With “Knightmares: Cat”, Tom King returns to bring us more of our previously scheduled Batman Psychodrama. The label utterly fits: this week’s episode is nothing if not ongoing theatrical therapy. I say that and it sounds like a criticism, but to be honest, I kind of liked this issue if for no other reason than the simplicity of its staging and the single-mindedness of its throughline.
What’s maybe the most interesting part of this issue is that Question is basically a stand in for Batman in his nightmare, and, as an extension to that, a stand in for us as well. Particularly with regard to the relentlessness of the questions. Catwoman says she wrote a letter and that it’s all in the letter, but Batman doesn’t accept that and, I think, neither do we as an audience by and large. So the Questions doesn’t accept it either and goes after Selina in this artificial dreamstate interrogation room with no logic and no rules, and the pursuit of understanding unfolds.
But be warned: while this is indeed a pursuit of understanding, that doesn’t mean it has any reconciliation by the end.
I like the dynamic between Question and Catwoman and the pairing makes sense metaphorically since the entire issue surrounds the inquiry of why Selina dumped Bruce at the proverbial altar. Selina plays it cool throughout. You can imagine she is well-versed in handling these types of interactions with aplomb. What maybe doesn’t work for me, however, is how quickly Question is reduced to frustration and, ultimately, a lot of needless shouting.
Everyone is yelling so much lately: have some quiet
The progression of the discussion doesn’t seem to warrant the way in which Question falls apart, but it’s good to remind everyone at this point that Question isn’t really in a room asking Selina questions–this is just Batman’s subconscious trying to sort out an answer and he’s evidently at the end of his rope with it.
Selina’s refrain about having written a letter works the first few times, but afterwards, like many of King’s devices, becomes unnatural–showing the hand of the writer more than just telling the story. On the one hand, it makes sense that Selina would choose this phrase and stick with it as a sort of armor against the emotional vulnerability she’s trying to protect. On the other hand, it comes off plastic and plotted. And if this is happening in Batman’s subconscious, then ultimately she is only going to actually say what he thinks she would say, so there’s no hope of getting more out of her.
This is the ultimate frustration of this limited point of view. These are not stories in the regular sense, they are snippets of Batman’s state of mind. This comic only reveals what Batman thinks of Catwoman, not what Catwoman actually thinks. So it plods along problematically as the rest of these sequences as a sort of Batman talking to himself with finger puppets. King has the advantage of creating these realistic world environments and having the characters as their seemingly flesh and blood avatars. Part of his sleight of hand is to reel us in emotionally, but ultimately we’re still just dealing with smoke and mirrors and at the end of this issue, like all the ones before it, that always feels like a letdown.
King, your Alan Moore is showing
Jorge Fornes’ work is an absolute delight in this book. King provides a good balance between the largely static encounter between Selina and the Question, which Fornes keeps interesting with gestures and body language, and an overview of the essence of the relationship between the Cat and the Bat. Fornes throws all-in to give these moments their own energy and appeal; everything from Bruce and Selina’s first meeting to their last. Especially effective is the almost ironic use of a giant tentacled monster and also a series of panels that demonstrates the relentlessness with which Batman pursues justice against the worst of the worst of his his arch-villains. It’s enough action to make you forget that the comic is still basically a two-person conversation between two figments of Bruce’s imagination.
King’s love of language and word play is all trotted out like a well-feagued pony, but if I can forgive other writers the silliness of shark tank escapes (complete with man-eating piranhas!), then I can certainly allow King a little literary license.
- You sort of have a nodding interest in the character of The Question.
- You just want to throttle Catwoman for her juvenile shenanigans, but seeing someone else trying to grill her into submission is also good.
- You’re really invested in–or just can’t move beyond–the whole wedding thing.
Tom King embarks on the latest in his arsenal of experimentation, setting up what’s essentially a two-character interrogation drama between a very reluctant Selina Kyle and a very frustrated Question. It’s just more nightmare fuel for Batman that leaves yet more questions and provides no answers, but it’s interesting to see Question vent the frustrations of at least a certain portion of the fandom. Interesting, yes, but also probably largely skippable if you’re already not enjoying this dreamstate therapy arc. That said, come for the wonderful art: Jorge Fornes is to be treasured here.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.