Tom King and Clay Mann’s Batman/Catwoman maxi-series has been such an odd series to follow. There are parts of this story to enjoy. Particularly the parts of this series that takes place in the future with an old Selina Kyle now trying to keep it a secret that she killed Joker after Bruce Wayne passed away. What that has meant for this part of Batman/Catwoman’s narrative has been interesting to follow. Though the constant changes between this future and the two different present day scenes has not always been the easiest to follow. The structure of this series has held back the overall story around Batman, Catwoman, Phantasm, and Joker that King and Mann are exploring. Let’s find out how things go next with Batman/Catwoman #5.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the future while Selina Kyle listens to Christmas music in Wayne Manor she hears something outside. She looks out the window to find Harley Quinn screaming that she knows Selina killed the Joker.
Decades earlier a drunk Selina is confronted by a bartender to pay her tab. When she talks her way around it the bartender gets his shotgun but finds that Selina already took all the shotgun shells. Selina then knocks out the bartender and walks out while drinking more beer.
In the present Selena wonders why she and Andrea Beaumont aren’t fighting. Andrea tells Selina to get dressed as she has something to show her something. Andrea and Selina then change into their Phantasm and Catwoman costumes, respectively.
Back in the future Harley tells Selina how upset she is about Joker’s death and knew immediately when seeing the body that Selina killed him. Selina kicks Harley off the porch, which Harley quickly recovers from. Harley then reveals that Joker always talked about knowing the person that would kill would not be Batman or Superman but Selina.
Harley then tackles Selina into the Wayne Mansion. After some struggle Selina is able to get the advantage and starts slamming Harley’s face into the ground over and over again. As this happens Harley says that Selina killed Joker before she got the chance to do it. Selina asks Harley what is wrong with her.
Decades earlier a drunk Selina walks down an alley cursing Batman. She then talks to a cat she finds who Selina believes is telling her to steal something at the Gotham Museum.
In the present, Phantasm has chained up one of the guys that is working for Joker. Phantasm explains to Catwoman that the guy’s name is Sal Neismann and he works on luring kids to Joker. Phantasm tells Sal to reveal to Catwoman what Joker does to the kids that are brough to him. Sal says that Joker tests his gas on them while crying.
Phantasm tells Catwoman that this is the moment she should stop her from doing what Phantasm plans to do. Catwoman does not move as she watches Phantasm torture Sal while saying “Sal Neismann. Your Angel of Death awaits.”
Back in the future, Selina and Harley continue to fight throughout Wayne Mansion. During the fight Selina calls out Harley for her whole “good-girl-gone-bad” persona was fake and she was always to good to go through with killing Joker, relating it to Batman being a person with grace and dignity even when he would deny it. Selina and Harley then end up tumbling down some stairs. Selina is the only one able to get back up and says “I’m too bad to be good.”
Decades earlier a drunk Catwoman stumbles her way to the roof of the Gotham Museum. She ends up stepping on the glass ceiling to hard and ends up going through it and landing hard on top of the T-Rex display.
As Catwoman loses consciousness Batman shows up. Batman carries an a barely conscious Catwoman to the Batmobile.
In the present, Andrea and Selina talk about how neither one of them is how they thought the other was like. Selina comments how at least one of them got things right tonight.
In the future, Helena Wayne finds Harley Quinn tied up in the Wayne Mansion and asks her mom what happened. Selina responds by saying the world is full of crazy people, in not so nice words. End of issue.
The Good: The further we get into Tom King and Clay Mann’s Batman/Catwoman the more we are seeing how the format they’ve chosen is both the strength and weakness of this series. Batman/Catwoman #5 is a perfect example of this. Two-thirds of this issue draw you in as the reader. Its that last third that just does not connect and ends up bringing the overall reading experience down.
On the strength of Batman/Catwoman #5, King continues to make the story that is taking place in the future with Selina Kyle actions after Bruce Wayne’s death the most interesting aspect of this series. We have seen how without Bruce there that Selina has become a bit unhinged. There is a moral compass that has been lost which helped keep her more wicked tendencies in check.
