The first issue of Cliff Chiang’s Catwoman: Lonely City certainly lived up to its title, presenting readers with a Gotham gone wrong and an aging Selina Kyle fighting to fulfill a promise she made to Bruce Wayne many years ago. As she assembles a team in this second issue, the question quickly becomes: Will Selina be able to open her heart again?
This second installment is even stronger than the last, particularly in how it uses the long histories of these characters to inform the dark future in which they’ve found themselves. Flashes of the past are interspersed throughout the present action, and these sequences are just as compelling. We get a sense that the Joker tried to fashion himself almost like a man of the people, drawing interesting parallels with the current battle against Harvey Dent.
Also of note is a flirty run-in between Batman and Catwoman, which features classic character designs that Chiang clearly relished drawing. The body language between the characters is particularly strong in this sequence, telling us so much about their relationship that is delivered between the lines. And in both cases, we see a clear reason for Catwoman to distrust her current state of affairs: she keeps making promises that she cannot keep.
Chiang’s Selina Kyle walks the line between a hopeless romantic and a warrior with a death wish. There’s something stubbornly optimistic about her, even as she openly invites danger at every turn. Of course, she’s beginning to realize she’s not in this alone, and that terrifies her.
The book is also full of clever visual callbacks and meta jokes. A single panel flashback of a certain rogue sees the character posed in a manner almost identical to the marketing of Batman Forever. A laboratory break-in also functions as a great game of “spot the weapon.” Famous (and infamous) comic book cover art has been repurposed as posters that once adorned the wall of the impressionable youth of Gotham. Even the names of businesses and products recall heroes and villains of yesteryear. In this version of the DC Universe, nostalgia for Bat-Mania has been commodified as much as it has been in the real world.
To Chiang’s credit, all of these fun ideas are balanced throughout the story, never coming across as distracting or self-congratulatory. Maybe that’s because the relationships between the characters remain the main focus in the narrative. The strongest moments in this book are the quieter bonding scenes between characters: Selina and Croc getting into fighting shape, Eddie and Catwoman reminiscing about old times, and Selina talking to Barbara about her regrets are scenes that color in these character’s motivations while also reminding the audience of how much these characters have grown as human beings.
They’re not frozen in a month-to-month status quo; the never-ending battle has taken a toll on them, and some of them have luckily come out better on the other side. Hopefully this still rings true in the battle to come, as the final pages set up a conflict that could tear Selina’s new family apart.
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