A History of Renee Montoya – Part III: On the beat

Art by Michael Lark

One of Renee Montoya’s first assignments with Crispus Allen in Detective #744 (May 2000) also sees her working alongside her other long-time partner, Harvey Bullock. Their quarry is also a familiar face — Whisper A’Daire, here a Ra’s Al Ghul associate bringing a miracle drug to Gotham, but later the leader of the Dark Faith religion that Renee works with the Question and Batwoman to bring down in 52.

Rucka feels that the addition of Allen as Montoya’s partner served to bring out more of Montoya’s character: “Well, we knew the relationship between Renee and Harvey at that point. It was status quo, and it didn’t really reveal anything new about either of them. Bringing Cris in allowed both he and Montoya to be further fleshed out in a fairly organic, easy way. And the trope of a new partner was good, solid cop-story drama, so that was an obvious benefit. So it served both of them, because both of them had to get to know one another, and trust one another, and in doing so, we learned about both of them.”

Detective #747

Renee finds herself in the spotlight again a few months later, in Detective #747. Rucka picks up the threads started in his No Man’s Land run in telling the story of Renee’s birthday. The day is full of hardships — Renee’s father talks openly and suggestively about the fact that Renee isn’t married and hasn’t started a family, and Renee has to testify at a trial that ignores the grey areas created by post-earthquake conditions in Gotham. A pair of bright spots exist though: Commissioner Gordon remembers her birthday and provides an ear for her problems, and a bouquet of flowers delivered anonymously to her desk.

Renee investigates at the florist and finds that the sender was none other than Bruce Wayne. She barges into his office and demands to know why he sent them. His response? “Um…because you’re a hottie?” Renee is smart enough to discern who really sent the flowers: Wayne’s old friend, Harvey Dent. Renee goes to visit Dent in Arkham, with a pair of cupcakes. After her visit, in a considerably better mood, she finds a note on her windshield from Batman: “You gave him peace. Thank you for that. Happy birthday.”

Art by Paul Pope

Batman: Turning Points #5 (January 2001) rewinds back to one of Allen’s first assignments in Gotham, and his first encounter with the Batman. While Allen stands gaping at the Caped Crusader, Montoya slams her gun through a windshield in order to bring a perpetrator down. She smiles at the Batman, saying, “I think you scared my partner.”

Rucka feels that Allen provides an essential role in the GCPD, that of outsider: “Renee’s born and raised in Gotham. Cris isn’t. And in that, there was opportunity to further show how different Gotham is as an environment. One of the biggest conflicts I have in the Batman mythology is the justification, if that makes sense. If Gotham is so corrupt, Batman is required, then isn’t Batman a failure if, after ten years, it’s still just as corrupt?”

Renee doesn’t officially make an appearance in Detective Comics #753 (February 2001), but it’s worth mentioning that she’s the inspiration for “R’nee” in the Harvey Dent comic creation, “The Adventures of Copernicus Dent and his Plucky Assistant R’Nee.” A red-headed pastiche of pulp vixens, R’Nee is the damsel in distress in Harvey Dent’s therapeutic creation. In the end, however, the review board refuses to acknowledge that the art therapy program has any value.

Art by Durwin TalonArt by Durwin Talon

March of 2001 saw the Bat-crossover story, “Officer Down,” in which Jim Gordon, on his way home from a birthday party where Renee gave him a first edition of the Long Goodbye, gets shot multiple times in a back alley. Renee and Cris lead the investigation that eventually leads to cop Jordan Rich, formerly mob capo Jordan Reynolds, whom Gordon had busted in his early days in Chicago. In the interrogation box, they play out a good cop/bad cop routine until Renee puts a chokehold on the suspect. Montoya advocates using the threat of the Batman against Rich, but Allen refuses until the last minute. They have to release Rich, but the Batman is indeed waiting outside. Rich confesses to the Batman, but refuses to make a confession.

