In the last issue of Batman, we were left with a cliffhanger that teased a climactic sword duel between Catwoman and Talia Al Ghul….and that’s exactly what this issue delivers!
This isn’t the only similarity between their fight and the one from Robin Hood. It’s just the one I choose to highlight. If you don’t believe me, check it out. Seeing their fight depicted through shadows on the walls, the way they lock swords and get up in each other’s face, it’s all there. Catwoman even kicks Talia’s sword back to her just like Flynn does for Rathbone.
After I post this review, I’m totally going to go watch The Adventures of Robin Hood.
I think the thing that pleased me the most about the fight was that it didn’t go overboard or throw in any unbelievable moments. It was just a good old-fashioned sword fight that felt super old Hollywood, as if Catwoman and Talia had taken on the roles of Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone (Incidentally, those are some badass names. Why doesn’t anyone have awesome names like that anymore?).
In any case, I’m sure there are those of you that find it odd that Selina is at all capable of holding her own against Talia in a sword fight. After all, Catwoman is synonymous with acrobatic feats and thievery, not swordplay. But I think it’s quite clear that Tom King is channeling the Catwoman from Jim Balent’s run on the character from the 90s. In a story from 1995, Catwoman actually joins a Gotham based dojo and learns all kinds of martial arts, simultaneously earning the ire of a fellow student, Kai. He later becomes Hellhound, and the two are cast as nemesis (Kind of reminds me of the relationship Bruce had with Kyodai Ken from the Batman: The Animated Series episode Night of the Ninja.)
See, here they are duking it out on the cover of Catwoman #36. This issue of Catwoman was also a tie-in with an ongoing story arc that was unfolding throughout all the Bat-books at the time that involved Ra’s Al Ghul. Given that King opted to have Selina in her Jim Balent costume during “The War of Jokes and Riddles”, I think it’s fair to assume he has some familiarity with the Jim Balent run. Also, given that Legacy (the Ra’s Al Ghul story I just mentioned) had an appearance by Bane, and King just did an arc on Bane, I wouldn’t be surprised if King looked over Legacy as well. It may all be one huge coincidence, but given the Jim Balent costume, the desert, the sword fighting, and an appearance by an Al Ghul….I have to believe he was drawing some kind of inspiration from these previous stories. If not, it still all fits nicely together, and I’m going to go with it.
Yes, I know that in this comic she specifically says she doesn’t know how to use a sword and has only held one once or twice before. But, isn’t that the exact kind of dirty fighting Selina would use. Tell someone she doesn’t know what she is doing so they underestimate her. I think it can be read either way, so see it however you wish.
Now, I know someone is bound to complain about this (or at least bring it up), so I’m going to address it.
In the last issue, Talia sent out all her troops to weaken Batman and Catwoman so she could show up and finish them off more easily. Because, in a fair fight, Talia can’t beat Batman. But in a severely weakened state, she is more than capable of taking him out. So, why isn’t it easy for Talia to take out Catwoman? This should pretty much clear that up for anyone:
Dick tells Damian that Batman essentially attempts to take the brunt of any attack when he fights alongside someone. This means that while Batman was weakened by the previous fight, Catwoman was not, because he was taking on the bulk of the attackers at his own detriment. Because….that’s just the way he is.
Spoiler alert! (although I think we all saw this coming) Catwoman wins. But the way it’s done, I think everyone saves face. Even though Catwoman does beat Talia, Talia still wins the sword match portion of their bout. And like most things, I’m reminded of something else. Anyone ever seen Rob Roy? Yeah….Catwoman totally pulls a Liam Neeson on Talia. (You know which part I mean)
Although, I thought Batman handled it with more grace and skill in Detective Comics Annual #3 (1990).
Remember everyone, older comics are worth reading too!
Incidentally (yet again), you know how I mentioned Night of the Ninja up above. Well, there is a scene from this annual that makes an appearance in Day of the Samurai. That’s the sequel to Night of the Ninja. I’m just drawing all kinds of crazy connections today.
While I thought it was nice to give Catwoman a hero moment, I kind of wish they would have given it to her within her own wheelhouse. This may be a kind of geeky way to elaborate on this point, but I’m going to go all roleplaying game with this one. You know how in Dungeons & Dragons when, at a critical moment, a hero character does something that only their character could do and they are awarded bonus experience points for doing it. Well, that’s kind of what I wanted to see here. Yes, Catwoman knows how to sword fight. I already pointed that out. I also pointed out how she is synonymous with acrobatics and thievery. I think it would have been nice if they’d have given here a way to beat Talia that was less blunt and more graceful. A finishing move that would have capitalized on her superior agility even if she wasn’t the superior sword fighter. Something like that.
And while I’m throwing out things that could have made it more interesting, how cool would it have been if Catwoman lost and then Damian came in to fight with Talia. That would be a deep cut. Like, I choose my “step-mom” over my real mom. Now that would have been some serious drama!
Odds and Ends:
- Tiger was in the first issue of this arc. Where did he run off to?
- So, Ra’s Al Ghul dueled Talia to the death to teach her to fight. Then resurrected her each time she died. That’s kind of like a page from the school of Doomsday, right? I don’t really care for the idea that Talia has died hundreds of times (Yes, I know it happened in Death and the Maidens). While Ra’s was always a fantastical character, there was always something about Talia that was more grounded. Ra’s was also typically depicted as an extremely loving father when it came to Talia. The idea that he mercilessly slew her on numerous occasions doesn’t really fall in line with many of the early depictions of the character.
- Yeah. Shut the hell up…DICK. I mean, how are you going to make fun of something like that. If you make fun of something like that you’re essentially just making fun of the reality of the world you exist in.
- And that is why, even if they do get married, it will never last. Because he will always choose the vow over everything else. He is the vow. And I love the fact that Catwoman comes to the conclusion that she loves him in spite of his flaws. Really good stuff here.
- I’m guessing that since they didn’t leave with Holly, her answer was no.
- Back in my review for Batman #33 I pondered whether or not DC would recognize Batman #35 as the 800th issue of Batman. As opposed to being all in your face with it the way Detective Comics #19 (2013) celebrated the 900th issue of Tec, Batman chose a much more subdued route, instead only acknowledging the centennial issue with a variant cover.
- You want to see a sword fight that rivals that of the classics.
- This issue has tons of immensely subtle references. Although, I might be reading more into it than was actually intended.
Even though I didn’t much care for part one of “The Rules of Engagement”, the two followup chapters were extremely entertaining. There’s nothing bombastic or over the top about them. Just simple straightforward fun. And sometimes, that’s all you really need to have a good time.
SCORE: 8 / 10