Welcome back! Earlier this week DC Comics made an exciting announcement – 8 new miniseries are set to debut in early 2016. One highly anticipated title will centre around Poison Ivy, and another around Katana, a stoic fighter from Japan. Katana has been featured in episodes of Beware the Batman, Arrow, and will even star in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Here’s an introduction to her comic book history.
Full Name: Tatsu Yamashiro
Home: Japan, Gotham
Abilities: Katana is an extraordinary martial artist who possesses a legendary sword called the Soultaker, which captures the soul of every life it takes.
Debut: The Brave and The Bold, issue #200 released in July of 1983
Motivator: Initially, Katana was motivated by revenge, wanting to seek vengeance on those responsible for the deaths of her husband and children. She has a strong desire to administer justice in a harsh world.
Tatsu was once an ordinary Japanese girl, albeit exceptionally intelligent and a talented martial artist. She was the object of affection of two brothers – Maseo and Takeo. She cared for both, but was in love with Maseo. While she and Maseo got married and began a family, Takeo rose through the ranks of the Yakuza, eventually acquiring an ancient sword with the ability to contain the soul of every being it kills. Takeo then challenged Maseo to a duel, with Tatsu to be the winner’s prize. During the fight a fire broke out, and Takeo killed his brother. Though Tatsu was eventually able to disarm Takeo, her children also tragically died. She began her samurai training, and eventually headed for America where she began using the name Katana and became a masked vigilante.
For most of her Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis history, Katana was a member of the Outsiders, a team assembled by Batman to operate outside what the Justice League considered to be appropriate for heroes. Tasks taken on by the Outsiders included high-risk rescue missions and morally questionable surveillance. During this time, Tatsu became the guardian of a younger hero suffering from amnesia; an action that seemed to have helped her heal slightly from her tragic past.
The DC Universe was rebooted in 2011, creating the New 52. Katana’s New 52 debut was in the pages of the the relaunched Birds of Prey title. Tatsu’s past is slightly different; the New 52 reimagines Katana as a deadly fighter with a mysterious past fighting the Yakuza clan who murdered her husband. Her husband’s spirit still resides in her sword, but her conversations with him arouse concern among her teammates about the state of her health.
Katana eventually left the Birds of Prey, spending time in the Justice League of America as well as continuing her search for her husband’s murderers.
The Outsiders too have been reimagined in the New 52. They are now a worldwide organization that has been operating in secret for ages. No longer a creation of Batman, this version of the Outsiders is divided into clans based on traditional weapons, and also has ties to Green Arrow’s origin.
Good/Bad/Morals for Hire?
Katana has always fought for what she believes to be justice. Her version of justice is a bit more extreme than others’ at times, and has been described as downright ruthless. Her backstory is filled with tragedy and she has never truly been allowed to move forward. This has made her character appear cold and hardened to others, though it is worth noting that she eventually shows a more compassionate side to her close friends.
What to Read:
Outsiders, issues 30-50, 2003 series (Post-Crisis Universe)
This series ran for 50 issues, about 23 of which featured Katana. This iteration of the Outsiders is lead by Nightwing, who has them acting more as spies and bounty hunters than heroes by using the team to track down and capture on-the-lam super-villains. These issues have been collected into a few trade paperbacks, namely The Good Fight, Pay As You Go, Outsiders/Checkmate: CheckOut, and Five of a Kind.
Green Arrow Vol 5: The Outsiders War (New 52)
I will admit that I am a huge Jeff Lemire fan and am certainly biased with respect to his work (I love everything of his I have ever read), but this is one of the better New 52 stories featuring Katana. She helps Green Arrow defeat corruption in the centuries old organization and kicks a lot of ass along the way.
Katana Vol 1: The Soultaker (New 52)
Opinions on Katana’s first ongoing series are polarized – people either love it or they hate it. Sales weren’t strong, and the series was cancelled after only 10 issues. Personally, I enjoyed the action-focused aspects of the series and found the world writer Ann Nocenti created to be well developed and interesting. The dialogue and character development were weak, but if you’re a Katana fan and able to go in with moderated expectations, it’s worth a read.
See Her Next:
Katana: Cult of the Kobra
Katana’s solo series was cancelled in 2013, and while she was featured in Green Arrow’s ongoing and as a member of the Justice League of America, she is not currently starring in any titles. This is set to change in 2016 when DC will debut a six-issue miniseries starring Katana written by Mike W. Barr, one of her co-creators.