When Gordon announces his decision to retire, and Rich files a wrongful arrest suit against the city, Montoya finds herself overwhelmed with the feeling that she let the Commissioner down. She calls in sick and goes to Rich’s apartment, where she kicks in the door and puts a gun to his head. Bullock shows up in time to stop her, showing her the handcuff key that Gordon had given all of his officers, and reminding her of her responsibility as an officer of the law. She backs off, and later Bullock finds her drinking and looking at her key. She asks where his is, and he says, “Dunno…musta lost it someplace. Wasn’t gonna use it anyway.”

Renee and Cris are investigating a series of robberies committed by police officers in Detective Comics #758 (July 2001) when they become mindless criminals themselves, spurred by recitation of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark.” Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux attempts to prevent the two from robbing a strip club, when she’s taken hostage by the brainwashed Montoya. Wayne, as Batman, intervenes, using a minimum of force to take down Montoya because, as he says, “She’s a good cop.”

Montoya and Allen are booked in Detective #759 (August 2001), as Batman tells new GCPD Commissioner Michael Akin that he suspects the Mad Hatter to be involved. Harvey Bullock resents the arrest of his fellow officers, as well as having to inform them that they’ll be standing trial. By Detective #760 (September 2001), however, the Hatter’s grander scheme has been put into play — one-third of the GCPD under his control, causing chaos in the streets. Montoya and Allen fight against their own to keep control in the jail, while Batman tracks the Hatter to his lair.

The back-up story for Detective #758 also features Montoya, as she has lunch with Barbara Gordon, filling her in on new Commissioner Akin. Gordon concludes in her Oracle journal that from what Montoya says, Akin is a worthy successor to her father.

Detective #761 (October 2001) seems to deal with fallout from the Mad Hatter’s scheme, as internal affairs investigator Esperanza visits the department to talk to Montoya and Allen. However, when Esperanza talks to Montoya in the interrogation room, he explains that he’s there to talk to her about Jordan Rich. Montoya was violent with him during interrogation, and was later seen going to Rich’s apartment looking as though she were going to hurt someone. The problem comes, Esperanza says, from the fact that Rich is missing and possibly murdered.

The next issue shows Esperanza bringing Montoya along on his investigation. They talk to witnesses who place a Gallante family shooter at the scene of the murder. They bring him in for a lineup and he talks, telling them where to find the body and also who helped set up the hit. Montoya goes to Bullock’s office to tell him the news. “Why, Harvey?” she asks.

Art by Rick Burchett

“Because it wasn’t right, Renee,” Bullock says. “He had to answer.” Bullock makes the long walk with his head down to Commissioner Akin’s office, where he turns in his badge.

When Vesper Fairchild is murdered inside Wayne Manor in March 2002, Montoya and Allen lead investigations on the scene. And later, in May’s Detective Comics #768, the two begin an investigation of Alfred Pennyworth, the butler who they think aided and abetted Wayne either fleeing the country, or faking evidence that he had. Allen’s pursuit of what Pennyworth may or may not know leads to Pennyworth accusing the department of harassment. Eventually, Wayne’s name is cleared, as David Cain, the real murderer, is captured.

Art by Michael LarkArt by Michael Lark

February 2003 saw the debut of the series where Montoya came to the fore as a consistent leading character, Gotham Central. Written in tandem by Rucka and Ed Brubaker, with art by Michael Lark, Gotham Central covered the investigations of two shifts of Gotham’s Major Crimes Unit. Writing a book about the GCPD had been a wish of Rucka’s for long before Gotham Central: “I wandered around for months with this pie-chart poll I’d torn out of the back of a Wizard issue. The poll asked “Which supporting character needs his or her own title?” And overwhelmingly, Gordon had won. I’d been pushing and pushing for this book. And it turns out that Ed had the same idea. So we sort of tag-teamed it and managed to sell Carlin on the idea of doing the title.”

