Batman/Catwoman #9 is an intense read as Tom King’s script expertly bounces across three time periods, greatly aided by Liam Sharp’s increasingly surreal art. Each of the three storylines here are equally engaging, leading to one of the most gripping issues of the series so far.
Last issue’s cliffhanger is immediately addressed as Joker betrays Andrea Beaumont and strangles her in front of an innocent family with a surprising connection to Andrea herself. Without going into spoilers (yet), there’s a reason Andrea and Joker have ended up at this otherwise unremarkable suburban home, something that was hinted at in the last pages of issue #8. Every scene that takes place in this time period is intense and eerie, largely due in part to Sharp’s ever changing art styles, even from panel to panel. I like Sharp’s decision to draw Joker’s lips travel outside his face, making it look like a long lizard tongue as he strangles Andrea with Christmas lights. It’s grotesque, but engaging to behold, and even the slight variations in Andrea’s face as she struggles to breathe are evocative. When Joker’s demeanor changes from vicious to purposefully fearful, Sharp’s art becomes more rendered, as the roughness of Joker’s face eases into gradients of white and gray. Once again, Sharp’s art is a home run, even if it may be an acquired taste.
The segments that take place in the past with Selina, Bruce, and Joker first beginning their relationships that will last a lifetime are quieter, but equally interesting. Bruce boxes with a punching bag, held by Alfred, as he works out his relationship with Selina and why exactly he keeps falling for her despite the fact that she hangs out with Joker and other villains. King’s scripts are usually at their best when there’s some humor mixed in with all the self-loathing and this scene fits that bill. Bruce opens the conversation asking “What is wrong with me”, to which Alfred sarcastically replies he’s doing fine in his decision to “dress up as a rodent and seek out monsters”. Bruce immediately clarifies he’s talking about Selina and complains about how she and all the other villains make fun of him and his never ending mission to send them to jail. Alfred then displays some tough love and dismisses Bruce’s concerns until Bruce admits that he might love Selina. The entire sequence is colored in reds, purples, and pinks making for a drastic tone shift from the other scenes. Whereas the other time periods are filled with icy backdrops and life and death stakes, Bruce and Alfred’s conversation is about matters of the heart. Alfred cuts through all of Bruce’s self doubt and simply replies that love can make one forgive someone else’s eccentricities. It’s a great back and forth, filled with double meanings while still simplifying some of the emotional turmoil at hand.
The elderly Selina scenes are also extremely well done as she forces Penguin to help her find a way out of Gotham with both the GCPD and Helena coming after her. The introductory panels with Penguin are hilarious as he stares at himself in the mirror, shirtless and only wearing underwear, asking himself “What happened to you”. Penguin appears to be a shell of his former self, one that is further cracked when Selina appears in his private car and kicks him in the nose. I love the page layout where Selina and Penguin first meet in the car, which is evenly divided into sixteen panels. Not only is it a striking composition, it also lets Sharp separate Selina and Penguin with two empty panels, making their distance seem further than if it were a normal horizontal panel. When Penguin attempts to break these panels’ borders, he’s met with a swift kick to the nose. It’s wonderful storytelling all around. The two later chit chat at a bar bathed in cool blues, the two figures mostly existing in silhouette. One vertical panel is exemplary in that it puts Selina and Penguin seated at the top of the panel, with the vast majority of the panel beneath being an empty void of blue and purple. This adds tension to the conversation as it feels as though either can easily fall over, down into the depths of nothingness below. There’s a nice twist to this segment as well, with Penguin proving to be not a complete pushover when Selina demands he help her escape the city with his connections.
If there’s a weaker sequence, it lies with Selina and Joker in the past fighting over Bruce’s whereabouts. The art is lovely, with Selina’s suit appropriately glossy, hinting at her youth, while Joker’s face is more cartoon-like with flatter colors and less rough line work. On a script level, there’s the promise of some big reveal coming soon, but the back and forth between the two never rises above Selina smacking Joker around and yelling at him. It’s fun to read, but not as engrossing as the other scenes.
The three storylines all reach their own climactic points that echo one another as various standoffs are promised for the next issue. While I’ve admired the way King’s scripts have managed the three storylines, this issue does a great job of making all three equally engaging and firmly centering Selina as the main character. Unless there’s a major shift in focus in the last few issues, King does seem more interested in examining Selina and how her choices have made an impact over the years.
- Liam Sharp’s art appeals to you as he’s doing some of his best work here.
- Selina being the main character doesn’t drive you away.
- You’ve been waiting for all three storylines to focus on more tangible goals.
Batman/Catwoman #9 makes another case that the series is gaining focus and as a result, makes for an intense and gripping read. Liam Sharp’s art is a big reason for this so I’m eager to see how Clay Mann’s return affects how the series reads. However, despite some problems I had with the series in its early days, I’m now actively excited to see what comes next. Fans who have stuck around til now should get a lot out of this issue, and those who haven’t jumped aboard may want to consider catching up as the series enters its last three issues.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.