Batman/Catwoman #3 refines some themes Tom King set up in previous issues while slightly advancing the core narrative across the three time periods established so far. There’s no surprises in this issue, but the tense atmosphere remains palpable despite a narrative that amounts to spinning plates and waiting for one to finally crash.
In previous reviews, I’ve written about how the narrative jumps across different time periods and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. King’s script and Clay Mann’s art does a better job of making it clear when scenes take place this time around, and a big part of that is Helena Wayne’s increased role. It’s impossible to avoid spoilers from last month when discussing Helena’s storyline, so this is the official warning. In the future time period, Selina appears to have murdered the one and true Joker in Florida and now Helena is sent to investigate by Gotham Commissioner Dick Grayson. It’s nice to see Dick involved in the book, though he being Commissioner is definitely a choice. Fans of the character shouldn’t expect much from him this issue, but he does have a good moment where he talks about how the Joker’s arrival marked the end of him having fun during his years as Robin. King follows that moment up with a page showing Joker in captivity, the panels taking the form of surveillance monitors as he sings and prances around. It’s an eerie sight and even though Joker is imprisoned by the jail and the panels themselves, he still commands the page because of Mann’s thoughtful compositions.
There is an elephant in the room that gets bigger and bigger with each issue and it deals with how Mann draws women. The first page shows off Helena’s “Batwoman” outfit that is a mix between her father’s tactical appearance and her mother’s…sense of style. To put it brief, it leaves little to the imagination, even down to her visible belly button through the skin tight outfit. Later pages have Selina in bed with Bruce, in sexualized poses, her rear end prominently featured. There’s an argument that a bedroom scene should be allowed to be sexy. Sure, but even an action sequence has a panel where Mann’s composition makes Selina’s rear end the focal point, instead of the actual fight. To put it lightly, there’s a lot of butt shots, and I haven’t even come close to naming most of them. I personally can look past this artistic “point of view”, but for some it can come across as distasteful or even disrespectful to the characters at hand. If I’m to indulge deeper, I don’t know if Mann knows how to draw women without objectifying them. Even Helena looks almost identical to a young Selina, her longer hair the only thing that made me realize it wasn’t Selina to begin with. Mann can do better, or at least change things up, but I don’t think he wants to.
Once again, the future set storyline is the most compelling. There’s a great scene where Helena discusses the Joker’s murder case with Selina, who quickly tries to change the subject. It does have a full page of just faces, without any movement, but I think the stilted art fits the tense atmosphere as we get the feeling Helena already knows Selina is somehow involved. Mann also manages to not throw in a butt shot here, but that’s probably because both characters are seated. I love the end of the sequence, where Helena and Selina take up a couple panels at the top of the page, and the bottom half shows Phantasm right after she’s murdered someone on her hit list. The juxtaposition of the warmer colors at the top of the page and the cold death below is an example of how good the art can be. There’s also a party going on upstairs above Phantasm, which adds just a slight sense of how life can be compartmentalized, something that Selina herself must do to separate her villainous ways from her heroism.
Tomeu Morey’s colors also deserve a bulk of the credit for the atmosphere that permeates the entire series so far. The clinical grays and whites of Joker’s prison clash perfectly with his green hair and even whiter skin. The green lettered sound effects by Clayton Cowles are also a great touch and add a splash of vibrancy to the duller settings. Phantasm’s corresponding gray and black dialogue bubbles are just as ominous as her costume and make her even more intimidating. Aesthetically, the book continues to be a visual feast.
Phantasm’s storyline gets a slight push forward this week as she takes the fight to Selina herself, but the actual stakes remain unclear beyond wanting revenge. It’s a solid fight sequence, but it’s over before a sense of ramping tension is achieved, which is my main complaint against King’s script to this point. There’s a lot of interesting ideas and questions being brought up, but little moment to moment tension since most scenes are short due to the fractured narrative. An unexpected highlight comes in the form of what essentially is a long Joker monologue where he aptly vivisects Selina’s torn sense of morality in a callback to King’s “Bride or Burglar” era. It’s a fantastic scene and even though I haven’t fully engaged with the “friendship” between Joker and Selina, this exchange made it worth it to this point.
Oh yeah, and Batman is in about three pages of the book. As the cast grows, I ponder what the book is really about. At this point, this is not a love story between Bruce and Selina, but rather a tale of twisted morals and long gestating consequences. I’m interested so far, but not enthralled. There’s a lot of pieces on the board, only time will tell if they actually fit together.
- Clay Mann’s art, even with its cheesecake tendencies, captures your attention.
- You like Joker and Selina’s working relationship and want to see it take a turn.
- Batman barely being featured doesn’t bother you.
Batman/Catwoman #3 is another solid, though somewhat languid entry into the series. I want some more blood in its teeth and even what should be a prominent action sequence ends before it really gets going. The texture, detail, and atmosphere remains impeccable, but King’s decision to split the narrative across three time periods is starting to show some weaknesses in the approach. When you’re trying to tell three stories at once, the entire picture better be worth the price of uneven pacing.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.