Batman #44 review

Batman 44

It’s time to go shopping for a wedding dress with Catwoman!  But seeing as how this is Selina Kyle, I really don’t think anyone expected this process to follow the norm….and it doesn’t.  But enough of me trying to be catchy in an intro paragraph.  Let’s just get to it!

First thing’s first.  I have to give Tom King mad mad mad mad mad props for throwing this issue together.  He actually took the time and effort to go through the character’s past and pick out stuff that was relevant to the story he was trying to tell (although, I have a couple of suggestions that might have worked better than a few of his choices, but I’ll get to that later).  In case it’s never been clear from reading my articles, it’s extremely important to me as a long time Batman reader that writers acknowledge the past of these characters.  After all, it’s their past experiences and stories that shaped them into the characters we love.  So, yes.  Bravo, Bravo, Bravo Mr. King!

Even though it’s moments like this where I love Tom King, I’m also equally bewildered by him. Not bewildered by what he did in this issue, but the fact that he can throw something like this together just makes me question if there aren’t actually two Tom Kings out there.  Here is what I mean: in his Poison Ivy arc, he went way way way off book in depicting what she was capable of doing.  But here, he’s basically being as faithful as humanly possible to Catwoman and acknowledging elements from almost every decade of the character’s existence.

It’s doubly weird when you consider the fact that King does expect us to know context on certain things that he hasn’t really explained in his own stories.  Looking at the Ivy arc, he never explains to us the context of what it means for Harley to say “pudding”.  We need to know what that means from reading past stories.  But if we are reading past stories, it also means his depiction of Ivy is going to butt heads with the one we know from reading those same past stories.  So, it’s just kind of odd in that sense.

In any case, the entire issue jumps back and forth with every other page being either the past or present, with the final 3 pages taking place in the present and culminating in the issues message.   This is definitely a story in which you would greatly benefit from being aware of the character’s past (basically, I feel like this story was hand-crafted for me).  Not only would I recommend reading almost everything he included, because most of them are good unto themselves, but it would help you understand the context of how these snippets King chose to include relate to the overall message he’s trying to deliver.

Let’s take a look at all the original scenes King borrowed from:

I’ve been waiting for King to include the “papa spank” line.

Seems like something Selina would remember and store for the perfect opportunity when she really needed something good to reprimand Bruce with.

It starts off with The Cat in a green dress and Batman removing a bandage from her ankle.  That’s from Batman #1 (1940).  If you’ve been following King’s work on Batman, you know that Selina and Bruce keep discussing whether they first met on the street or on a boat.  This scene take place on that boat, and it’s where she stole the emerald necklace that Bruce later turns into a diamond engagement ring.  (Still think King should have just made it an emerald engagement ring…)

This story isn’t only important because it’s the character’s introduction, but it does show that Batman was smitten with her from the get-go.  Another thing I really liked about it was the way King played with the dialogue.  I’ve read this story dozens of times, but I never thought anything about the fact that she used the word “licked” to describe being beaten.  That’s just a term of the era this story was written in.  But here, King puts a kind of spin on it.  The way it’s delivered has a very innuendo/double meaning quality to it.  When she says, “go ahead”, she isn’t just telling him to remove the bandage.  She’s also kind of mockingly telling him to come over and give her some loving.  Super fun and a nice little spin that very much fits Catwoman’s lager than life sensuality and playfulness.

The next flashback scene, where we see Catwoman risking her life to save Batman from a collapsing building, is from Batman #62 (1950).  The important thing about this scene is that it is establishing that Catwoman is willing to risk herself for Batman. There isn’t anything super important about this scene in particular that couldn’t have been illustrated through another story where something similar happened, it’s just the one King chose to illustrate this point.  For instance, in #39, one of her henchmen knocks Batman unconscious and is about to kill him but she stops him.  Things like this happen a lot.  And it shows that Catwoman has always had somewhat of a softer side when it comes to Batman.

Next up is Detective Comics #203 from 1954.  In this story, Selina is the owner of a pet store, and upon reading an article in the paper as to how Batman conquered her, she takes back up her criminal mantle to show she isn’t that easily beaten.  Interestingly enough, there is another story from 1951 in Batman # 65 that begins similarly.  Selina is the owner of a pet store, and has genuinely gone straight, But during the course of the story, cat related crimes start popping up all over Gotham.  Naturally, the citizens of Gotham think Catwoman is back to her old tricks.  But it turns out she is actually innocent of any misdoings.  And even ends up helping to capture the actual culprits.  In this particular instance, I think it would have served King’s story better if he had gone with the 1951 story over the 1954 story because it showed that not only was Selina willing to give up her criminal life, but also that she was more than happy to help out the good guys.  Which is something I think we have all seen play out multiple times over the course of Catwoman’s career.

