This is the issue where I’ve understood the greatest problem of this series; the dichotomy. Last issue I discussed how Tynion is making great distinctions with Batman/Bruce Wayne’s black and white characterization. This consistent need for duality has been explored to death within the series, but in this arc it depicts a muddying of the character. Tynion’s writing seems to be less focused on this issue and geared more towards setting up certain aspects of the plot. That is, this issue worked towards catching the eye rather than healing the soul.
While there are certain crucial events that occur, they feel as though they’re simply fluff to say they’re events, but never properly hit an emotional toll. Specifically, it feels like Tynion has had to create this story on the fly after every issue. Whereas issue 86 offered some insightful character moments, issue 87 acted as a jarring difference which mainly could’ve been on account of an art change. However, it appears more than Tynion’s plans for the series aren’t as well fleshed out. Despite these tangents, the letterer Clayton Cowles has this pervasive signature that manages to be a wonderful embellishment for the series. Even more visually divisive are the colors. However, this actually gives some portence to the narrative. Tomeu Morey has given great individuality and clarity within the work, making each figure and their respective surroundings own each other. This not only sets the ambiance but distinguishes the variations for the reader.
This is most apparent with the depiction of Catwoman. While Tynion alludes to Catwoman’s checkered past and a strange pact she’s had with other Batman villains, it doesn’t feel like something he gave context towards in the last issue. This is predominately where the main issue of the artist, Guillem March becomes highly problematic. Whilst March pairs wonderfully with Tynion’s sensibility to imbue horror, this loses its luster the moment a woman becomes a part of any panels. While I don’t mean to paint March as a sole problem, his displays of women are problematic. When it comes to the female characters, specifically Cheshire and Catwoman in this arc, I feel like I’m reading for the physicality of these women than to comprehend these women. Specifically, every panel with Catwoman splayed her in a pose that showed off her glutes, her breasts, or somehow both. Those familiar with March are mightily aware of this style, but it does not pair well with Tynion’s horror.
In a tangential storyline of this issue following Catwoman, March shifts the surroundings of Catwoman, entrenching her in a horror-filled atmosphere. She is in a graveyard, it’s raining and I do feel a sense of pure dread for Catwoman. But the way her silhouette is portrayed to show off certain aspects of the character consistently breaks me away from the story.
In truth, it hints at a greater problem that women often encounter. Catwoman is portrayed as solely a figure of beauty, but engendering beauty in horror walks a slippery slope. With March they are clashing tones. The fact that there is horror around Catwoman isn’t the opportunity to display how voluptuous Catwoman is. I have prominently been a fan of Catwoman because she is a representation of lower-class citizens striving to take power from a city that constantly is rigged against its people. While she has been selfish, Gothan has bred this behavior. But in this context, it feels like she’s just servicing to be eye-candy.
Again, I’m confident of Tynion’s abilities to convey a great story. But this is the issue that displays a great regression in DC editorial. The fact that Tynion’s story arc is floundering in such a manner is worrisome. What’s more insulting is the fact that women within a Batman story are being solely portrayed as bodies than people. The fascinating aspects of this issue were seeing a clash of intention versus execution. Whilst Tynion has written certain characters to be human beings the art style offers its own bipolar take on Tynion’s writing.