Batman has recruited numerous sidekicks over the years, teaching and inspiring an entire generation of future heroes like Dick Grayson and Tim Drake. However, his most skilled apprentice is Cassandra Cain. Trained as an assassin from a young age, Cassandra became one of the best fighters in their roster and a firm believer in the principals of Batman.
However, if things came down to it, could Batman actually take on this former Batgirl in a one-on-one duel? With Cain set to make her cinematic debut in Birds of Prey, we're taking a look back at the history of the character to see if she really is a better fighter than Bruce Wayne.
WHO IS CASSANDRA CAIN?
Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott in 1999, Cassandra Cain is the daughter of assassins David Cain and Lady Shiva. Trained as a killer from a young age and even achieving her first kill as a child, Cassandra eventually broke free of a murder's life to join the Bat-Family. In the Post-Crisis DC Universe, she became the second person to go be the title of Batgirl. Eventually, she would leave that role for other titles but remained a valued hero and member of Batman Inc. After Flashpoint, she retained many similarities with her earlier origins but now never took on the mantle of Batgirl. Instead, she joined the Bat-Family as Orphan, working alongside her fellow Gotham heroes.
Cassandra is a skilled fighter thanks to the intense training her father gave her from an early age. He also instilled in her a particular talent: Cassandra has been conditioned to have a keen eye for body language. She's able to detect movement even before it truly begins, giving her a major advantage in combat. However, since she was trained initially only in body language instead of any formal kind, she was forced to learn how to speak and write and read much later in life.
BATGIRL AND THE BAT-FAMILY
Batman has been training his entire life to be the perfect soldier in an endless war on crime. He's never relented from his cause and has pushed his body to the absolute limit as a result. On top of learning every conceivable combat style, he reached the apex in terms of strength and endurance for a human to endure. With all these skills, he's proven to be a formidable physical threat, even to otherwise overwhelming powerhouses. He's wrestled gorillas, punched out superhumans and body-slammed gods.
He does not, however, have Cassandra's eye for body language. While Batman is a fast and deductive thinker, he's still reacting when someone attacks. Cassandra can decipher her opponents' upcoming movements in less than a moment, which gives her the opportunity to counter every move they make. Cassandra can only ever really be outflanked and overwhelmed. In a straight one-on-one fight, Cassandra is always going to begin the battle with advantages even beyond her rigorous training.
Who Would Win?
Batman is often defined by his ability to plan ahead and strategize around his opponent's advantages. Coupled with his knack for stealth and gadgets, he usually has the upper hand in battles. Even when he's confronted head-on in a battle, he has a wealth of skills to rely on. But those abilities haven't always seen him through to victory over Cassandra. The two have come to blows a handful of times outside of friendly sparring matches.
In Batman: Gotham Knight #5 by Devin Graysin, Dale Eaglesham and John Floyd, the Key unlocked much of Batman's rage. This made him violent, and he acted without logic or reason and was even pushed to abandon his "no killing" policy. Cassandra was able to save the lives of everyone endangered though, and even stood up to Batman when he lashed out at her. The two came to blows again in Batgirl #50 by Dylan Horrocks and Rick Leonardi. This time, the fight was a more even-handed duel, as both were on the inhibition-reducing drug Soul, which turned people infected by it into homicidal fighters. Eventually, the battle ended in a draw as both of them worked through the drug and regained their senses, even coming closer as allies as a result.
While there hasn't been a true battle between the two, the most definitive clue to who would come from Batman himself. In Detective Comics #951 by James Tyion IV and Christian Duce, Batwoman talks with Batman about Cassandra. It's revealed that Batwoman isn't sure Cassandra has any upper limits as a fighter. When Batwoman asks him if he thinks he'd actually be able to take her in a fair fight, Batman concedes that "I'd lose." Coming from someone as confident and skilled as Batman, that's a major admission.