Four issues into Batman/Catwoman, the twelve-part maxiseries from writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann, the central narrative has started to come together across the book’s three timelines.
In the future, the child of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle investigates her mother’s connection to the Joker. In the present, Phantasm holds Selina hostage in an effort to track down the Joker. And, in the past, Bruce and Selina’s evening plans are interrupted when the Joker threatens to bomb Gotham World’s Fair.
The past timeline is easily the weakest. For one, the characters look similar enough to their present incarnations for there to be considerable confusion when King switches between the present and past. (In one crucial scene, I had not realized King had switched periods until reading the page over a few times.)
The future timeline has the best narrative potential, given the work King has already done to sketch out that potential future in Batman Annual #2. In that issue — one of the better stories from his long Batman run — we were introduced to Bruce and Selina’s child, Helena, who grows up to become Batgirl.
The other mysterious character who gets most of this issue’s page-time is Phantasm, a fan-favorite villain from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I loved the movie and enjoy the way she’s portrayed here, with blue eyes and a gray suit that make her appear like some kind of cyborg. Letterer Clayton Cowles gives her word balloons the right degree of menace, coloring them black with a gray outline.
As with most of King’s recent work, I couldn’t shake the feeling while reading this issue that it would be better consumed in a collected edition. We never get enough progress in any of the three time periods to develop a sense of momentum. Some seemingly important events, like Selina’s cat squaring off with Penguin’s penguin in the future, don’t register much of an impact.
Looking back at this work when it’s completed, I’m sure the various interludes will arrive at a sharp thematic resolution. King has a good handle on the Selina/Bruce dynamic and his Batman run — however controversial it was in some corners of the internet — will always resonate for me because of how he pushed that relationship to the fore.
The drawbacks to that run — pacing issues, a dearth of action — are still present here. As AIPT’s Vishal Gullapalli wrote in a review of Batman/Catwoman #1, “If the strengths of King’s original run on Batman stood out to you more than the weaknesses, the gap will be wider here. If the weaknesses of the run were far more noticeable than any strengths, that gap will also be wider here.”
I put myself in the former camp, anxious to see what more King has to say about the couple that defined his Batman run. I just hope — as I did reading the monthly Batman book — that he picks up the pace soon.
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