To say that Tom King's Batman/Catwoman has been eagerly anticipated is something of an understatement. Since King's run on the Batman title ended, cutting short what had been built up as a momentous 100-issue run as well as offered a more concrete "ending" for Bruce and Selina's love story as it were, readers have been eager to see where the story would go next for the lovers. That anticipation only grew as more details emerged, including the introduction of Andrea Beaumont to the story. Now, it is finally here and while Batman/Catwoman #1 isn't a perfect issue, it certainly delivers on the hype.
Batman/Catwoman tells a story split between two timelines, the "present" day and the future. The future is one readers have already glimpsed in King's story from Catwoman 80th Anniversary Special in which Bruce has died, leaving behind Selina and an adult Helena. This new issue picks up that thread by having Selina travel to visit an old friend and inform them of Bruce's passing. In the present, Bruce receives a visit from the believed-dead Andrea Beaumont, his first love, who is looking for Batman's help finding her missing son.
Immediately notable about Batman/Catwoman is that this story, at least in its opening chapter, is all about the women. Selina is visiting her "old friend" just as much to find some sort of resolution for Andrea years into the future while Andrea's immediate concern resolves in the present and sets her onto a dark path. What is striking about this and what works so well is that the story sets things up to make Selina and Andrea allies in a sense. All too frequently stories that feature two women who share a romantic interest immediately sets the two women as rivals. King instead has Selina support Andrea; she searches for Andrea's son in the present and, in the future, is seeking justice.
What also works here is that this first issue is Catwoman's story. Through King's narration—done in his typically sparse style, a refreshing change from the text-heavy work of James Tynion IV on Batman—it's clear that despite choosing to be with Bruce and modifying her approach to vigilantism as a result Selina has remained utterly herself. The final pages reveal a woman who has remained true to herself and fully intends on doing exactly what needs to be done—killing the person who devastated Andrea's life. There's a twist here that won't surprise anyone as King doesn't exactly do suspense well (though the unexpected red herring of the Sewer King is a nice touch). Seeing Selina so herself even after Batman is absolutely thrilling.
However, while King crafts a pleasurable and well-written story, Clay Mann's art paired with Tomeu Morey's color is an absolute chef's kiss of perfection in Batman/Catwoman #1, with each page communicating far more than words ever could. A particular beauty in this issue is the treatment of Andrea who goes from warm and loving to seeming dead behind her eyes over the course of the story with Mann and Morey delivering the impact that trauma, heartbreak, and loss can have on a person in a single image. It's all in her eyes, an astounding feat for a piece of art as it conveys a full spectrum of human emotions.
All of this praise, however, doesn't come without some complaints. Revealing so early that Selina is seeking justice for Andrea seems an odd choice as readers don't have any indication of a real bond between the women besides a shared love for Bruce. While this feels like something the rest of the series will bear out, it is a bit of a headscratcher in the first issue. There's also a casual mention of Helena Wayne's sexual orientation which while framed as being part of normal conversation also seems inauthentic. There are also some revelations about the Joker that seem curious, making this future version of some of DC's most iconic characters seem too pleasant or too sanitized. It's all lovely, but it feels very plastic.
It's that artificial feel of things that brings the entirety of Batman/Catwoman #1 down a bit. Certainly, Catwoman fans will be thrilled. Andrea Beaumont fans (myself included) will love seeing her portrayed with such humanity. Fans of King's Batman run will be especially happy to read this familiar tone and dynamic again. Batman/Catwoman #1 is a good issue. It'll just be interesting to see at what point the weaknesses here collide with King's standard storytelling tropes and shift things, for better or for worse.
Published by DC Comics
On December 1, 2020
Written by Tom King
Art by Clay Mann
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Clay Mann