As soon as Tom King ended his run on the main Batman series DC Comics announced that along with Clay Mann that his run on the franchise would continue with Batman/Catwoman. Now after about a year since it was announced the Batman/Catwoman 12 issue maxi-series begins as the latest entry in the DC Black Label line. While King will be continuing where he last left off with his Batman run this time around he will have much more freedom with his work as it will not be considered part of the current continuity. That along with being under DC Comics’ Black Label opens things up for King to go all in on his big ideas for how he wants to wrap up his run on Batman. Let’s see how it all starts with Batman/Catwoman #1.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: After getting a view of the Wayne Mansion at night we see an old Selina Kyle driving on the highway.
Flashing back to sometime earlier Bruce Wayne catches up with Andrea Beaumont. During their conversation Bruce reveals that Alfred Pennyworth has passed away.
Flashing back to much earlier Alfred in shown walking into a room where Bruce and Selina are in the middle of having sex.
Going forward in time the older Selina arrives at a retirement home and visits someone who she has not seen in many years.
Back in the past Batman tells Catwoman about how Andrea is back in Gotham City because she believes her son has run away there. Catwoman mentions she remembers Batman saying that Andrea, who was his first love, died in a fire with Joker. Batman says that since Joker survived that fire its not a surprise Andrea did as well. He goes on to say that since that day Andrea has been in hiding due to her fear of Joker. Batman then says that he thinks Catwoman can help in finding Andrea’s son.
Flashing back to earlier in their careers, Batman and Catwoman are shown making out until Batman says that he has to go after Joker, who recently broke out at that point.
Back in the future Selina gets her friend to talk about his family after noticing a picture of his grandkids. The guy then asks about Selina’s family. Selina mentions that Helena is currently with a nice woman who is a doctor but isn’t sure it’ll work out given Helena’s dating history. The guy says that comes with the trade, implying he knows about the Batman connection.
Flashing back to the search for Andrea’s kid, Catwoman leads Batman to Sewer King as she believes he has the answers they are looking for. Rather than giving them any information Sewer King has his crocodiles attack Batman and Catwoman.
Going back further in the past, Joker is shown interrupting Catwoman in the middle of her heist. Joker reveals he already killed Jimmy the Lion, Catwoman’s target. Joker mentions that Batman recently injured his neck to the point the doctors said Joker wouldn’t be able to talk again. They then have a back and forth about where they are at as criminals
Back in the future Selina says she has news to share with the old guy about Bruce.
Flashing back to the search for Andrea’s son, Catwoman interrogates someone who knew Andrew Beaumont. The guy says the last time he saw of him was when Andrew was living in a tent under Wayne Bridge with another guy who was promising to help Andrew find his dad.
Going back further in past, Joker asks Catwoman if she knows who Batman is and she’ll kill him if he asked. Catwoman says she knows who Batman is and turns down Joker’s request to kill Batman. Catwoman then says she has to get going since “he” likes to be punctual. Joker tells Catwoman whoever she is trying to be is not her real self as she is someone who is fun.
Flashing forward to the future, Selina tells the old guy that Bruce is dead, much to the guy’s shock.
Back in the past, Batman and Catwoman find Andrew in a tent already dead due to being poisoned by Joker’s toxin.
Later, the GCPD are shown informing Andrea of this and ask where Andrew’s father is. Andrea reveals that he is dead.
Further in the past, Selina breaks into Wayne Manor and gets through all the security in order to meet up with Bruce in his room.
Back in the future, the old guy talks about how everything ends and that Batman is dead. Selina hugs the guy and says that now that Bruce is gone there is no one to stop her from killing him for what he did to Andrea.
As they hug the guy removes his wig and make-up to reveal that he is the Joker. The old Joker then starts laughing while still hugging Selina.
Back in the past, Andrea is shown digging up the Phantasm costume from where it was buried in the same cemetery Bruce’s parents are buried.
Later, Andrea is in her hotel room with a blank expression while listening to the song “Silent Night.” End of issue.
