Batman/Catwoman #2 delivers more of the same, but that’s not always a bad thing. Non-linear storytelling, striking art, and a compelling, though still vague, mystery drives this month’s issue. It’s a delicate balancing act, but whenever Tom King’s script lags in plot progression or clarity, Clay Mann’s beautiful art picks up the slack and almost renders such problems as moot. Almost.
My main problem with this month’s issue is that it repeats the same non-linear structure as the first issue. I have no problem with this technique, but as the series continues the lack of any grounding in one time period can create a distance between the reader and plot. As it stands now, I spend half my time deciphering exactly what I’m reading and the other half trying to relate and engage on a deeper level. King and Mann do a good job of letting you know when a scene takes place visually, usually by giving Selina two different costumes, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes dialogue from one time period spills over into another and when that dialogue involves character names and plot points, it can veer into being overwhelming. The first few pages are the primary offender as all three time periods are represented, but not in a clear visual manner. Our view of a younger Selina is from far behind her, making it not immediately apparent which suit she’s wearing. Adding onto this, King’s script establishes two murder victims, one a piece for two separate time periods. Therefore, I found myself flipping back and forth and double checking that I knew exactly what was going on. I might be making a bigger deal of this than it deserves, but the non-linear storytelling made last month’s issue feel more dream-like, as if a series of memories were colliding into a new threat. Here, it feels stylish but serves no purpose other than to keep the reader at arm’s length. King does this a lot across his work and it’s been a quibble I’ve had against him at times.
Mann’s art, while aesthetically beautiful, can fire on all cylinders a little too often as well. In the early pages, as I’m trying to piece together character names, time periods, and plot points, Mann serves up bombastic page after bombastic page. While it looks nice, it’s a sensory overload to have Selina kick a henchman “toward” the reader as his body spills across several panels and to follow it up with a splash page with Selina’s backside in the foreground. The sheer amount of depth in this splash page is staggering, the pile of wrapped boxes Joker sits atop of feels tactile, and just about to tip over. It’s dramatic, beautiful, and a masterclass in how to make a page come alive. Tomeu Morey’s colors are incredible, with a nice gloss on the presents, Joker’s festive outfit, and Selina’s leather jacket as light bounces off them. However, even while I marvel at the technical aptitude on display, all I want is for the book to slow down.
Thankfully, the scenes with an elderly Joker and Selina satisfy this want and are the highlight of the book. The compositions are simpler, but Mann still delivers that striking depth when something important happens. There’s a few key panels in these scenes. One where Joker stands with two glasses of water in a face-on composition appears simple. However, his feet peek outside the panel into the bottom of the page, which hints at just a small degree of deception in the otherwise simple image. Then another panel, where we see a hidden gun in his freezer, allows Mann to use his prowess at depth to put that gun right in the viewers face with the Joker’s small grin tucked into the background. I appreciate this more delicate work and wish the book restrained itself as such more often.
King’s dialogue here is largely bereft of the usual “Bat/Cat” stuff, which I don’t always mind but I know rubs some the wrong way. Nevertheless, the dialogue is still dominated by King’s usual cold, and somewhat removed cadence for each character. It works mostly. Some of Selina’s jokes land well because the tone remains grim throughout, such as when she recollects a time where she had henchman who dressed up as cats. Batman himself plays second fiddle for the most part as he tries to piece together the murder of a member of the Bertinelli crime family in one time period, while tracking down Andrea Beaumont years later as she hunts down former Joker henchman. Once again, a lot of moving pieces keeps Bruce in an expository role while the real focus as of now seems to be on Selina and also Joker to a lesser extent. While there are hints of a more in depth examination of Bruce and Selina’s relationship, King’s script delves far more into Selina herself as her past ties with the Joker come to haunt her future. It’s compelling, but I hope Bruce and Andrea receive more to do and soon. The only introspection with Bruce and Selina as a couple is his slow realization that Selina still works with Joker, which we’ve seen play out before. Phantasm fans will have to wait another month it seems before getting any real meaty scenes with Andrea, though her brief appearances are eerie and striking.
The final moments for each of the time periods are ripe for excitement. The future scenes with an older Selina are still the most compelling, especially with this month’s cliffhanger, but Bruce and Selina’s hunt for Andrea gets an exciting new wrinkle added to it as the issue nears its ending. I hope the shape of the series becomes more defined as it progresses. Right now the future scenes with an older Selina are the most compelling even though it seems like it should operate more as an epilogue. King’s exploration of the early days of Bruce and Selina’s relationship needs more time dedicated to it, because as of now it feels out of place even though the series carries both of their namesakes. Meanwhile, the most potentially dramatic and exciting plotline with Andrea Beaumont is undercooked at the moment. It’s only the second issue, so King has more than enough time to crank up the tension, but if this fragmented narrative structure continues, I fear the heart of the story will get lost within all these competing time periods.
- Andrea Beaumont isn’t the main reason you’re interested in the series.
- You just want to look at Clay Mann’s gorgeous art, which is worth the cover price alone.
- A continuation of non-linear storytelling doesn’t drive you away.
Batman/Catwoman #2 utilizes many of the same tricks as last month’s issue, but with lesser results. The premise of the book is clear, but King’s narrative structure has drawn battle lines within his own story. It’s near impossible to not prefer one of the three competing plotlines at play here, especially since it’s not clear how they’ll all click together. I have faith in King and Mann to deliver the goods on an aesthetic level, but King’s scripting should be wary of focusing more on form than function as the series progresses.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.