Not a lot of characters are lucky enough to become popular in multiple mediums. Even fewer find success and evolve into an even more popular character that is a shining example of the creativity of the writers. Now you may think I am talking about Harley Quinn, who has enjoyed a similar role in this trek across mediums. But Harley Quinn has survived and excelled in her popularity coming into the New 52 as a member of the Suicide Squad. No, I am talking about one of the coolest characters to grace the Gotham Police Force; Renee Montoya.
First created for Batman: The Animated Series, Montoya soon graced the pages of most Batman books as the only cop able to deal with Harvey Bullock, another character who benefited from his role on B:TAS but was not created for the show. Detective Montoya was a staple in the Bat books and frequently assisted the world’s greatest detective.
While not always a staunch supporter of the Bat, she believed in the law and soon found that while Batman’s methods were slightly unorthodox, he got things done. Her career and characterization didn’t fluctuate much until Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s great series Gotham Central, which focused on the procedural side of the Gotham police force, telling stories of both the day and night shift dealing with all the craziness Gotham had to offer.
Montoya lost her partner, Harvey Bullock, when he was promoted to Lieutenant by Commissioner Gordon. Soon she was partnered with Detective Crispus Allen, yet another no-show in the New 52. Montoya and Allen would form a very close friendship, and ended up becoming some of the finest partners on the force. Allen would eventually go on to become the Spectre after being killed by a corrupt cop. Before that occurred, it was finally revealed that Renee Montoya was a lesbian due to some insane attempt at love by Two-Face, who released the information in order to destroy her current life.
Montoya didn’t handle her partner’s murder well or the ramifications of Two-Face’s act, and ended up first being suspended from the force and then quitting altogether. While this may seem like an end for the character fans had followed for years, it was only the beginning. With the introduction of the new Batwoman, Kate Kane, in DC’s ground-breaking weekly series 52, fans were treated to another lesbian character who had previous history with Montoya.
The two lovers never seemed to properly reconcile, and Montoya’s downwards spiral continued until she met a very influential character that would shape the rest of her life. Vic Sage AKA Charlie Szasz AKA The Question took Montoya under his wing as they searched for the Crime Bible, and took on a number of dangerous threats. During this period The Question began training Montoya, and introducing her to the people that made him who he was.
When Vic died from cancer during 52, it was made clear that all his work and training was in the hope that Montoya would take over for him, and don the faceless mask of The Question. She had a few adventures in her role as The Question, and was starting to join the superhero fraternity by her own right. She played a large role in Final Crisis & Blackest Night, then received her own back up in Detective Comics. Here, alongside the Huntress, Montoya sacrificed her face by taking the Mark of Cain upon her from the evil Vandal Savage. This forced her to wear the Question’s face permanently, to hide the horrific mark of pure evil. She did eventually figure out how to suppress the mark, but it was never truly gone.
Such a heroic sacrifice should never be overlooked, but as her stories were relegated to backup pieces and bit parts in the last year of the old DC, fans were disappointed by the absence of a character they had watched develop since the ‘90s. And then the New 52 happened.
WHY WAS SHE SCREWED OVER BY THE NEW 52?
Good question. We have seen in some of the back-up Pandora stories running through the New 52’s Justice League that the male version of the Question is once again alive, though it is still unclear if that is Vic Sage or another character to don the iconic mask and fedora. It is clear that it is not Renee Montoya, who is suspiciously absent from any Bat books, except for a picture on the wall of the GCPD in an issue of Batwoman.
Such an obvious character to be included in Batwoman, yet completely overlooked. Did Kate Kane and Renee Montoya ever have a relationship before the New 52? With the majority of the bat character’s history left intact, it would seem that their relationship certainly did exist at one point. But what about her entire journey before donning the mask of the Question? It seems to me like it would have vanished along with the rest of the old 52, especially if the Question we have seen is in fact Vic Sage. I would expect more answers to come from the upcoming Phantom Stranger series that may include more on the Question, but it still leaves a DC Universe that is lacking a strong and very well loved character.
Not only did we lose another great female character that gave voice to a much unrepresented minority in comics (until recently), but all the history Montoya brought with her is gone as well. The great stories from Gotham Central are now meaningless, as is her entire relationship with the Question. Was it because they wanted to return the original Question to life and his former role? Because I feel that could have been done without wiping Montoya off the DC map.
As stated before in this series we call Screwed Over, a loss of a great character is a terrible feeling for long time readers to digest. Sure it opens the floor for new characters, and new takes on old characters, but for those loyal fans that grew up watching Montoya on TV to reading about her trials and tribulations in the comics are really the ones who suffer here. You can ignore Wally West and take away Stephanie Brown, but why did you have to negate Renee Montoya?
For shame, DC. For shame.