Tom King and Clay Mann’s Batman/Catwoman has been a rollercoaster ride of quality. There are certain aspects, such as the events in the future with Helena Wayne and a retired Selina Kyle, that have me completely captivated. Then there are other things, such as Joker’s entire involvement, that is just purely frustrating. The constant shifts in timeline have not helped with how balanced of a read each issue of Batman/Catwoman has been. But now that we are at the halfway point maybe things will turn around for the narrative structure that King and Mann have employed for this series. Let’s find out with Batman/Catwoman #6.
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: Decades earlier, in Selina Kyle’s apartment, Joker and Selina are drinking together while listening to Christmas music. Joker tells Selina they should decorate the tree Bruce Wayne got her.
In the present, Phantasm waits for Batman to arrive with Catwoman tied up as her prisoner. Batman shows up and Phantasm attacks him out of anger that he did not bring Joker as part of the prisoner exchange agreement.
In the future, Helena Wayne once again asks her mother if she killed Joker. After some silence Selina changes subjects to tell Helena she will go out on patrol with her. Helena isn’t sure since her mom is so old. Selina says she’ll meet her daughter in the Batcave.
Flashing back to decades earlier, Selina gives Joker a change of clothes since she doesn’t want him killing a bunch of people at stores to get some.
Back in the present, Batman tries to talk to Phantasm about a better way to get her revenge on Joker than killing him. Phantasm reflects on Batman’s lack of willpower by saying he can’t give her what she wants. Phantasm then restarts her fight with Batman.
In the future, Catwoman (Selina in her original purple costume) and Batwoman meet Commissioner Dick Grayson on the GCPD rooftop. Catwoman happily reunites with Commissioner Grayson, reflecting on how Bruce always saw him as his greatest triumph. Commissioner Grayson thanks Catwoman for the kind words. Catwoman then asks for what criminals he would like her and Batwoman to deal with.
Decades earlier, while decorating the Christmas tree Selina realizes all of her ornaments are ones she stole throughout her career as a thief. Joker wonders if there is anything she has that Selina didn’t steal. Selina says at first wants to say “Yes” but ends up saying “No.” Joker says he adores Selina’s honesty.
In the present, as they continue to fight Phantasm talks about how Joker continues to kill people and Batman has done nothing to stop it no matter how much money and powerful friends he has. Batman says he will not kill as he sees that as a limitation for what can be done.
Phantasm fires back by sarcastically talking about how Joker always stays captured when Batman stops him. Batman states he will not break from his vow and will continue to strive to be better. Phantasm takes off her mask so Batman can see her face as Andrea Beaumont talks about her father and son dying.
Catwoman suddenly knocks Batman out from behind. Catwoman tells Phantasm that their plan worked so they can now go ahead with their plan to kill Joker.
In the future, Batwoman and Catwoman defeat villains from Batwoman’s Rogues Gallery who are causing trouble throughout Gotham City, including Dragoon, Four-Face, and Polymath.
Later in the night Helena once again asks her mom if she killed Joker. Selina finally proudly admits to killing Joker.
Decades earlier Joker finally decides to leave. Selina asks Joker if he thinks she is a good person. Joker finds it funny that Selina is asking him that.
Not long after Joker leaves Bruce knocks on Selina’s door. Bruce admits to Selina that he feels lost without her.
Somewhere else Joker is heard laughing loudly. End of issue.
The Good: I am genuinely invested in how Tom King plans to complete his Batman epic. With Batman/Catwoman #6 Tom King and Clay Mann do a lot right to keep me invested in what the endgame is for this series. But for as much as they get right the narrative structure that has been chosen continues to prevent this from reaching the distance of being a home run story.
What I enjoyed about Batman/Catwoman #6 is no different from the strongest parts of the previous five issues. Everything that has to do with the Last Rites future DC Universe continues to capture my interest whenever King goes back to that part of the narrative. King has a strong grasp of how to best use the mother-daughter relationship between Helena Wayne and Selina Kyle to enhance the tension when they are on screen together.
