Finally, I can see light at the end of the tunnel as this event begins to draw to a close. It is no exaggeration to say that this is my least favorite Bat event of all time and I’m ready for it to wrap up. Last month I said Catwoman #57 was slightly better than the other installments but even when it was doing some things better than Batman it often brought new problems up. So, what will this month bring and will it begin pointing us toward a resolution to this “war”? Let’s take a look.
I’ve seen comments from people online who don’t like this event claiming the poor quality is due to DC editorial. I’ve also seen people say things like “Zdarsky is a great writer, so this must be Tini Howard’s fault.” This Catwoman issue disproves both these ideas and I feel a need to address these opinions because understanding who contributed what is, in my opinion, necessary to understand why the end product isn’t working. Additionally, I think people saying this are simply fall into the trap of blaming everyone else to spare their favorite. Now, before I get into it, let me quickly say none of this is meant to be a personal attack. I’m only talking about the quality of work produced.
Zdarsky, Howard and editorial are all culpable for producing a bad comic to some extent so blaming one person will never be fully accurate. That said, I think we can easily see that the plot and execution of this comic have not been interfered with by editorial. The strongest evidence that I have to point to is the apparent lack of editorial oversight throughout this event. This issue of Catwoman has completely taken a left turn from the previous Batman issue. Catwoman #57 felt rather disconnected as well but didn’t seem to outright contradict the previous issues. Rather, it felt like an unnecessary tie-in written by someone who was given a run-down of the plot points in Batman but hadn’t actually read it. This may be the reality since they were released two weeks apart. Batman #137 may not have been written before Howard had to start writing her issue. That’s pure speculation on my part but returning to the point, this latest issue doesn’t even bother to line up with what Zdarsky has been doing in his title. Batman himself acts completely different in this issue. Where Zdarsky writes him as a rage monster who has a tenuous grasp on reality, Howard gives him multiple moments of vulnerability with Selina and allows them to talk like adults instead of beating on each other. Granted, they’re still argumentative but by comparison, Batman and Catwoman are much closer to being properly portrayed in this title. Batman even shows compassion for Jason here and decides all three of them should work together. This truly is a different character than the one in Batman.
That leads me to the plot shift. Somehow Batman and Catwoman go from bitter enemies (with Batman burning every bridge with everyone he knows) to begrudging allies, who still love each other and want what is best for each other, between issues. We don’t see a shift happen. They just start this issue acting differently than they were two weeks ago and that means the plot has taken a turn as well. Of course, Vandal Savage was revealed as an antagonist in the previous chapter but by the end of this issue Batman and Catwoman are no longer fighting and their full attention is being redirected to Savage. This doesn’t make sense. The things Batman has done in his title can’t just be swept under the rug, nor can the things Selina has done, but here we are. So, if editorial was meddling with this event, wouldn’t they at least make sure the story they wanted to tell was being told? I posit that Howard and Zdarsky are in full control of this narrative and are not working together closely enough for their parts to mesh. That is part of the reason I take issue with people blaming Howard for this event’s quality. If she doesn’t have a say over what Zdarsky does, she can’t be the one behind some of the worst moments in this arc. Additionally, I’d say the characterization of Batman and Catwoman is probably the most criticized aspect of this story, and multiple times now Howard has produced work that is significantly more in line with the accepted characterization than Zdarsky has. Anyway, it’s historically true that whoever is writing Batman influences what other titles are doing and not the other way around. So, again I’m not trying to say anything negative about these creators as people but as far as the work being produced goes, I have to take this into account when considering this issue of Catwoman. My reasoning leads me to believe that many of my least favorite things about Gotham War are Zdarsky’s plot points. That doesn’t absolve Howard’s writing of it’s own flaws and whatever negatives she did contribute to the overall narrative but her seeming lack of adherence to some of these ideas makes this issue an easier read.
As I just hinted, besides all the problems that both sides of this event share or the disconnect between them, this issue has its own flaws. Vandal Savage is using major villains as henchmen to kill Batman and get what he wants (eternal-life-giving relics). This section of the book gives me plenty to talk about on its own. First off, I really dislike it when villains gather other major villains and use them as henchmen to make themself look more powerful. It diminishes the other villains and always feels kind of forced or contrived. Hush is another good example of this but at least he manipulated the other villains in various ways. Savage just offers them weapons he got from the Batcave (it’s Joker War all over again) and tells them “There are rewards for those willing to ride out and raise hell in Gotham’s streets.” That’s it. Several of the villains he has recruited, like Scarecrow, are not hand-to-hand fighters. I don’t care how big a weapon you give him, taking orders from an immortal caveman to go out on the streets and wreak havoc is not something he’d be interested in.
No, this panel doesn’t explain it away either. He likes creating fear but that doesn’t mean he’d do anything to create it. I mean, I like candy, but I don’t like every type of candy. To me this interpretation of Scarecrow is purposely as basic as possible in order to justify his presence.
The art during this scene is also fairly weak. The backgrounds are all blank gradients which gives little information about where they are and Vandal Savage just walks back and forth doing over the top bad guy poses that start to come off as unintentionally funny after a while.
There are also some very suspect backgrounds in this issue. Take a look at this panel.
Some of these backgrounds look traced and some, like this one, almost look like they’re just overlaid photography. Not only does it clash with the relative simplicity of the character’s linework but I have a whole host of problems with tracing that I’m not going to get into right now given how long this review already is.
One last thing before I go: In this issue, Catwoman (technically it’s Lady Clayface but it’s pretty clear she is supposed to be a reliable stand-in for Catwoman’s beliefs at this moment) says she didn’t teach her people to steal just for Savage to use them. She did it to “teach them to be self-sufficient.”
Well, no. You cannot equate theft to self-sufficiency. The technical denotation of the term is “providing for yourself without help” but for me, the connotation is not “by any means necessary” but rather, “sustainably.” Survival by theft is anything but sustainable.
- You’ve made it this far
- I really don’t
The art in this issue is frequently solid but between the lack of many backgrounds and the highly suspect nature of others, I don’t think I can really list that as a selling point. The writing of this title remains slightly better than Batman but still isn’t doing anything to redeem this event. The Gotham War has been a huge miss and I for one am more than ready to leave it in the past when it wraps up this month. Hopefully, we’ll be on to better things then.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.