The opening storyline, “In the Line of Duty,” has Montoya and Allen trying to figure out the motives of Mister Freeze, as he freezes one officer to death and leaves the other alive, then having to deal, along with the rest of her comrades in blue, as they have to call in Batman to ensure the safety of the public.

Art by Michael LarkArt by Michael Lark

But it’s in June’s Gotham Central #6, the beginning of the Eisner and Harvey award-winning “Half A Life” storyline that Montoya receives the full spotlight. Renee’s out jogging, when she’s handed a subpoena. She’s being sued for ten million dollars by Marty Lipari, an alleged rapist who maintains that he was assaulted during arrest. She spends the day working a robbery case, and begs off early to have dinner with her parents. They give her a grilling on when she plans to settle down, and she winds up spending the night out.

When she gets home, she’s confronted by Esperanza and partner Matt Conway, who tells her that a private detective that Lipari hired has turned up dead, that they suspect Lipari of the murder, and that Renee should watch her back. The private detective managed to get one piece of information about Renee, however — the next day she finds that she’s the talk of the office because of the photograph of her kissing another woman pinned to the office bulletin board.

Her uncouth fellow officers spend the morning deriding her lifestyle decisions, before Captain Maggie Sawyer, a lesbian herself, calls Renee into her office. She wants to know why Internal Affairs was speaking to Renee, and she also wants to tell her, “It’s a one-way door, detective. Once the closet is open, it doesn’t shut again. What you do next, you get to live with it for the rest of your life.” Back at home, Renee has a visit from her brother Benny, who tells her that her parents also received a copy of the photograph. He urges her to verify his lie to them that the photograph was faked, but she struggles with the idea of denying who she is. When he leaves, she calls her girlfriend, Daria, and tells her about being outed. On the walk home, the pair are confronted by Marty Lipari, who films them kissing. Montoya beats the hell out of him, telling him to stay away from Daria. He goes home, muttering under his breath about getting more money from the lawsuit and is greeted at his door by bullets.

Lipari’s body is found alongside a large package of heroin and Montoya’s police revolver. Montoya wakes to find that her gun is missing from her safe, replaced by another package of heroin. She’s still dealing with this discovery when a person at the door says they have a warrant for her arrest. Instead of reporting for work as usual, Montoya is walked across in handcuffs by Esperanza. Daria is brought in for questioning, and she tells them about the encounter with Lipari the night before. Esperanza tries to get Renee to cop a temporary insanity plea, but she maintains her innocence. She’s taken to jail, where Allen visits her. After chastising her for not telling him about being gay, he asks, “Who’s setting you up, partner?”

“It’s Dent,” she says. “It’s Two-Face.”

Art by Michael LarkArt by Michael Lark

Montoya’s trial begins with a not-guilty plea and a surprise switch of attorneys, from a pro-bono to one of Bruce Wayne’s legal staff. Montoya’s mother spots Daria in the crowd of the courtroom and demands to know if she’s the one from the photograph. Montoya’s only response is to apologize to Daria.

Allen, meanwhile, gets saddled with a new rookie partner, Josie Mac, and has to solicit her help in verifying Montoya’s Two-Face suspicions. As Montoya is transported back to the Schreck, the prison bus is ambushed by men in animal masks. Montoya is knocked unconscious and stowed in the trunk of a car that scuffs a mailbox as it arrives on the scene. When Allen and Mac investigate the scene later, Mac is able to use near-supernatural abilities to find the car at the station garage — a police was behind the kidnapping. They trace the car to internal affairs officer Conway, who refuses to comment as he’s arrested.

Art by Michael Lark

Montoya wakes up to find Harvey Dent standing over her, offering her rare steaks and Merlot, and even Tiramisu from Daria’s restaurant. She demands to know why he’s ruining her life, and Dent replies, “I didn’t. He did. It’s how the coin came down, Renee.” Back at the station, Allen spills all that Conway told them about Two-Face threatening his child’s life and a meeting in a presidential suite to Detective Burke, only Burke leaps out the window and is suddenly wearing a cape. Allen calls all available officers to give pursuit.

