Batman/Catwoman #7 features a shake-up in both plot and artistic merits, providing a breath of fresh air to an already improving series. Liam Sharp takes over art duties for this issue, creating a wildly different atmosphere for the book even down to its more sensual romance scenes. And while the plot is still loosely sketched, the stakes are clearer than ever as secrets are revealed and alliances unravel.
Right from the opening credits page we get a look at Commissioner Dick Grayson’s silhouette ominously posted off to the side. For the elderly Selina, the screws are tightening and therefore the tension finally builds beyond the scope of her relationship to Helena. While the future set scenes with Selina and Helena have always been a stronger point of the book, I’m glad Tom King’s script finally pivots away from the “will they won’t they” back and forth of Helena’s standoff against her mother and her suspicions toward her. The cat is out of the bag and everyone now knows Selina is behind Joker’s murder. Sharp draws a terrific Wayne Manor that captures its beauty while still aging it in subtle ways to make it feel increasingly decrepit. The nearby vegetation is overgrown and obscures the manor’s facade, the trees are bent and crooked, and even its chimneys appear on the verge of toppling over. Sharp’s colors are also a sight to behold even as most of the environments are drained of color leaving behind only remnants of steely blues, greens, and grays. As Dick Grayson prepares to arrest Selina, he checks in with his army of SWAT members that are crudely drawn in silhouette with crooked letters spelling “POLICE” on their uniforms and armed with misshapen guns. They’re not people but an implication of force that lingers behind Dick’s diplomatic attempt to have Selina come in quietly.
A page turn greets us with a truly wonderful rendering of our elderly Selina that I think captures her poise and grace even better than any of Clay Mann’s renditions. Sharp’s Selina looks perhaps more fragile on outward appearance, her weapons being her fancy earrings and necklace that serve to disarm any expectations of violence she most definitely has within her arsenal. Sharp’s sketchy details only heighten the book’s atmosphere, between the loosely rendered wrinkles on Selina’s neck to the fact that none of the pearls on her necklace are perfectly round. With Sharp’s work, rough and ugly is oftentimes more beautiful than even the most tightly sculpted pencils in other books. Have you noticed I love Liam Sharp? And I don’t mean that to slight the equally talented Clay Mann, but they’re certainly different. Not much else happens on a story front in the future-set storyline, but Helena gets her best scene yet. She talks out loud to Bruce, justifying herself in sending Selina to jail and questioning how her father could ever love someone so different from themselves. Helena’s presence in the story has been welcome to this point, but King’s script definitely needed to give her a moment of vulnerability like this.
The scenes set in the earlier days of Selina and Bruce’s relationship are equally engaging on a character front. There’s a few saucy pages with Bruce and Selina in bed together, but there’s a marked difference in how Sharp approaches these scenes of intimacy. Whereas I’ve criticized Mann’s art for often veering into being exploitative (or downright silly at times) the sensuality of Sharp’s compositions exists for the benefit of the two characters and not for the reader. There’s less of a leering quality to the work, which may be partially explained away by Sharp’s rougher line work. I don’t wish to continuously compare two different artists, but it’s hard to ignore a sharp shift in aesthetic in a book that was originally delayed for Mann to draw every issue. While the push and pull of Selina and Bruce’s relationship is nothing new, the tension of Selina’s torn allegiances between her criminal ways and her love for Bruce is always intriguing. Between this scene and Helena’s questioning of why her father fell for a criminal (now murderer), there’s a coherent theme developing about how love can twist and turn someone even against themself.
Lastly, the Phantasm set storyline has some of its better moments, it’s just unfortunate it deals more so with Bruce than with Andrea. I’ve questioned the lack of Bruce in the series, so it’s still nice to see him take more of a focal point in the narrative. After Selina betrays him in order to help Andrea, Bruce finds himself locked up in a bank vault and set up for the cops to arrest. Clayton Cowles’ lettered sound effects are wonderful here, with the sharp, yellow “RIIIIIIING” of the alarm laid across the page. The resulting carnage is simply badass and Sharp’s colors really sell the outright barbarity Bruce must resort to in order to escape and keep his identity a secret. King’s script having Bruce cut his own face and smear blood all over himself to hide his identity is a great concept and Sharp’s decision to fully color the action sequence in various shades of red brings it home. The final moments of the issue feature some intriguing plot developments, but it’s all tell, not show, as Selina relates a major development to Bruce instead of King’s script allowing us to see it. This isn’t always a problem, but it’s a fairly big twist in the Andrea plotline to merely dump via exposition. Nonetheless, there could be more going on than what’s being taken at face value, and the final pages do set up some tension for the next issue.
- Liam Sharp’s art is more your style.
- You’ve wanted more Bruce in the series.
- More doomed romance between Bruce and Selina doesn’t turn you away.
Batman/Catwoman #7 is the strongest issue of the series to date. The three-headed monster of a storyline still has its shortcomings, but this time around none of the storylines drag the others down. There’s a better balance between action and emotional coherence in King’s script this time around and Liam Sharp’s thoughtful art elevates the series even higher than before.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.