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Renee Montoya

The following profile applies to Renee’s character and appearances before DC’s line wide relaunch of September 2011. Since the relaunch the character has appeared in only a photograph in a Gotham City precinct in which Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer acknowledged her existence without clarification whether she is alive or dead. During a panel at Comic Con 2012 an attendee asked if there are plans for her, to which the answer was “not currently“.

Renee is the daughter of traditionally minded parents, Hernando and Luisa, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. She attended Gotham City’s Police Academy and graduated with top honors. Her first experience with the GCPD was as a beat cop. During this first part of her career she brought down serial killer Mister Zsasz. Montoya continued to demonstrate her capabilities under the command of Commissioner Jim Gordon and later Lt. Sarah Essen-Gordon, who presented the detective badge to Montoya. At one time Montoya was partnered with Harvey Bullock before he disgraced himself and resigned.

Montoya had been an irregularly appearing supporting cast member in various Batman titles since her first appearance in comics. It should also be noted here that the character was originally created to appear in the Batman animated series. News of the character excited comics writers, who then appropriated the character. Shorter production time for comics meant that she appeared in them before her first appearance in animation. There is also some discrepancy regarding her first comics appearance. The entry in the DC Comics Encyclopedia lists Detective #644. Some websites list Batman #475. Both were published in early 1992. Researching and documenting all of her appearances is beyond the scope of this bio. Instead, the focus will be on stories and events within two comics as outlined below.

Writers Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker along with artist Michael Lark assembled the cast for the crime noir comic Gotham Central. Montoya was one of the ensemble cast members, but soon came to prominence in the the second story arc, the five part Half A Life. Renee, who had previously had a boyfriend named Johnny, was outed with a photo of her kissing a woman prominently posted on the station bulletin board. To make her life worse, Two Face had become obsessed with the detective and kidnapped her. Thankfully, she made it through the ordeal unharmed. Her parents, relieved that their daughter was not alive, were not understanding of her sexuality and disowned her. Girlfriend Daria, or Dee, Hernandez comforted Renee. With Dee’s support, Renee began to make steps toward living life out of the closet.

The next substantial development comes in issues #23 – 25 when a masked perp shoots Montoya. A kevlar vest saves her, but she lands in the hospital for examination. Not being a spouse or relative, Daria is not allowed to see Renee, but a previously hard-nosed police inspector gets a soft heart and takes her back to the exam room. A scene in issue #24 shows the Renee and Daria having brunch with Renee’s partner, Cris Allen, and his wife and two sons. Later, the two women are shown lying in bed and having an intimate conversation. The short arc is sensitively written and shows that it’s possible to include homosexual characters in comics without pandering or resorting to tokenism. Also of note is the beginning of a plot that will grow and dominate Montoya’s life. Shady cop Jim Corrigan makes his first appearance. A feud between Montoya and Corrigan begins that will culminate in the final issues of the comic.

A bizarre crime happens in her family neighborhood and Renee volunteers to work the case. She checks on her father who is minding the family store, and realizes he’s not ready to accept her back into his life. Daria also appears with Montoya to have another talk in the bedroom (issues #28 and 29). The investigation leads to the old Flash villain Dr. Alchemy. Montoya and Allen travel to Central City to interview the imprisoned rogue. Dr. Alchemy takes advantage of the situation to make an escape and transmutes the necklace around Montoya’s neck to hydrogen and chlorine which brands her skin. Mr. Montoya unexpectedly shows up at his daughte”s apartment, and he’s surprised to find Daria at home. She invites him to stay and they talk. Montoya subdues the Alchemy, beating him for his taunts and the branding. Thanks in part to Daria’s gentle prodding, Renee and her father are reunited (issues #30 and 31).

Montoya figures less prominently in the Dead Robins arc (#32 – 36). She and Allen follow a lead that takes them to Arkham Asylum. Two Face’s rant clearly shows he’s still fixated on the detective. The Teen Titans and Starfire come to the station to help the investigation by answering questions. Both Renee and Captain Maggie Sawyer are dazzled by Koriander’s beauty. Attentive Cris Allen notices that Renee is letting the escalating tension and animosity toward crooked cop Jim Corrigan starting to take a toll on her (issue #36).