The Good: No matter how many times I read Batman/Catwoman #1 before starting this review the feeling of frustration is something that is what resonated most. There are certainly things to like about Batman/Catwoman #1 with how it immediately acts as an extension of Tom King’s overall Batman work. But even that built-in history going into this series cannot overcome all the faults in the way the story is structured to start out.
One thing I will give King credit for successfully setting up with Batman/Catwoman #1 is the swerve in who this story is about. While the set-up does come from Bruce Wayne’s history with Andrea Beaumont, which is hinted to be the same as it was in The Mask of the Phantasm animated movie, and his relationship with Selina Kyle, Bruce is not the star. Instead the real star of Batman/Catwoman #1 is Selina Kyle and Andrea Beaumont.
That is where the switching between different time periods really works well. Through each different time period King is able to establish how both Selina and Andrea will be the ones alternating who is the driver’s seat of this story. Selina is set up to be the main driver of the story with how much of a spotlight Batman/Catwoman #1 gives her character in the three different time periods. But there is enough established here that it is clear that this issue is just a set-up for Andrea to be one of the main characters of the story.
For Andrea’s part in this story King does a good job in integrating The Mask of the Phantasm animated movie as a natural part of this version of the DC Universe’s history. King doesn’t spend a lot of time getting into all the details. He just drops a reference to The Mask of the Phantasm in a way that you understand something big went down between Batman, Joker and Andrea’s Phantasm. We get further hints of that with how Andrea dug up her old Phantasm costume from the Wayne Family gravesite, implying there is more to the story than what was in the animated movie.
What was particularly interesting about all this was the revelation that Andrea had a son during her time in hiding. The way King framed this new development in Andrea’s backstory does implying that her son was just one reason he went into hiding. You do get the sense that her fear of the Joker seeking both her and her son out was much more than we know. That is furthered with how vague the old Selina Kyle was when talking about why she is now looking to kill Joker in their old age. Specifically mentioning that Joker did something Andrea could mean he has a role in Andrew’s parentage or something else we will see him do to Andrea after her return as Phantasm.
King also does a good job working in the possible future he wrote in Batman Annual #2 and his short story in the Catwoman 80th Anniversary Special where Bruce past away in his old age with Selina and the Batman Family at his bedside. What made the use of that future as part of the continuity Batman/Catwoman work in an interesting way is that it all worked into the bigger arc around Bruce and Selina’s relationship.
As was shown throughout King’s Batman run, we saw how Bruce and Selina were finding themselves in a place where they could both settle down with one another. That sense of comfort in their relationship had an impact on Selina as Catwoman as through her relationship with Bruce she did give up her villainous tendencies. While she still used her skills as a thief to great effect, she was no longer blurring the lines of anti-hero and villain thanks to the impact Bruce had in her life.
Which worked into the reveal that the old Selina, after Bruce passed away, did not have anything holding her back in killing Joker, who was still around at this point. Selina making her intentions clear in the way she did adds that sense of interest in seeing how this look into the future will turn out. Because Selina isn’t someone to reveal all her cards without a plan that will allow her to win.
All of this jumping between timelines and how the arcs of each character started in Batman/Catwoman #1 worked as well as they did in large part because of Clay Mann’s excellent artwork. Getting the time to work on Batman/Catwoman for about a year plus benefitted the quality Mann was able to deliver right out of the gate. He does a lot of great work in the little things such as the different designs for characters and their costumes depending on the timeline we are in. That helped things straight from a visual standpoint at when we had these shifts between timelines.
The designs for Batman and Catwoman’s costumes after they have been in their relationship was a particular standout. Mann did an excellent job in showing us how Batman and Catwoman each inspired the current versions of their costumes. This is the type of choice that shows how Batman and Catwoman are in a strong place in their relationship without beating us over the head with how in love they are with a wall of dialogue.
