WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batwoman #16, in stores now, written by Marguerite Bennett with art by Fernando Blanco and Dan Panosian. Michael Cho provided the issue's variant cover.
To say that Batman and Batwoman haven't always seen eye to eye would be a massive understatement. While it's clear that Kate Kane understands the importance of the Bat-family and keeping the world safe from evil, history has proven that she and Bruce Wayne have some dramatically different ideas about the ideology that justifies their superhero vigilantism. Batwoman #16 proves this yet again and, in the fallout, reveals that Kate is on her last strike when it comes to Batman allowing her to operate as Batwoman.
Batwoman #16 focuses on the fallout between Batwoman and her sister, Elizabeth Kane, otherwise known as the villain Red Alice. With Alice's plan to release an infected colony of bats into the skies above Gotham thwarted, Batwoman and Batman's focus turns to what should be done with the villain. Batman's natural inclination is as it always has been, to send the supervillain in question to the only place in Gotham that can ostensibly hold her: Arkham Asylum. Batwoman, fearing that she will lose her sister again, is having none of that and, in a twist, turns on Batman.
It's unclear who exactly "wins" in this altercation, but Batwoman uses her personal knowledge of Bruce Wayne to fight dirty and fend off the Dark Knight, all to cement the seriousness of her plea. Batman relents, allowing Batwoman to take Beth into her care, but it's not as simple as that. As the two part ways, Batman reveals that he has been keeping score of Kate's failings, and that she is currently on her second strike. Should she strike out a third time, he says, she might as well stop calling herself Batwoman.
This is a serious development in the relationship between Batman and Batwoman, as it not only sets a timetable for when Kate Kane might lose her cowl, but because it harkens back to one of her most ignoble moments -- her fist strike.
According to Batman, Batwoman's first strike was her killing a massive, rampaging Clayface in Detective Comics #973 with a Colony weapon that rendered the villain a lifeless lump of clay. Kate's action had a ripple effect that eventually saw her join up with Colony for a period of time and, in the process, put a cap on Batman and Robin's doomed, idealistic Knights Protocol.
Kate's fatal gunshot marked a turning point for the Bat-family, so the fact that it's being invoked in Batwoman #16, and that her attempt to save her sister is being treated with the same gravity as her killing Clayface, signals a precarious future for Kate Kane. A common refrain in Batwoman #16 is "your family, or the bat." That's a decision Kate has made before, back when she joined her father in Colony.
If the fallout from her rescuing Beth is anywhere near as serious as when she killed Clayface, Kate's next arc (which will also be her final solo arc for the foreseeable future) might be setting her up to move even further away from her Batwoman identity or, worse yet, could as a precursor to her third strike.