Batman is dead. The Joker is dead. But the war between them rages on.
Written by Tom King
Pencils and Inks by Clay Mann
Colors by Tomeu Morey
I’m really not a fan of a story that hops back and forth between eras the way that this BLACK LABEL story from Tom King does. It’s especially difficult here because Batman/Catwoman is bouncing between past, present and future, and it seems to make very little artistic differentiation between past and present. So the story about how the Joker caused pain to Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend and the woman’s later attempts at revenge on the Joker as the Phantasm tend to get a little muddled here.
At the very least, the future scenes, with a dead BRUCE WAYNE and an older Selina Kyle – and now an adult Helena Wayne – are easier to distinguish. And really, the future segments of this story are really the more interesting parts. Bruce is dead, Selina went to see the Joker in his retirement community in Florida to murder him and now, Bruce and Selina’s daughter – who’s taken on the mantle of Batwoman – is joining in the investigation being headed by Gotham City Police Commissioner Dick Grayson(!) to find out what happened.
I am so much more invested in this part of the story than the horrible things Joker did in the past, with or without Selina’s help, or the revenge sought by the Phantasm. The only real point to that plot here seems to be allowing Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey to draw Selina having sex with Bruce Wayne or sleeping and then fighting in skimpy outfits.
Yes, just like that.
Tom King did a wonderful job of exploring the relationship between Bruce and Selina during his run on BATMAN. Unfortunately, when he had Selina leave Bruce at the altar, he completely destroyed any momentum that story had. This maxiseries seems to be creating an argument that Selina isn’t really all that good for Bruce, which really goes back on all the groundwork King laid over 85 issues and hits with a jackhammer.
I may be alone in this, but it feels like somewhere along the way, King lost the plot of what he was trying to do with the couple. Maybe DC isn’t comfortable with Batman being married in the same way it’s adapted to Clark Kent and Lois Lane being married. I suppose it’s an understandable hesitance, but don’t give a writer the kind of leeway to write a story that puts people on the side of the marriage if you don’t want Bruce to be married.
Also, I’m very much over the Joker stories and would be OK with the character going away for a while. I know that’s not going to happen any time soon, as he continues to move the needle for most people, but we’re at the point of diminishing returns with his appearances.
I’m sticking around with the book for more of the future scenes (all of which are still much better than what FUTURE STATE is offering up to Gotham), but the rest of the story isn’t grabbing me at all.