Catwoman: Lonely City has been one of the comic highlights of the year for me. Most comics, even when they’re fun to read, rarely go beyond the superficial. There is a straightforward conflict, and then you get to read about the characters overcoming that conflict. This series, however, feels much more meaningful. It has a coherent theme, and uses its story and characters in service of that theme. There are layers which make it enjoyable to reread because you see aspects of the story you didn’t catch the first time around. It’s made reviewing the series that much more enjoyable. I’m sad that it’s ending, but I’m happy I had the chance to read it.
The final issue gives us one last heist as Selina, Ivy, and Etrigan make their way into the Batcave. The way Cliff Chiang writes the heists in Catwoman: Lonely City are always a highlight, with everyone having a role to play and with enough moving parts that it never gets dull. This time is no exception. It’s more methodical than the previous capers, with each layer of the cave’s defenses offering a new challenge that forces them to work together. The slow pace creates an apprehension about whether the plan is even a good idea. Like a slow march towards inevitability, there’s a sense of dread as they get closer to the secret Selina has been looking for all these years.
Chang’s art helps sell the dreary atmosphere with its cool color palette and effective use of space. The characters are dwarfed by everything about the cave’s entrance making their environment feel oppressive. All the walls and machinery around them are some shade between blue and grey, making the despondency suffocating.
One thing that helps keep things a bit lighter is Etrigan. His indignity at being forced to help these people he doesn’t like do something he finds pointless is a nice bit of comic relief. It helps fill the void left by Croc, even if they have such opposite personalities. Croc never felt better than when he was helping Selina because he finally felt like he had a purpose again, whereas Etrigan finds the entire thing demeaning.
My main problem with Etrigan is a lack of proper buildup. Just as how in the last issue I felt that Jason Blood’s introduction came out of nowhere, here his big exit is very sudden to the point of being jarring. Klarion’s appearance is given almost no context, and their fight holds little weight given that we don’t really know either of these characters in the context of this comic.
The cave itself feels more like a tomb than anything else. Prominently displayed right at the entrance are the memorialized Batman and Robin suits. This is where the story really starts to hammer in the idea of what it is this entire quest has been: a way to desperately hold onto the past. Etrigan even comments that the cave reminds him of Hell due to all the despair, to which Selina responds that the “despair” is really just memories, as she longingly looks at her old Catwoman mask from when she and Bruce were at their happiest.
***SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT. SKIP TO THE END IF YOU JUST WANT THE OVERALL SUMMARY.***
The flashback sequences of the issue reveal that Bruce died because the Joker blew himself up after tricking him into thinking that there was a way to save Commissioner Gordon. It’s Bruce’s refusal to ever see anything through a lens other than the fight he’d been fighting for years that led to his demise. Joker even points out that Bruce is the only one “playing by the rules that no one else is following” and that he’s gotten tired of it. It’s because of that singlemindedness that Bruce couldn’t prevent the tragedy of that night from happening, and it’s what led him to creating Orpheus.
Despite placing all her hopes on a vague promise, “Orpheus” was not some plan that would solve Selina’s problems, but merely a way for Bruce to try and keep fighting crime for a little while longer. It’s a mixture between the Lazarus Pit solution and Bane’s venom that Bruce wanted to be dipped in so that he could live for a few more days. His final words to Selina was not for her sake, but the mission’s. That was always where his thoughts were. Deep down Selina knew this, but had kept herself in denial. Everything lost up until this point had been for something that wasn’t even real, just the ghost of nostalgia.
Selina’s major turning point for the whole series comes when she decides to blow up the Orpheus pit. At this point both Ivy and Croc are dead, Selina’s pushed the rest of her friends away, Dent is just about to burst into the cave with a squad of police officers, and she’s almost about to die. To say she’s at her lowest point would be an understatement. The Orpheus pit is seemingly her only chance to survive. Despite all this she decides to blow it all up, and with it her goal of fulfilling what she has set out to do 20 years ago. She abandons her desire to cling to the past and lets go of everything that was holding her there.
Not the least of the metaphorical hooks holding her back is Bruce himself. For Selina, he could never be his source of happiness. He was always going to see her second to his mission, and she needed to accept that to begin the process of healing emotionally. Some people may not like how this story frames Batman in a negative light, but I applaud the fact that it doesn’t shy away from presenting characters’ relationships to Bruce as being toxic, at least in the context of this world. In my review for the first issue I talked about how Chang uses the reader’s expectations for the way a Batman story “should” be to create a sense of nostalgia and aversion to the “wrong” Gotham that’s being presented. Well now Selina sees that same feeling of nostalgia and realizes that it’s unhealthy in an excellent moment of character growth.
As though the universe itself saw that Selina was willing to move on and stop pushing away anything or anyone that tried to bring her towards happiness, Eddie and Edie show up to save her. Having them come in and be the ones to rescue her is important, given that they have been set up as her surrogate family. It shows how she accepts that she is not by herself anymore, but has others who depend on her and whom she can depend on. This follows through to the epilogue, where we see Selina teaching Edie to follow in her footsteps, with the help of all their friends and family. Selina even comments on how beautiful the changing Gotham looks to her now.
If I had one main complaint with this finale, it would be that since it focused so much on Selina’s personal story, the subplot of Dent’s efforts to take over the city and fight against Barbara felt rushed. Most of the series’ problems come from me simply wanting more of it and feeling like there wasn’t enough time. In this case, because the final issue couldn’t spend any time on Dent and/or Barbara before needing to have him launch his attack on the cave, Harvey ends up feeling less like a character and more just an antagonistic force to beat. Before now, I’ve really enjoyed watching his inner conflict between his two sides reflected in the city’s own identity crisis, and how Barbara wanted to fix things her way. Here, instead, Dent is only someone to fight, and we don’t see Babs until the end when she wins election. Also as a slight nitpick, Two-Face’s coin is not supposed to have a “tails” side; it’s double headed with one side scarred.
- You want a satisfying conclusion to a story that focuses on character growth and reflection
- Batman comics’ obsession with complacency is something you’d like to see challenged
- You’ve enjoyed the series so far and want to see how it ends, and why wouldn’t you?
Catwoman: Lonely City #4 is a great ending to a great series. It ties together the core themes of the story in such a way that elevates everything up until now. While some of the plot lines may not have had as much time to breathe as they might have deserved, the series finishes as a wonderful character-driven story with rich dynamics and a complex look at our relationship to their world. If you’ve been waiting for the series to finish to check it out, it’s time to read one of the best comics all year.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.