Montoya’s life starts to disintegrate with #37, the series’ final arc. The first chapter is an Infinite Crisis tie-in involving the Spectre, Captain Marvel, and the Rock of Eternity that will have repercussions for Cris Allen. The supernatural cataclysm wreaks havoc in Gotham. Montoya and Allen make valiant efforts to reach their respective partners, Daria and Dore (and their two sons). Long simmering anger spills out of control. Renee starts spending time drinking alone in a lesbian bar, trying to pick up a woman, then picking a fight. This has repercussions on the relationship. Montoya accidentally discovers papers that indicate Allen has been pursuing his own secret investigation into Corrigan’s activities. Daria returns home after work and finds a desolate Renee holding her gun. While Daria successfully coaxes her to put away the gun and come to bed, it’s still a sleepless night. Simultaneously, Allen’s scrutiny leads to a late night confrontation in an alley with Corrigan. Corrigan coldly and fatally shoots Allen. Captain Sawyer pays an early morning visit to Montoya to deliver the horrible news. Quick thinking on Corrigan’s part prevents murder charges from sticking. Dore, Allen’s widow, and Daria both try to console Renee. Her reply: “I’m past help, Dee. And the best thing you can do now is to stay away from me.” And she is. A stop at the lesbian bar to knock back more than a few drinks is followed by Montoya breaking into Corrigan’s apartment and coming close to killing him at point blank range. That morning she walks into Sawyer’s office and hands over her badge and gun and resigns from the police force.

Gotham Central ends its run here with #40 and Montoya becomes one of the focal characters of 52. Her days are spent alternately obsessing over her lost job and girlfriend and trying to forget all of it with alcohol. The Question appropriates the Bat-signal for his own purposes: he spray paints a question mark on its surface, and shines it directly at Montoya’s apartment. She’s really too drunk to do anything other than curse it (52 #1).

Introductions of a sort are in order in issue #2. Late at night the Question enters Renee’s apartment. Her reactions are still quick, and she shoots at the Question, waking the unnamed woman in her bed. He may have disappeared but he left a note behind with “520 Kane St” and a big question mark written on it. Her curiosity is piqued and she investigates the building the next night. The Question appears and offers to hire her services without giving any details before doing another disappearing act on her.

Renee is doing surveillance on the building (issue #4). The watch gets exciting when she barely notices someone entering the property and follows. Inside the Question reappears. Falling through a trap door and are attacked by a trench coat wearing lizard creature. Finding all sorts of alien weapons lying about, Montoya grabs one and kills the alien. Maggie Sawyer, Renee’s former captain, checks up on her after learning about the warehouse incident (issue #5). She also warns Montoya to be careful because she’s probably getting involved in something very dangerous.

A part of Montoya’s past is revealed when we learn she and Kate Kane (Batwoman) were once lovers (issue #7). Charlie (the Question) strikes up a conversation with Renee in a lesbian bar. After they leave, he confides in her some info about his superhero ID and also that Gotham has become the target of Intergang.

Renee, Charlie, and Kate cross paths again in #11. Charlie attempts to have a heart to heart talk with Renee about her self-destructive behavior since Crispus Allen’s murder. Later in the story Batwoman rescues the pair from a fight with Intergang. Charlie teases Renee that Batwoman may like her.

Maggie Sawyer strongly warns Renee to back off her activities or risk making police investigations harder (issue #12). Charlie proposes to Renee the idea of going to Kahndaq to stop the flow of Intergang weapons at the source where they arrive in issue #14. Charlie receives some info from his associate nicknamed Tot. They investigate a building for clues about Intergang, only to find themselves surrounded by armed military that capture and imprison them. Renee marshals her strength and wits and successfully frees herself and Charlie from further torture (issue #15). She deduces that Intergang will strike during the wedding ceremony of Isis and Black Adam, and is conflicted and sickened when she has to fatally shoot a young woman from becoming a suicide bomber (issue #16).

