It’s become cliché to point out how Batman’s common refrain of “I work alone” is not really true at all. However, while Bruce has enough allies and adopted/biological sons to fill out about half of DC’s publishing line, Catwoman herself has always genuinely been hesitant to work with or even trust others. Over time she’s slowly been brought more and more into the fold of the “bat family,” but as the flashbacks to the pivotal “Fool’s Night” ten years prior to the events of Catwoman: Lonely City begin to reveal, that trust has done nothing but blow up in her face– both figuratively and literally. As a result, Selina internalized the isolation forced upon her by her time in prison, which was a major theme of the first issue. Now that Selina has found a purpose with her new life, she’s realized that she can’t do it alone.
It’s through Killer Croc that Selina managed to find the motivation to fight back against the new Gotham run by Harvey Dent. They are both former big shots that the city would rather soon forget. Their dynamic and shared determination is great to watch unfold on the page as they train to get back into fighting shape. Croc’s bluntness and inelegant mannerisms are often played for comic relief, and it works great as a contrast with Catwoman, but he’s a character you can’t help but find endearing. However, Croc is only the first among many former associates Selina finds to help her in her mission to break into the Batcave. Almost by accident, Selina starts adding more and more members to her little found family.
The Riddler is possibly the best new addition. I might be a little biased since he is one of my favorite characters in general, but he’s also a character that’s really hard to get right, and boy does Cliff Chiang get him right. He’s mostly retired now, running financial scams instead of laying elaborate traps on giant typewriters, but he still manages to embody that same witty energy. The fact that he attributes his old green spandex suit to the fact that he was doing a lot of cocaine is both entirely believable and hilarious. He’s as narcissistic as ever, even having named his daughter “Edie,” after himself. He and Selina reminisce about the good ol’ days, which plays heavily into the running theme of how so much was lost in this new sterile, authoritarian Gotham. There’s a romanticized nostalgia around how things used to be. Riddler comments about how fun it was and that he “never hurt anybody, not seriously.” It’s a sentiment reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s wonderful Riddler story, When is a Door? from Secret Origins Special #1.
The Riddler is a character that at his best has always maintained a level of Silver Age camp, and for Selina that same camp represents a time in her life she wishes she could get back. Her conversation with Eddie is immediately followed by a flashback of 30 years to one Catwoman and Batman’s first interactions. The whole scene has an innocent playfulness to it. Batman needs to stop her from stealing a necklace, but nothing serious is at stake and no one is in any danger. The saturated pinks and blues make everything feel warm and fun in contrast with the colder realism of the modern scenes. They’re even wearing the Adam West and Julie Newmar costumes from the 1966 Batman TV show.
Clothing as a way to convey deeper meaning is actually somewhat of a reoccurring motif this issue, Selina’s costumes especially. There’s a really funny set of interactions where two people comment that they’re fans of Catwoman and have her poster on their wall. When asked “which one”, one embarrassingly answers the one “with the, uh, moon… and the… uh… purple costume” (referring to the highly sexualized 90s outfit designed by Jim Balent), while the young woman says that she has the one with the black suit and goggles (referring to the Darwyn Cooke design from the 2000s.) It shows how much what Catwoman as a symbol can vary from person to person, and what she looks like plays a major role in that. Eventually Selina gets a brand new costume which is simpler and far less ostentatious than her previous outfits. It’s a great look that emphasizes how much she’s grown and matured as a character.
The person who makes that new suit is a woman named Rowena who runs a super-hero themed clothing store. She and her tech-wiz son, Winston, are two of the people Selina recruits to help her with her mission. The fact that superheroes in this world seem to be almost entirely outlawed, yet their images and symbols have become commodities is an excellent example of recuperation at play. In a society where radical ideas which threaten the status quo become popular, that society will co-opt those ideas and defuse them into a more acceptable form. There is clearly an organic desire for a return to the world that was lost, but that desire is being actively repressed.
Clothing becomes a more explicit act of rebellion as well. Cat masks (modeled after the Shreck logo from Batman Returns) become the symbol of resistance for a city who sees Catwoman as the only person willing to stand up to the Dent administration. Harvey Dent himself plays a much larger role this issue as we see the inner workings of his campaign for mayor. While he may not go by “Two-Face” anymore, he is truly living up to the name. In public he presents a cheerful, professional persona that smiles and waves through any sort of setback. In private however, he regularly lashes out in rage and takes any challenge as a personal attack. He’s more than happy to toss out any ideals he pretends to uphold if it means it will get him what he wants. He’s duplicitous and more than willing to toss his allies under the bus to get ahead.
In the final panel of the issue, he smashes his old coin out of its glass case. His “good” half’s hand defiantly and proudly holds it up, now covered in bloody wounds. The visual messaging could not be more ominous and clear. Two-Face is back, and isn’t afraid to crush anyone who stands in his way.
- The found family trope is one that you really enjoy in stories
- You appreciate a comic that can connect the symbolic importance of imagery and the characters which it represents
- You like it when villains are put in situations where they’re the ones fighting for good
Catwoman: Lonely City #2 is the part of every heist movie where they have to assemble a team, but also so much more. Catwoman’s long and complex relationship with all of these people and the city as a whole allows the story to use each character as a way to examine some aspect of her identity. It’s a funnier story than the first issue, but that in no way takes away from the heartfelt character moments that make everything feel so meaningful. The importance of costumes and what they can mean is a new theme introduced this issue, and it’s one that helps really understand the impact a character like Catwoman can have.
DC Provided Batman News with a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.