Batman/Catwoman #6 is one of the better entries of the series so far. While the narrative momentum still has its issues between the delayed shipping schedule and the three time period structure, the tangible moment to moment scenes are more engaging than usual. Now if only I could remember what the hell is going on.
First of all, it may be wise for single issue readers to refresh their memory by re-reading the last couple of issues. However, if time is short, each of the three timelines this issue does a good job of being self-contained, while still adding to the overall themes of the series. First up is the youngest Selina who downs some liquor in the company of a chic looking Joker. My mixed feelings toward Selina and Joker being friends have been noted, but this scene is one of their most convincing yet. As Selina drinks her worries away, the Joker simply lays back and watches her unravel, soaking in her misery. Their “friendship” here comes off more lopsided than the norm, which I think fits both of their characterizations. The Joker adores Selina for all the reasons she hates herself, and I find that much more compelling than them teaming up on jobs. Once Joker comes up with the idea to decorate Selina’s Christmas tree, she realizes all of the ornaments she owns have been stolen by her. The idea of Selina attempting to figure out her place in Gotham, either as a villain alongside Joker or an ally to Batman is compelling, especially when even her sentimental belongings are stolen goods. And while the Joker isn’t outright villainous in this sequence, his remarks are subtly aimed at tearing Selina down. The moment where Joker laughs Selina away when she asks him if she’s a good person is particularly brutal.
The art team is back on the right track after some hiccups in the last issue. Clay Mann’s “quieter” scenes, such as Joker and Selina relaxing on the couch, still contain aggressive compositions. From the way characters spill into other panels or into the gutters of the page itself, nothing ever looks calm despite a lack of actual on-page carnage. A later scene between an elderly Selina and Helena maintains the same composition across its five horizontal panels. However, the gutter space between each of them is red, with a Christmas themed wallpaper design. Additionally, there’s a small mouse which peaks up over the panels and runs atop them, only to be confronted by a cat that emerges once Selina turns the tables on Helena after she directly asks her if she killed the Joker. I’ve enjoyed the usage of animals in this series, even just aesthetically as Selina’s apartment is decorated with cat-oriented accessories and lamps.
The later set scenes with Selina and Helena don’t carry as much nuance as the Joker scenes, but it’s fun to see Selina dress up even in her old age to fight crime. There’s a fun page where we see Helena and Selina, both in heroic fight poses, as caption boxes track their back and forth about Gotham’s new set of “supervillains”. Of particular note is “Four-Face”, a set of twins who both got acid on them. King’s scripts are usually at their best when they tread an easy balance between absurdity and truth. Tomeu Morey’s colors get the most time to shine in the Helena scenes as she and Selina fight a bevy of colorful villains only to take a break atop a bright neon pink sign that reads “World’s Finest”. The ultimate conclusion to this segment ends well too, as Selina finally decides to have an honest conversation with Helena. The compositions are great throughout and heighten the drama. The scene starts far away, where Selina and Helena are small specks atop the large neon sign, only to punch in closer once the drama unfolds. The panel before Selina tells Helena the truth is composed at an upward looking angle, making the reader feel small and uneasy under Selina’s gaze. It’s a great segment that holds its own against the excitement of the Phantasm pages and nuanced character work of the Joker scenes. Clayton Cowles’ lettering is also magnificent to behold, with well placed speech bubbles and sound effects. I especially like the Phantasm’s crude, black and grey speech bubbles, which always look cool alongside her character design.
Speaking of Phantasm, her segment will likely satisfy fans waiting for her to finally confront Batman. Mild spoilers to follow, but the fight between her and Batman is extremely well done in both its exciting compositions and King’s dialogue as we finally see Phantasm unleash her anger upon Bruce. What it ultimately comes down to is the classic debate of whether or not Bruce is wrong to not kill the Joker despite him always escaping Arkham Asylum and killing even more people. There’s an odd war analogy where Bruce claims soldiers are not murderers since they have “necessary limitations”, but the main point is that he himself doesn’t kill because he doesn’t have to. While I find Phantasm’s rage at her son and father dying compelling from a drama standpoint, I’m less enthused in the main crux of the series being yet another “should Batman kill Joker” think-piece. Hopefully more layers are added, especially since we’re only halfway through the series. The final outcome of the fight is very intriguing however, and will make most readers eager for the next issue.
- Numerous delays and future temporary changes in artists (Liam Sharp!) didn’t turn you away.
- You want to see Phantasm and Batman finally fight.
- Joker and Selina’s “friendship” is something you wanted explored more.
Batman/Catwoman #6 is one of the stronger issues so far given its better balance between thematic musings and overt action. The plotting is still a little haphazard, though re-reading previous issues does help connect some narrative dots, but each scene in a vacuum is compelling and well rendered by the art team.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.