The Bad: For all the positives about Batman/Catwoman #1 as someone who enjoyed a large portion of his Batman work this issue could not escape the problems that plagued the end of King’s run. One of those things is that King does expect anyone who is reading Batman/Catwoman #1 not only read his Batman run but also watched The Mask of the Phantasm animated movie. Now there will be a large portion of the fanbase that picks up Batman/Catwoman #1 that will fall in the camp who consumed all that content. But that does not excuse how King ended up using that crutch in the way he framed the story in Batman/Catwoman #1.
That is shown with how he spends very little time getting us to care about this version of Andrea Beaumont. Just as soon as Andrea is shown in a scene we are quickly whisked away into some other timeline. There is no time given to properly get to know who this version of Andrea is and why we should believe she is Bruce’s first great love. King just expects the reader to fill in the blanks with the expectation you saw The Mask of the Phantasm.
Now I will not lie I did fill in the blanks because of my built-in knowledge of the DCAU Andrea Beaumont. But when you take that DCAU knowledge out of the equation Andrea does come across as just a random love interest that Bruce had in the past. Spending one or two pages with Bruce and Andrea’s conversation at the beginning of the issue to build out that history. Instead Andrea’s entire presence in Batman/Catwoman #1 is almost entirely reliant on an animated movie that came out 27 years ago. Which ends up impact the ending since we don’t get meaningful time seeing Andrea’s character again before she has that turn where we see her with only blank expression after retrieving her Phantasm costume.
Which is where the role that King has Batman play come across as another big problem for this issue. Whenever Bruce Wayne or Batman is on screen the character comes across as it is Tom King speaking to the reader. There are choices with how King writes all of Bruce dialogue that it never feels like we are reading him in and out of the Batman cape and cowl. Instead King is just using Bruce’s character to explain the story to the reader or other characters on screen. Not being able to fully capture Batman’s voice breaks the illusion of being invested in the world that is being built while reading Batman/Catwoman #1.
The inclusion of a couple quick Alfred Pennyworth appearance was also odd. The moments they happened just felt unnecessary and added nothing to the story. It was just an awkward moment of Alfred walking in on Bruce and Selina having sex that is never goes anywhere but to remind you he is dead. Which Bruce already mentioned to Andrea before we see this awkward moment that made Alfred’s appearance even more unnecessary.
All of that said, the biggest problem that Batman/Catwoman #1 faced was all the jumps between the three timelines that King establishes. While I understand King’s intention in having this type of plot device it made the overall pacing of Batman/Catwoman #1 to have a bunch of starts and stops. This is particularly bad for how King tries to establish all these links between Batman, Catwoman, Joker, and Andrea. We are supposed to believe that all these characters are connected in this big way. But because we have so many jumps in time throughout this issue the connection is not firmly established.
The connection between Selina Kyle and Andrea Beaumont is the best example of how all the jump between timelines negatively impacted Batman/Catwoman #1. When Selina tells the old guy who turns out to be Joker that she is there to kill him because of what he did to Andrea it means absolutely nothing. This was supposed to be a big deal but since we haven’t actually seen Selina and Andrea interact with one another the personal nature of that line is not truly felt. If we would have gotten this type of dialogue after Selina and Andrea actually crossed paths then maybe it would’ve come across differently.
That along with how artificial the whole connection between Joker and Catwoman felt just spotlights King’s reliance on having the reader do a lot of heavy lifting. We are left with having to build our own narrative for why certain things are happening because the story we see play out isn’t giving us a reason to care. Hopefully the way King utilizes the jump between timelines is improves because it would be nice to actually see these developments happen on screen rather than filling in the blanks ourselves to make up for these pacing problems.
Overall: For better or worse, Tom King picks up directly where he left off with Batman/Catwoman #1. The pacing of this issue was a reminder why I was left so conflicted with how King ended his run on the main Batman series. There are certainly plot elements to be intrigued by as someone who read all of King’s Batman work. Unfortunately, the way King told the story in Batman/Catwoman #1 was its own worst enemy as notable character moments ended up falling flat. Unless you read all of King’s Batman work I recommend waiting for this series when it comes out in trade format to see how it is receive as the story develops.
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