Any self-esteem Montoya gained since joining up with Charlie has now been dashed. She angers Black Adam by avoiding the ceremony that would honor her and Charlie for stopping the bomber. Charlie accompanies Black Adam and Isis back to the quarters provided for them. Black Adam is enraged to find a naked Montoya in bed with another woman. His anger stems presumably from being stood up rather than as a reaction to finding two women engaged in sex. Montoya heatedly argues with Black Adam and he reacts by choking her. Thankfully, Isis and Charlie cool both of them down so they can formulate ideas for stopping Intergang. This takes place in issue #18.

Her next appearance is in #23. Montoya, Charlie, Isis, and Black Adam have gathered enough information to infiltrate an Intergang/ religious cult ritual in which Isis’s lost brother is brutalized and beaten as an object lesson. Montoya and Charlie help to rescue Amon.

As a thank you gesture, Black Adam, Isis, and her brother fly Montoya and Charlie to the foothills of Nanda Parbat, a remote land somewhere in the Himalayas. Here they meet up with Richard Dragon who, unknown to Renee, will become her instructor. Also in Nanda Parbat is Tot, Charlie’s friend and associate, who spends a lot of time studying a copy of the Book of Crime Montoya and Charlie stole from Intergang. After close observation of Charlie, Renee confronts him about his health. He tells her it’s lung cancer that has spread; there isn’t much time left before he dies. Tot has also deciphered one of the important prophecies involving a murder. It’s Renee who puts the pieces together based on the accompanying illustration: Kate Kane/Batwoman is the intended victim. With Charlie’s confession, the possible death of another person close to her makes Renee very determined to warn her former girlfriend. (Issue #27)

Within a few days, the pair have returned to Gotham and managed to get in contact with Batwoman. They save the headstrong hero from death at Boss Mannheim’s hands when she tries to dismantle an Intergang operation (issue #28). With Kate safe, Renee’s demeanor seems to be tempering. She’s accepted Kate’s offer to put her and Charlie up in her penthouse, and she’s incorporated meditation into her daily life (#31).

Two weeks later, Renee finds compassion for Charlie whose condition has now worsened to the point that he’s hallucinating, comforting him at his bedside. Likewise, Kate feels badly for Renee. They sit and talk, and kiss. Another week passes (#34) and Renee is keeping watch in the hospital over a further declined Charlie. The former detective grows equally more determined or desperate as her friend lies babbling in a hospital bed. While reading letters sent by Tot still in Nanda Parbat to Charlie, she decides the only way to save Charlie is to return with him to the strange land. Kate is easily swayed to pay for medical transport for which she is repaid with a kiss (#36). When next they appear (#38) Rene is dealing with hauling a corpse-like, raving man on a sled up a steep mountain in a harsh winter storm. Miraculously, they both are alive several days later though she’s wondering if her gambit won’t kill them both. The sled tips over and out spills Charlie. Renee clutches him as he gathers the strength to say, “But who are you going to become? Time to change, like a butterfly.” His cancer-ridden body gives out, and he dies as the walls of Nanda Parbat lie not so distant.

Renee has several appearances in #41. Understandably, she’s grieving Charlie’s death, and trying to come to terms with the loss. Tot chiding her for some of her recent (off panel?) behavior isn’t helpful as far as she’s concerned. He dismisses her, saying that Richard Dragon is waiting for her in a specific cave. Inside the ice-covered grotto, Richard attacks her in a cliched fashion. She runs away in defeat after Dragon tries to force her to face some emotional truth. A couple of days later she meets another young woman (Wonder Woman out of costume and remaining anonymous) who sits quietly waiting for a friend. Renee mentions Charlie’s death, and how it’s even more senseless in a place where miracles happen. The unnamed woman replies to Renee that she should stop looking for reasons in the world and look inside of herself. With that, Rene returns to the cave where Richard bested her days before, and meditates.

Montoya was the lead in the five-part mini series Crime Bible: The Book of Blood and a featured character in Final Crisis: Revelations. This bio will be updated to reflect those events. The Question will be a backup strip starting in Detective #854 (June 2009) with Batwoman as lead.

Montoya was created as a character for the Batman The Animated Series and meant to debut in 1992. She first appeared in Detective #644 and was confirmed as lesbian in Gotham Central #6.

Art by Michael Lark and Noelle Giddings.

All rights reserved DC Comics. Used without permission.

October 4, 2021
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