Meanwhile, Two-Face explains everything he’s done so far to Renee, and tells her that he’s brought her two lives together. Now she is just like him. “You’re the only person who never treated me with pity. You’ve been kind to me. You visited me at Arkham. It’s obvious how I feel about you, Renee. And I thought that perhaps you felt the same. That you loved me too.” Montoya spurns his advances, and he lashes out at her, threatening to kill Daria too. They grapple over his gun, and then suddenly, Batman is there. Two-Face is taken into custody, and Montoya is cleared of charges. Sawyer makes Montoya take four weeks off, and reiterates what she said earlier: “What you do next, you get to live with for the rest of your life.”

Montoya builds up her courage to talk to her parents while Daria waits in the car. It doesn’t go well. Montoya’s parents tell her not to come back. Daria wraps her in her arms and says, “It’s okay, I’ve got you…I’ve got you.”

Rucka had waited for years, since his first comic story “Two Down,” to write “Half A Life.” The story serves as a balance to the previous story, he said: “The fact was, I was writing about the law of averages as much as anything else. Renee kept getting good tosses of the coin. She got a lucky streak. Eventually, that streak was going to break. “Half a Life” is about the streak breaking. And law of averages demands that all of those “good” tosses…they had to be balanced by a long run of “bad” ones.”

The “Half a Life” storyline won Gotham Central and its creators a handful of awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, and a nomination for the GLAAD Media Awards. Rucka says he especially appreciated winning the Eisner, “Not so much because it vindicated the homosexuality — how can you? — but because it meant that enough people thought it was a good story they voted for it.”

Montoya returns to duty in December 2003’s Gotham Central #12, which starts the storyline “Soft Targets.” The mayor is assassinated by a sniper, then the school superintendent, and both shifts of the GCPD’s Major Crimes Unit are investigating. The culprit soon reveals himself, shortly before shooting out the bat-signal on the GCPD roof — it’s the Joker. Montoya and Allen get saddled with Gotham reporter Simon Lippman as they carry out their investigation, which involves trying to find the seller of a sniper rifle that the Joker is using to carry out his rampage. The Joker hacks the police system and displays webcam images of Gotham buildings with a counter at the bottom.

Officers track down all of the locations but one, but the end of the countdown only reveals a clock that’s counting up. Eventually, the image changes to that of a Gotham television reporter in captivity, just as the Joker shows up at the station to turn himself in. Turns out his plan was to lull everyone into being secure enough to go Christmas shopping, and the reporter is strapped to a bomb in the back of a toy store. Batman arrives to save the reporter, but the GCPD suffers losses, including shift captain L.T. Probson, whom the Joker murders in his getaway.

We next see Montoya in the midst of the “Unresolved” storyline, in Gotham Central #21 (September 2004), having a tense conversation with Harvey Bullock in a stairwell as she takes him up from a cell. Bullock lets her know that he heard she got outed, and that she could’ve told him…he was her partner. She tells him that he gave up the right to saying that when he killed a man. Bullock says he prevented her from doing the same thing. She responds: “What you did was calculated, Harvey. And to know that you think you did it even a little bit to save me? How am I supposed to live with that? How is Jim Gordon supposed to live with that? We were your friends.”

“I don’t deserve this shit,” says Bullock. “I gave up everything that mattered for you and the Commish.”

“That’s the saddest part, isn’t it?” asks Montoya. “You gave it up. And for what?”

Art by Michael LarkArt by Michael Lark

In “Corrigan,” beginning in December’s Gotham Central #23, Montoya and Allen stumble into a gang hit in progress. But the hit turns out to be on a “freak” named Black Spider, who jumps in with Uzi’s firing straight into the torso of Montoya. Her vest stops the bullets, but Black Spider raises his gun to aim for her head. Allen intervenes with a few bullets of his own, and faces an inquest into the death of Black Spider and two men in handcuffs that were also dead on the scene. Unfortunately, the bullet that could clear Allen was put on iBid by corrupt crime scene investigator Jim Corrigan.