I was most impressed with how King wrote Helena to not just angrily show frustration with the lack of answers that her mom was getting. That would’ve been the easy way to go with this type of confrontation. Instead, we see how Helena understands he mom well enough that lashing out will only make Selina more guarded. In order to get her mom to be honest with her Helena played along with what Selina wanted to do even if she was too old to be active as Catwoman.
Adding in Helana and Selina as Batwoman and Catwoman, respectively, meeting Commissioner Dick Grayson was a nice touch. This further established how we are truly in a future Gotham City where the entire Batman Family has grown up. This interaction also helped to break down the walls for Selina to interact with someone other than Helena, Joker, or Harley Quinn. It was more of a normal conversation that was had between two of the people that Bruce cared for most.
This along with Batwoman and Catwoman in action together worked well to place Selina in a position to finally be honest with her daughter. Selin finally proudly admitting to Helena that she killed Joker adds a whole new layer of questions for the story in Batman/Catwoman. It makes me wish the rest of the series just took place in the Last Rites future DC Universe because of how compelling this segment of the narrative for Batman/Catwoman is.
That said, King also does a solid job with pushing the anger that is felt by Andrea Beaumont as Phantasm while fighting Batman. You understand why Batman continuing to push his own values on Andrea after everything she has experienced at the hands of Joker just adds to drive to kill the Clown Prince of Crime. She has gone far past her breaking point that killing Joker is the only justice that there is left for her.
Andrea firing back at Batman about how much he has failed to make any sort of lasting change by using the example of Joker constant escapes leading to more deaths and chaos was well done. Adding in Andrea taking her Phantasm mask added to how strongly she felt about everything she said and is doing. It all makes you even more invested into what will take place when Phantasm and Catwoman clash with Joker.
All of this places even greater questions as to what role Batman will end up playing in this series. Because up to this point Batman has been used as more of an obstacle for Phantasm and Catwoman. He hasn’t actually taken any sort of meaningful action which does leave you wondering if it is all set up for Batman to be a bigger part in the second half of this story. There are enough clues in Batman/Catwoman #6 for that to be the case, even as he is momentarily knocked out by Catwoman.
Clay Mann once again delivers great big event-level artwork throughout Batman/Catwoman #6. He has been consistent throughout this series with the style fitting Gotham City. The fight between Batman and Phantasm made great use of both characters dark costumes to make their fight hit the dramatic highs it reached. Bringing in Selina’s original purple Catwoman costume as part of the team-up with Helena’s Batwoman was a nice touch of nostalgia that Selina was going for while on patrol with her daughter.
The Bad: Once again the three time period structure is just holding Batman/Catwoman back. King does himself no favors by paying so much attention to the distant past scenes involving Selina Kyle and Joker’s relationship during the early years of Batman. The way King revisited this time period throughout Batman/Catwoman #6 completely felt disconnected from everything else going on.
The disconnect felt anytime we go to this time period breaks up any sort of momentum that Batman/Catwoman #6 tries to create. There is no comedy or context that is added by seeing Selina and Joker decorating a tree. It all comes across as King trying to fill up a certain page count for each issue. Which is a shame because the pages used be better used to provide further character development for Andrea Beaumont, Helena Wayne, Bruce Wayne, and Selina Kyle of those two other time periods.
It is to the point that this past connection between Catwoman and Joker is coming across as unnecessary. We don’t need to know about this odd relationship Catwoman and Joker had to add to the dramatic tension of this series. The story with Phantasm and Batwoman time periods do enough to keep you invested in this story that once again centers around the impact Joker has on the franchise.
Making this even more of a waste is how it does not make Selina a sympathetic character whatsoever. Selina asking Joker if she is a good person feels like such an out-of-character thing just so King can play with the meta of Selina’s narrative in the story. It just all falls flat as we are going around in circles with what is happening with Selina’s character arc in this part of the story. You just end up losing interest in where Selina’s arc will be when all is said and done because of this past timeline.
Overall: Batman/Catwoman is so close to being a great series. It is unfortunate that one major aspect of this series narrative is holding it back from reaching its full potential. Because as Batman/Catwoman #6 show, Tom King and Clay Mann have a lot of great character arcs to be invested in. If they can just fix the flow of how the three different time periods compliment one another the second half of Batman/Catwoman could be truly special.
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