That is something that was further explored through the fight between Selina and Harley Quinn in the future. Here we see how Selina fully admits that she never considered herself a good person. She was a bad person who because of her husband, Bruce, and daughter, Helena, influence was able to become good. But as she tells Harley, the person she was with Bruce she felt was someone that was holding back. We even see that with how she fights Harley in a much more brutal way that isn’t just because she is older. There is no smoothness to Selina’s fighting style here that is punctuated with how Selina finishes Harley off by slamming her head on the ground until Harley’s knocked out.
Because of this Harley Quinn played the perfect foil for Selina. King did a good job keeping some continuity with Harley as we do find out that she wasn’t mad about Joker being killed but that she was not the one to do it. This plays into how for all her craziness we’ve seen her she has been more on the superhero side, especially now. Selina calling Harley out on how she wouldn’t have been able to kill Joker because of being a good person at the end of the day was good character work. Relating this to how Bruce was added to the concept of Breaking Bad that King seems to be playing with in this series.
Now with this fight between Selina and Harley the former is placed in a difficult position as Helena Wayne shows up to discover the aftermath. The question of Selina’s role in the death of Joker is only growing and this will not help her in hiding this secret. How this gets Helena more involved in the future storyline will be very interesting to see.
The other dynamic that worked well in Batman/Catwoman #5 was that of Selina and Andrea Beaumont. Andrea in particular stood out most in this issue compared to past appearances. Here we see her go full Phantasm mode as she shows Selina what is motivating her and how she is getting things done. King does a good job overall putting over how Phantasm is a representation of an Angel of Death. There is a sense of being uncomfortable with how she tortures people, even if they are bad guys. It shows that with her son’s death that Andrea has fully accept crossing the line and knowing there is no turning back.
Making this continued development with Andrea even more interesting is how Selina is acting in the present. We see that she does nothing to stop Andrea as Phantasm from torturing and killing Sal Neismann. Selina even confirming that she is with Andrea in how she is planning to stop Joker further points to how she is even giving into her own bad guy tendencies
This all places greater question on how Batman will factor into all this. So far Batman hasn’t been as active on screen as you would think he be in this story. With Catwoman joining Phantasm side of the conflict with Joker it could very well be Batman who plays the wild card role in this story. Which isn’t usually the role we see Batman take that makes things much more interesting.
Clay Mann art continues to be dynamic. Overall the story comes across as a big event thanks to Mann’s art. Mann’s artwork especially stands out during the fight between Selina Kyle and Harley Quinn. The brutality in the way they both fought added to how personal the entire fight was. Mann also does well in getting over how Phantasm has an intimidating aura that is distinct to her character.
The Bad: The one part of Batman/Catwoman #5 that did not work is to the drunk Selina Kyle scenes that took place during the early days of Batman being around. As with past issues, this story comes across as just unnecessary. There is nothing added to how this is trying to explore the relationship of Batman and Catwoman. There is nothing new here as much as King tries to present it that way. Seeing a drunk Selina after she told Batman off as Catwoman just does not seem like the next place we would see her.
Because of how unnecessary that the flashback to the past comes across these scenes just stop all the momentum that the other two time periods we are seeing have. It all further points to going with the choice of three different time periods means that we never get to spend too much time in one setting. King has to make sure to remind the reader that there are three different time periods being visited in this series. That ends up making the switches between the different stories come at awkward times as shown by how the flashback stopped the momentum from the future and present day scenes.
It does not help that Mann’s does not adjust the style used for the past and present day scenes. You never really get a good sense of when these two time periods are happening because he draws them exactly the same. Making small adjustments such as having Selina’s appearance be different in the time periods when she is not being Catwoman would go a long way to help differentiate the two. Without that you have to do more work to remind yourself that the drunk Selina Kyle is the younger version of the present and future versions of the character.
Overall: Batman/Catwoman has been one of the more frustrating reading experiences because of how the story is battling itself. Batman/Catwoman #5 is no different as the biggest thing holding it back is the three time period structure Tom King has chosen to go with for the narrative. Even when two-thirds of this issue grab your interest as a reader the other third is there to stop all that momentum. Now that we are getting into the second-half of this series hopefully King can find a way to resolve the narrative structure problems that are becoming more noticeable with each passing issue.
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