… and the one we needed. This is perhaps the best issue of Tom King’s run so far.
Yes, there are SPOILERS!
I recently wrote a piece — some might call it a diatribe — bemoaning Catwoman’s alleged turn as a mass murderer in Batman. (Click here — if you dare.)
DC, it appeared, was tossing out decades of precedent and letting a character long known for not killing be turned into someone who would act as judge, jury and executioner.
Hell, even if it was a feint, I argued at the time, it was an idea so off the charts that it served only to distract from the rest of the storyline. In essence, if Selina was now a self-righteous spree killer, it was a gross disservice to her character. If not, it was a flimsy plot contrivance that hobbled any real tension. Lose-lose.
That brings us to this week’s Batman #15, which resolves that, no, Selina is not the second coming of Frank Castle. So that’s settled.
But was the trip worth it?
I’ll say this: The issue itself may just be Tom King’s best since taking over the title at the onset of Rebirth.
The issue picks up soon after the last issue left off, opening with a provocative bird’s-eye shot of Bruce and Selina naked and wrapped in his cape on a rooftop, post-coitus. They segue into pillow talk about how they first met, with his recollection echoing their initial encounter in 1940’s Batman #1 by Bill Finger, and hers lining up with the grittier version from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.
The conversation is intercut with images of the two of them talking, along with artist Mitch Gerads’ interpretations of panels produced by Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and David Mazzucchelli. It’s the comic-book equivalent of Fairytale of New York, without the narcotics, booze and recriminations.
It’s also lovely and one of the most intimate and adult sequences I’ve ever read in a mainstream superhero comic. When Bruce and Selina say “I love you,” it’s meaningful and potent, and though these two have even been married in other realities, this feels unprecedented, like something we’ve waited 77 years to see (as I noted in the preview here).
They dress and Catwoman takes a powder, with the rest of the issue explaining that Selina was ready to take the rap for 237 murders to protect her old sidekick, Holly Robinson. It hadn’t occurred to me that we haven’t seen Holly since Flashpoint (though maybe I missed it) and I couldn’t help but think of this satirical bit written by Ed Brubaker years ago:
The issue moves along with great character moments — a scene between Batman and Gordon is particularly winning — and the payoff doesn’t come off as some earth-shaking revelation, which would have been forced. Its strength is in Bruce and Selina’s star-crossed dance of disappointment, the knowledge that these two can’t be together even if they’re meant to be.
Thing is, I can’t help but think that there was another way to get here, that the 237-murder mystery (as it were) was an unnecessary step along what’s been an interesting road over 15-plus issues.
Regardless, I’m happy that’s all in the rearview. I’m an admirer of Tom King’s writing and look forward to where we go from here — especially if more issues like this are coming.