Batman/Catwoman #10 puts its chips on the table as the story pivots from simmering tension to an all out brawl across all three of its storylines. Clay Mann’s return to art duties makes things more tactile than the past few issues, while Tom King’s script finally gets to let loose and shed much of the series’ subtext in favor of raw brutality.
All three storylines reach a breaking point where Selina has a showdown against Joker…Joker again, and her daughter, Helena. In the past, Selina takes the fight to Joker (who’s dressed in a Santa Claus outfit) as she deflects both Joker’s fists and his verbal attacks since he claims she’s now no different than Batman. In the present, Selina fights Joker in the aftermath of the explosion that has incapacitated everyone but the two of them. This fight hits similar beats in the sense that Joker questions who Selina really is as a person since she can’t seem to go all the way and kill him, despite wanting to. In the future, Selina fights her own daughter who wants to arrest her for killing Joker even as Selina begs her to stop and listen to why she felt she had to commit murder. The way these three fight sequences bleed into each other is a technical wonder to behold. Clay Mann’s page layouts brilliantly connect these sequences together visually while King’s script ties them together thematically.
The three storylines have always interconnected in interesting ways, but here the connections are the most overt they’ve ever been. A single page ties all three fights together; one panel shows Joker tackle Selina out a window, one shows Selina kick Joker through a window, while the last shows Helena fall to the ground after being punched by Selina. Later, two horizontal panels show the top half of Joker in the past on the ground, with his lower half being him on the ground in the present. There are a ton of visual tricks like this that make the story feel more unified than ever and less like several loosely tied vignettes that are sometimes thematically linked.
However, with the sheer amount of carnage on each page, it is easy to get turned around despite Selina wearing different outfits in each timeline. Both of Selina’s arguments with the Joker are similar enough to require the occasional re-read of a page to fully grasp what’s at stake. If anything, this allows Selina’s fight with Helena to be the most gripping. It’s no surprise Helena and Selina end up at each other’s throats, but the tension lies in how Selina’s past will come to justify her acts in the future. There’s a heartbreaking moment where Selina tries to reason with Helena, saying that she feels Bruce owes her for agreeing to marry him as her saying yes was against her very nature. In the past, we see Selina lash out at both Joker and Bruce for trying to claim her for themselves, ignoring her own agency. It’s engaging to track Selina’s feelings for Bruce (and even her friendship with Joker) over her lifetime, and this issue gives readers the most concise path through these relationships.
King’s script throws a lot at the reader, but the art team does an admirable job of keeping everything coherent. While I did need to re-read the occasional page, Tomeu Morey’s colors do essentially color code each sequence. Selina’s fight with Joker in the past is largely bathed in reds, which hints at Selina’s resentment at both Joker and Bruce for trying to control her. The present day fight is heavy on icy blues, enhanced by Selina’s blue tinged goggles, as she contemplates killing Joker with an oversized candy cane. Lastly the fight with Helena is cast in purple, a color often associated with wisdom, as Selina tries to share her revelation about who Joker is as a person. All in all, this is one of Mann’s best issues since he avoids most of his usual pitfalls and features solid fight choreography as scenes spill out into each other, even across pages. Clayton Cowles’ letters also manage to make conversations easy to follow across the three timelines and his usage of lettered sound effects adds the appropriate crunch to key action beats. It’s a delicate issue, excellently rendered by the entire art team.
If there’s any fault to the issue, it’s emblematic of the entire series. While I find King’s examination of Selina to be interesting, the overarching plot is definitely hazy, if not ultimately shallow. Phantasm (whose fate is unclear at this point), never really emerged into being a viable threat and the mystery behind her son’s death never really got off the ground. With so much time dedicated to thematic musings and establishing Selina’s past, there simply wasn’t much time to develop the core narrative around Batman investigating Phantasm’s murder spree. As we near the endgame, I find myself mostly interested in what direction King decides to go with Selina, rather than truly engaged at the meat and potatoes of the narrative.
- You’ve been waiting for Selina to unleash her anger upon Joker (and even Helena).
- Clay Mann’s return excites you as this is some of his strongest work in the series.
- The lack of Phantasm (and Bruce) doesn’t deter you.
Batman/Catwoman #10 is a gripping, and intense brawl of emotion and physicality as Selina takes on her enemies in a more straightforward manner. Those who are still reading the series should stick around as we enter its final act, but anyone interested in jumping in now is best suited to either hunt down back issues or wait for the trade. If anything, having the entire series to read in one sitting might better serve its slippery narrative.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.