The Bat, the Cat and King are Back

The Joke is on us, again…

Writer Tom King resumes his telling of maybe the most drawn-out love story of the modern comic book era.

Batman/Catwoman 1
Written by Tom King
Pencils and Inks by Clay Mann
Colors by Tomeu Morey

After ending a wildly uneven run on Batman last year, there was something that Tom King left unresolved over the course of 85 issues of the Dark Knight’s battle of wills with Bane. We (briefly) left King’s version of Batman not knowing what happened between Batman and Catwoman.

After their courtship and then Catwoman leaving Batman at his ROOFTOP ALTAR and running off to become the head of a crime family in another city, Selina Kyle came back to Gotham to assist in the Caped Crusader’s war with the man who had taken over the city. But their relationship status was left unresolved. And with the ending of James Tynion IV’s JOKER WAR, things are even more muddied between the two.

Enter the latest entry into DC Comics’ BLACK LABEL series, Batman/Catwoman, a limited series that will explore their relationship deeper than the original run did. And of course, the Joker plays a major part.

I read this issue three or four times over the last day or so. With each new turn through the pages, I was hoping to dig deeper into the story and find something that stood out to me beyond the norm. Yes, the writing was good. Yes, Clay Mann’s art was fantastic. Unfortunately, the story left me a little lacking.

The story is interspersed between the past, present and future, from the beginnings of their relationship right through to the end, after Bruce Wayne dies of cancer. In each era, the Clown Prince of Crime looms large over the couple. In the past, he tries to get Catwoman to tell him who Batman is. In the present, he apparently kidnaps the son of Andrea Beaumont. Not only is Beaumont one of Bruce Wayne’s first loves, but she’s also a super-criminal known as the Phantasm, originating in the 1993 animated film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. And in the future, well…

The issue begins in the future, with Selina Kyle visiting and catching up with an old friend to inform him of Bruce’s death. They show off pictures and stories of their kids and their grandkids and reflect on the lives they led and the tragedy of Bruce’s passing. And then there’s the big reveal. The old friend Selina is visiting is, in fact, the Joker, wearing a wig and false teeth. And Selina is there to kill him for what he did to Andrea’s son.

It took a minute to sink in. The Joker managed to start a family. He had two kids. He has grandkids, and he calls them all on their birthdays to sing to them.

I don’t even know where to begin with that information.

Despite what I thought were missteps with his WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES during the Batman run and the debacle that was HEROES IN CRISIS, I think Tom King has earned some goodwill with his storytelling. I’m intrigued enough to see where the story is going, but I really wish the first issue did more to grab me than a now-standard practice of splitting the story into multiple time frames.

At the very least, KITE MAN hasn’t shown up yet.