by new writer Marc Andreyko so was not included in the previous JHW/Blackman volume. Issue #25 is a zero year story and the first tale by Andreyko before “Webs,” a continuous story running through #26-32. Then, there is the briefest of pauses before #33-34.
Batwoman: Futures End (2014) #1
Collected below in Volume 6. This was published after #34 but is a five-year flash-forward with no bearing on present-day Batwoman. In fact, it’s a rather inane vampire tale that plays “What if?” with the events of #33-34.
The New 52: Futures End (2014) #2 – Batwoman walks through a crowded splash panel in this five-year flash-forward
#35-40 & Annual 2: Batwoman Volume 6: The Unknowns
Fans really dislike this final run. It starts in media res with #35 and is concluded by Annual 2. Also collects Secret Origins (2014) #3 and Batwoman: Futures End (2014) #1, the latter of which is also collected in Futures End Omnibus.
Because the story from Batwoman #26-40 & Annual 2 is told continuously with few pauses (and a pervasive status quo for Batwoman from #33-40), I believe her other Bat-Universe appearances of the period must occur after the end of her series. Of the appearances, only a pair of them are notable.
Batgirl (2011) #34 – Single panel cameo on a side-mission for Batgirl in this final Gail Simone issue prior to the “Batgirl of Burnside” relaunch in #35.
Batman Eternal (2014) #2, 15 & 18-20, 52 – Single panel cameo in each of 2 & 15. The cameo in #15 sets up a fun co-starring arc with Batgirl and Red Hood in #18-20 in Batman Eternal Vol. 1. She also appears in two panels of #52 as a background fighter.
Batman and Robin (2011) #35 (digital) – Batwoman is tasked here by Batgirl and Red Hood to be Batman’s fill-in while he is away. (She seems to be unfamiliar with Red Hood, contradicting their adventure in Eternal despite this coming afterward.) She appears on-screen in & Robin Rises Alpha (2015) #1, which is the culmination of this story.
Detective Comics: Endgame (2015) #1 – A few pages of silent action in this issue are the extent of her participation in Endgame.
Grayson (2014) #5 – A barely visible on-screen cameo
Batgirl (2011) Annual 03 (digital) – This fun issue shows Batgirl teaming-up across Gotham, including a fun sequence with Batwoman, who is in generic hero mode.
Batman & Robin Eternal (2015) #23-26 – There’s just 1-2 panels of far-off action in each of #23-26
Batwoman appears in every issue of James Tynion’s biweekly Detective Comics relaunch at least through #951 before being launched into her own title by Marguerite Bennett and Steve Epting in February 2017 with a Rebirth special.
#934-940: Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen
Batwoman is absolutely the lead character of this arc – it’s required reading for her continuing story!
In this period: Superwoman (2016) #2
#941-942: Batman: Night of the Monster Men
Collects Batman #7-8, Nighting #5-6 and Detective Comics #941-942 – Batwoman appears throughout.
Mother Panic (2017) #2 – A brief, two-panel cameo (and, maybe she is seen as Kate Kane in #1?)
#943-949: Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 2: The Victim Syndicate
The arc in #943-947 is more about Batman than Batwoman, though she remains a key player. The arc in #948-949 is titled “Batwoman Begins” and works as a prelude to her own series!
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