The latest issue of The Other History of the DC Universe has revealed a new side to one of the Outsiders’ greatest losses making it even more tragic.
WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for The Other History of the DC Universe #3 by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, Jose Villarrubia, and Steve Wands, on sale now.
The DC Universe is no stranger to tragedies. It might even hold the record for the most devastating and heartbreaking setting in all of comics. Few heroes have seen as many hardships as Tatsu Yashamiru, better known as Katana. With her possibly enchanted blade, Katana has made it her purpose to protect any and everyone that she can from the forces of darkness, and to avenge those that she couldn’t with a lethal fury. Sometimes violence can neither save nor solve, though, and the non-canon The Other History of the DC Universe #3 has just shed a new light on the one loss that Katana never stood a chance of preventing.
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When Katana meets Bruce Wayne during one of her mercenary missions to Markovia, he was there as Batman working his own lead, as well as looking to form a new team. As their interests align, Katana works with Batman and his new band of Outsiders, and soon takes a particular interest in Gabrielle Doe, Halo. Named by Bruce for her lack of any memories, Gabby would become Katana’s ward when they all finally returned to the United States. The details and legality of the situation were of little concern to the billionaire superhero in charge, and soon enough Katana learned not to worry about how exactly Batman swept the necessary paperwork under the rug. Instead, she learned to enjoy the time she had with her new surrogate daughter for as long as she could.
Gabrielle’s first appearance was alongside the Outsiders in 1983’s The Brave and the Bold #200 by Mike W. Barr and Dave Gibbons. Much the same as Katana narrates during her retelling of the tale, Gabby began life as a woman named Violet Harper. Always a manipulative narcissist, Violet conned her way into being able to steal drugs from longtime Black Lightning nemesis Tobias Whale. In retaliation, Whale sent Syonide to kill Violet and retrieve what she had taken, culminating in her death in Markovia.
When an alien Aurakle, a sentient orb-like being, discovered her body it fused with her to experience life, leading to Violet’s resurrection without memories of either of her two halves. Eventually, Violet’s consciousness would resurface, even coming to prominence and taking control of her body. It didn’t take Violet long to go back to her nefarious ways and lead the team into a trap set by Sebastian Faust, though this only resulted in her own death. In that moment, Katana held her, and she was given a chance to say goodbye to yet another dying daughter.
This is a major shift in directions from the story that longtime fans are familiar with, and turns the already tragic death of Gabrielle Doe and Violet Harper into an even darker moment in DC history. When Gabrielle’s death was first portrayed in 1994’s Outsiders #7 by Mike W. Barr and Paul Pelletier, it was at the hands of the cyborg assassin Michael Ryer, Sanction. Ryer had been hired by Marissa Barron to kill her estranged ex-husband, but the Outsiders found themselves in the middle of the attack and Halo and Marissa both lost their lives. Much like what had happened after Violet’s initial demise, the Aurakle fused itself and Halo’s spirit with the recently deceased Marissa, giving her and the heroic alter ego yet another new lease on life.
Though this version of Gabby’s death is still tragic, it doesn’t place any of the emphasis on Violet’s own return to prominence within her shared body, something which removes almost any agency from her death entirely. Violet working against her own best interests, and by extension Gabrielle’s as well, turns her demise from a hero killed in action to an act that might have been preventable. Katana may not have actually have been Gabby’s mother, but the loss hit her just as hard nonetheless, making what used to be merely a shocking moment into one of the darkest the DC Universe has ever seen.
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