BATMAN/CATWOMAN #5 Review

SYNOPSIS: Batman’s two loves collide, and the smash-up could be dangerous not just for the Caped Crusader, but for The Joker as well. In order to prove her mission is righteous, Phantasm takes Catwoman out on a hit against one of the men responsible for the disappearance of her son. Unfortunately for Selina Kyle, this isn’t the first time she’s gone behind Batman’s back to try to do the right thing, so she’s far too aware of how bad a turn this whole affair could take. Also, in the future, it’s Harley Quinn, ready to avenge Mistah J!

“Just so you know, Cat. This is the moment where you’re supposed to stop me.”

Opening in the future, King kicks things off with Harley coming to visit Selina, enraged that the former Catwoman murdered her beloved “Mistah J” before she could. While it was fun seeing what has become of Harley and I liked the new look Mann bestowed upon her, I was a little thrown off by King’s characterization of the zany sidekick-turned-leading-lady. Since this was originally planned to be in the main Batman title, I had to wrap my brain around Harley’s statement that The Joker was the love of her life, when she clearly has moved on from that toxic relationship years ago and become a better person for it. Likewise, I struggled with Selina’s observation that Harley was too good to be bad. She’s clearly seen and done some horrible things, both with the Joker and without. While Selina, until the future, hasn’t been a murderer, Harley I’m pretty sure has dealt out her fair share of death and dismemberment. At the end of the day, I guess we have to chalk it up as a little difference in continuity between this Earth and the Prime one.

I much more enjoyed the continued development of Selina Kyle across all three time periods. In the past, we see her drunkenly wallowing post-fallout with Batman, yet she remains fairly capable and clever as she treats herself to a drink at a seedy dive bar. Despite her sorrow, it’s a fun moment and given her forethought, makes her feel very Batman-like. Victory is in the preparation, you know.

The present adds a much darker tone to the proceedings as Phantasm takes Catwoman along for one of her executions. It places Selina in a compromising position-does she stop Andrea or allow her to commit murder? Her ethics are as grey as her costume as she stands by. I also enjoyed hearing the two women give their impressions of the other. Selina comes off very self-assured, despite what she’s done, what she’s allowed to happen, and who she loves.

The future sees the end result-a Selina freed to be who she feels she really is without the influence of her husband. Her line, “I’m too bad to be good” speaks volumes of how she sees herself. As a reader and fan, we can disagree with that, but who knows what horrors King has yet to reveal? Given how her fight with Harley works out, I’m curious for how much longer Selina can keep what she did from her daughter. Odds are not very long.

I’m not privy as to why this book has fallen behind — if it’s in the writing, art, or something else — but when I see the pages by Clay Mann it is worth the long wait. Everything is so brilliantly staged, be it Selina and Andrea gearing up, Phantasm approaching her prey in his last moments, or the Selina/Harley fight throwing the panels themselves off-kilter. It’s just a joy to behold and his cat acting is beyond reproach as a stray has a “chat” with an inebriated Selina!

I also need to sing the praises of Tomeu Morey’s coloring. The warm interiors of Wayne Manor, the nauseous neon glow of the bar interior, and the dank alleyways all come to life. Most vivid perhaps is the aforementioned execution. The reds and blacks, combined with Mann’s art, feel unsafe and treacherous. The entire scene is straight out of a horror movie as Selina looks on in silent shock. What’s more, it’s not a graphic scene, but it’s done so well between the art, writing, and colors, that you feel every moment of it.

If this book is missing anything, it’s one of the title characters. Appearing in only two panels, I can understand if some readers are frustrated by Batman’s absence, but I find the storytelling they are doing with Selina so riveting that I can’t complain. Joelle Jones and Ram V have been doing some great work examining Selina’s post-failed engagement in her solo title and King is further complimenting that with his complex characterizations. If you’re a Catwoman fan, it’s great to have so many good choices!

So, crank up your favorite version of “Jingle Bells” (or any Batman variation) and strap in for another beautifully illustrated, hauntingly colored, morally complex journey with Selina Kyle as she navigates across three eras without the Dark Knight! Javier E. Trujillo

GRADE: A

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