Well, after the last exhausting DC event, we’re jumping straight into the next. Zdarsky and Howard are teaming up to bring us Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War: Battle Lines #1, which is the first part of the “Gotham War” story arc. Luckily, I’m not in this alone, as I’m joined by William (his text will be in blue font). Let’s have a look!
As the new reviewer for Catwoman, I’m teaming up with Casper for this review. Let’s not be evasive, I was not pleased with this issue.
My immediate instinct is to talk about the art. As a Batman event comic, this series should be a showcase of the best of the best DC has to offer (in terms of writing as well as art). This is a series that has the potential to be the highest selling release of the year for this company and as an artist myself, it bothers me to see them use art that isn’t up to the standard that a comic like this deserves. There is a lack of polish and consistency here, especially in the character’s faces, that takes me out of the story.
If you look at the panel above, you can see some of what I’m talking about. The most glaring errors are in the perspective. Selina’s right eye is closer to the viewer than the left and, thus, should be bigger than the other. Unfortunately, in this panel we can see the opposite. Additionally, the back of her head seems to extend out at a different angle than the direction her face suggests it should. One or two panels that feel off like this might be expected on a monthly comic, but it’s a noticeable problem throughout the book and shows a general lack of finesse that negatively impacts the reading experience. It’s not all bad, though. I do enjoy how Hawthorne tends to draw Catwoman to look more physically fit, than we usually see. As a powerless “super-character” it makes sense to me that she would look like this if she wants to pull off the kind of acrobatics she is known for.
Those are good observations, Will. Having reviewed Hawthorne’s work before, I’m not surprised to see some of the same issues come up here. In addition to your example, there’s the problem of characters’ faces morphing from panel to panel. In one panel someone’s eyes are bigger, in the next their nose is shaped a little differently, etcetera. In short, the character proportions are lacking in consistency and it’s throwing me off.
Moreover, I’m not a fan of Hawthorne’s backgrounds, either. Often they are rather bland, with not a whole lot of interesting details to look at, and other times they are almost nonexistent. As a result, the colorists don’t have a lot to work with, which makes the colors look flat to me. For example, we see a panel where two guys are breaking into a museum, but the blue coloring for the floor works against the sense of depth that’s supposed to be in this panel. It almost makes it look like the floor is standing up, like a wall.
I completely agree, but it’s not only the art that makes this comic a frustrating experience. On the writing front I think my biggest question is, Who is this for? Personally, I haven’t been up to date on Catwoman since Ram V left the book and as a result there are multiple characters I am entirely unfamiliar with and a status quo that seems equally foreign. I don’t subscribe to the idea that every comic needs to be readable as someone’s first but this isn’t any old comic. It’s a crossover event. It’s clear that both Batman and Catwoman have been building up to this separately and that’s an issue. It is in no way a guarantee that Batman and Catwoman have the same readership. In fact, what I can guarantee is that a large number of Batman readers do not read Catwoman. That’s just a fact, as Batman sells more copies. So I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to be familiar with everything that has been going on in these series. It can’t really be made for the readers of these books if Zdarsky and Howard are going to treat this as the next issue of their solo series.
Exactly. But it’s not just those aspects that make me question who this book is for. It’s also simply the way in which both Batman and Catwoman are written. Neither character is particularly likable here. Batman is being a jerk to pretty much everyone (a wholesome scene with Tim notwithstanding) and it’s very off-putting to me. Sometimes a writer can get away with writing a “lovable bastard” type of character, but Batman reads, once again, like a spoiled brat as he comes off as childish and unreasonable. Moreover, the way in which he insists on warring against all crime in this issue makes him a hypocrite, and it’s a rather one-dimensional motivation. Batman breaks the law plenty of times as a masked vigilante; but Zdarsky and Howard write him as being hellbent on eradicating all crime, from the pettiest to the worst of the worst. This version of Batman lumps it all into the same rigid category: crime is crime, end of discussion. It makes for a boring reading experience. I’d rather see Batman focusing on saving lives.
I agree, Casper, this story feels like a misdiagnosis of Batman’s mindset and character. Catwoman also doesn’t seem to have any self-awareness in this story. Why would she assume Batman would be okay with her stealing from people, regardless of who they are, because she asked nicely? Maybe Batman shouldn’t be so concerned with stopping all crime at all costs but if she comes to him and advertises what she’s doing, what does she think will happen? That’s like begging someone to come and stop her. It doesn’t help that her justification is so difficult to believe. How could training a few people to steal from the rich and give to the poor bring Gotham City’s violent crime rate down by 75%? I doubt such a move would bring the rate down at all, much less such a ludicrous figure. (Bruce was also asleep for 8 weeks after Knight Terrors; there seems to be a trend with these outlandish numbers).
That brings us to a core problem with the premise of this story. Take it away, Casper.
It’s basically like this: Selina wants to justify stealing from the rich and she wants the Bats to leave her and her burglars-in-training alone. Several members of the Bat Family are present, for reasons, and say random things that don’t add a lot in terms of characterization or entertainment, for reasons. Then Batman just gets mean about it, and somehow this leads to a war or something. I’m sorry, but this is just a really weak plot idea, and it’s hard for me to buy into the conflict between Batman and Catwoman. With a premise this silly, it’s hard to justify having an entire event come out of it. In other words, it’s just a whole lot of nothing.
Before we wrap up I’d like to add that this story could have been much more enjoyable if only everything wasn’t taken so seriously. There is no room for a joke here and when even the most outrageous, laughable plot points are solemn matters, any potential attempts at humor read as sincerity.
I agree, Will. This book is not very funny, and when it somehow is, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
- The Joe Quesada variant cover is pretty cool.
- I mean, the Joe Quesada variant cover is cool.
Overall: This opening doesn’t spell good things for this event going forward. For now I’ll hold out hope that as the plot develops something more interesting goes down but as of right now I can’t recommend this event.
I’m with you, Will. Batman is an unlikable protagonist; the premise is paper thin and nonsensical; this book is taking itself way too seriously; and the art is nothing to write home about, either. Look, we all want these books to succeed, but this just isn’t it.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.