After a tip by Esperanza, Montoya tracks Corrigan to a bar full of corrupt cops. After giving him a beat down in the alley behind, he gives up the goods — the bullet’s been sold to an older rich lady collector. Esperanza and Montoya pay her a visit and find a vast collection of criminal artifacts. The two are able to recover the bullet by trading for the last bullet the Black Spider ever fired. Esperanza confesses that he traded his chance to trap Corrigan to get Allen out of trouble because he owed Montoya.

Art by Cliff Chiang

In “Keystone Kops,” beginning in April 2005, Montoya begs her way onto a case in her old neighborhood. A cop trying to rescue a kid stumbled onto a chemistry lab and was turned into a monster by what he found there. What Montoya finds in the neighborhood is that her situation with her parents still hasn’t changed. She and Cris wind up booked on a flight to Keystone to talk to Albert “Dr. Alchemy” Desmond, the incarcerated member of the Rogues Gallery that they believe abandoned the chem. lab. Alchemy works a deal — he’ll cure the mutating cop if he can see him in person. GCPD arranges for Keystone officers to transport Alchemy. But when Alchemy reaches the hospital, he escapes his bonds, and sets the mutated monster loose. Batman goes after him, while Montoya gives Alchemy a beating that puts him into the E.R.

She goes home to Daria, who tells her that her father stopped by to say that he missed her, and that he wanted her back in his life. Montoya sleeps on this prospect, but after losing it when interrogating Alchemy in prison the next day, she hears a call that the berserk mutated officer has been seen in the vicinity of her parents’ store. She arrives on the scene just as the monster cop’s partner puts a bullet through his head. But her father is there, and he’s okay, in more than one way.

The end of the year saw Montoya and Allen investigating a series of Robin murders, and the beginning of the next saw them witnessing the end of the world, interacting with Captain Marvel as Infinite Crisis falls on Gotham. Allen confronts Montoya about her history with Corrigan, and she admits that she blew any future cases against Corrigan by beating him in the alley, but that she did it for the sake of her partner.

February 2006 saw the start of the storyline “Corrigan II,” and Allen confronting his partner over her increasingly violent actions. She’s been out looking for fights at night instead of going home to Daria, and he’s been out tailing corrupt officers. Montoya finds out the latter information after snooping through Allen’s files, and she goes to confront Esperanza. But the internal affairs investigator assures her: Allen is working on his own. Allen warns her off of interfering — he’s close to nailing Corrigan, or so he thinks.

Unfortunately, one of Corrigan’s corrupt comrades spies Kenzie, the informant, narcing to Allen. Corrigan captures and tortures Kenzie, sets up an ambush for Allen, and murders him in cold blood, shooting him in the back.

Art by Sean PhillipsArt by Sean Phillips

Sawyer visits Montoya to break the news, and Montoya comes straight to Central to accuse Corrigan. She pulls Allen’s file on him, and puts her fellow officers on the case. All the evidence is rounded up and seems to point to Corrigan, but Montoya suspects something fishy is up. She’s working through grief though, and lets the other officers take the lead. It doesn’t work. The ballistics don’t match up and Corrigan walks. Montoya goes to Allen’s wake to share the news. She can’t break it to Allen’s wife Dore though, and tells her the investigation is still continuing. She leaves the wake to get drunk, and then leaves the bar to find Corrigan.

It doesn’t take long before he’s on his knees in his kitchen, sobbing and begging her not to kill him. Her finger’s on the trigger, but she doesn’t do it. Instead, she goes to Central the next day to turn in her badge.

Tomorrow: Renee starts down the path of self-degradation before embarking on the road of self-discovery in “A History of Renee Montoya – Part IV: Losing Face”!

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