The scene where Catwoman is wearing a green body suit and has Batman trapped in a Cat’s Cradle made of sound-waves is from Batman #197 (1967).  Obviously, this is most relevant due to the “Bride or Burglar” comment she makes during the scene.  It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time something like this was broached.  Catwoman would often try to lure Batman to the dark side, saying that they would be the perfect King and Queen of Crime.  This instance, however, is important because it isn’t about her trying to make Batman bad, it’s about her saying she is, once again, willing to go to the good side.  Marry me and I’ll be good, don’t and I’ll remain a criminal.  It makes me wonder if it wasn’t this very statement that inspired this entire issue.  But instead of either/or, she both a bride and a burglar.  It’s also interesting to think that what King is currently doing with these two characters might simply be a culmination of this initial proposal.  Bruce certainly proposed to Selina in Batman #24 (volume3…), but let us not forget that she proposed to him first.

Incidentally, I really hate that I have to say Batman #24 Volume 3.  Can’t I just call this issue, Batman #789.  Because, really, that’s what it is.

The shot of Catwoman riding on a white Bengal tiger with Batman in pursuit on a horse is from Batman #256 (1974).  I believe this scene was included to highlight Catwoman’s liberated nature.  And while that is important, I’m not really sure this was the best story to illustrate that point.  If it were me, I either would have omitted this in exchange for another scene depicting her independent nature, or even included something entirely different to further illustrate the fascinating relationship Batman and Catwoman have had over the years.

For instance, in Batman #15 (1943), Selina Kyle actually falls in love with Bruce Wayne (This was before she knew he was Batman).  She tells Batman that she would consider giving up crime if she had a shot with someone like Bruce.  Bruce dates her and they even get engaged.  Over the course of the story she finds out that Bruce is only doing what he is doing because Batman asked him to do so so she would stop being a criminal.  When she discovers this, she dives back into crime.  This would be a story to illustrate that Catwoman wasn’t just attracted to Batman, but also Bruce, before she even knew they were one and the same.  It’s also interesting because it shows that they’ve been engaged before.  Technically.  It’s also another example of her willingness to give up crime.

Poor Linda.  I actually liked Linda Page.  It kind of bums me out that writers and fans always forget that character existed.

This famous fight scene between Batman and Catwoman appeared in Batman #355 (1983) and was spurred on by jealousy after Selina saw Bruce out with Vicki Vale.   It’s a really well choreographed fight scene, and the resolution between Batman and Catwoman is very touching.  So, if you’ve never read it, I recommend it.

 

Next up is what I’m going to call the “drifting apart” scene.  It’s from Detective Comics #565 (1986).  I recognized it, but I couldn’t quite place it.  There wasn’t anything specific enough about it to make me remember what issue it was from.  So, I started looking through back issues to find it.  I was looking at Catwoman appearances between 1993 and 2001 since she was wearing the purple cat suit.  I finally gave up and asked the team.  Jay shot me an e-mail back and told me he found it on the internet.  “The Internet!  I don’t know how to use that there new newfangled contraption!”  Believe it or not, all my blathering is from memory or from pouring over back issues and scanning books.

In any case, part of my difficulty stemmed from the fact that King decided to change Catwoman’s costume for the scene.  Oh well.

The final flashback scene is from “Hush”.

I think the last three flashback scenes were chosen to illustrate that every relationship has it’s ups and downs.  And while some of these stories were meant to be an ending for the characters at the time they were written , it’s very easy to see how, despite being separated by decades, they can all be stitched together to form a cohesive narrative that easily mirrors the realistic course relationships sometimes take in the real world.

There was only one thing in the entire issue I didn’t care for…

Catwoman…one of the most skilled thieves on the entire plant…a master of stealthy infiltration…

uses a friggin bomb to break into the bridal shop………

I don’t think I need to say anything else about that….

If you’re just interested in seeing the dress Selina picked, it’s right here:

SHOW SPOILER ▼

 

Odds and Ends:

  • With all the costumes we got to see, it would have been pretty awesome to have gotten to see this getup.
  • Bruce doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy that wouldn’t wake up if someone got into or out of the bed he was lying in.

Recommended if…

  • You want to go shopping for a wedding dress with Catwoman.
  • You appreciate Catwoman’s vast history and love it when writers not only adhere to it, but go above and beyond to include and respect it.

Overall:

This story is a wonderful ode to relationship that Batman and Catwoman have shared over the years.  Starting in the 1940s and ending in the present, King highlights many of the major stepping stones shared between the two of them.  I can see how this story isn’t meant for everyone, since an intimate knowledge of Batman mythology is necessary to fully appreciate it, but as for me, I loved it!

SCORE: 9.5 / 10 

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