Batman/Catwoman #1 (February 2021)

Writer: Tom King, Art: Clay Mann, Colours: Tomeu Morey (DC Comics)

At last, Tom King returns to the rocky, romantic saga of Batman and Catwoman with his Heroes in Crisis collaborator, superstar artist Clay Mann! Echoing plot points from King’s epic Batman run, this sweeping tale is told across three timelines: the past, when the Bat and the Cat first fell in love; the present, where their union is threatened by one of Batman’s lost loves; and the future, where the couple have a happy life and legacy-including their daughter Helena, the Batwoman. And as the story begins, after a long marriage, Bruce Wayne passes away-which frees Selina Kyle to settle an old score. At every stage of their relationship, Bruce and Selina have an unwelcome chaperone: The Joker! Oh, and that lost love of Bruce’s? It’s Andrea Beaumont-a.k.a. Phantasm. Just thought you’d want to know. official solicitation

It’s been been a year since Tom King had his planned one hundred issues ‘Batman’ cut short.  King likes to play the long game but maybe this story was just too long.  The run proved too divisive for the higher-ups to allow it to continue even though it was still a best seller.  We were promised that the plot threads would be wrapped up in a ‘Batman/Catwoman’ series and we waited. And waited. Now the first issue has arrived and, apart from the Batman/Catwoman relationship, this doesn’t feel connected.

The comic is part of the Black Label imprint which straight away separates it from the main DC Universe line.  It has a 17+ advisory on it but could easily have got a teen rating with the removal of one panel.  The whole thing feels more in-line with King’s more prestige work like ‘The Vision’ or ‘Mister Miracle’ than it does with his monthly work.

Story takes place in three time periods and you have to pay attention because it quickly flicks between them.  Selina Kyle is the constant between all three and we see her just as she is starting out, the height of the Bat/Cat relationship, and then later in life after Bruce’s death (which King wrote in Batman Annual #2).  This isn’t a story that would be allowed to be told in continuity, DC would never give a definitive future death to one of their heroes as it would defeat the point of monthly storytelling.

This series also throws us a curve ball straight away by bringing in Andrea Beaumont/The Phantasm from the nearly three decades old ‘Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm’ animated film.  The character reappears after being presumed dead for years to ask Bruce to locate her son in the present day set part of the storyline.  There had been no hints that this could happen anywhere in the previous eighty five issues of King’s run.  The Bat and the Cat quickly track down the son but he has fallen foul of Joker. This leads to the twist at the end but most will see this coming.

Unfortunately, it looks like this story is going to follow the trend of every other Batman story of recent times and be Joker centric.  He is also the driving force in the past and future storyline.  One of the refreshing things about King’s Batman run was, even though he used him, he didn’t rely on Joker.  It almost feels as if DC let King tell his story on the one condition that he had to use Joker.  But, as a I mentioned earlier, King loves to play the long game and all the pieces will probably fall into place later.

King says the reason for the delay on this series was to give Clay Mann the opportunity to draw every issue and it was worth the wait.  Mann’s art does the heavy lifting for a lot of the storytelling. There are no captions to tell you where you are in the story so Mann has to get this across with his pencils. Also, his young Joker is very slick.

It may not be the story we were original going to get but it’s still a solid start to the series and we will have to hope that King does his normal trick of pulling everything together in the end.


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