Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
In the ‘90s Batman the Animated series was must watch television for comic fans. With its dark and gritty animation style as well as its somber protagonist Batman the Animated Series was the exclamation point on the end of the campy Batman era introduced in the ‘60s Batman television show. I watched the show religiously and thought it was not only a great depiction of Batman but one of the best cartoons I had seen in some time. Even non-comic readers were enthralled with the show and for many people it was the Batman of note during their formative years. DC of course capitalized on it and released a surprisingly good Batman: the Animated Series comic book that was drawn in the style of the show yet established its own continuity and told some really good stories. Yet there wasn’t a lot of integration of the animated Batman series into the DC proper books (not that it was necessary as it was such a faithful adaptation of the source content). That is until now, twenty-seven year later with Tom King and Clay Mann’s Batman & Catwoman #1.
When the DC Rebirth began in 2016 Tom King was tapped to take over Batman, the marquee comic of DC’s Dark Knight. From very early on in his run King established himself as a premiere architect of Batman’s adventures and openly stated that he had a 100-issue arc planned out. I, along with many readers were excited at the notion especially as King’s run got deeper and more intricate. He made it issue 85 before DC pulled the plug. The exact reasoning for the change has never been publicly revealed but King is a DC loyalist quickly crafted the narrative that his final story line would be in a set alone title. Months and months passed with little information or release plans but finally the day is here as Batman & Catwoman #1 finally hit the stands and without a doubt it was worth the wait, if you’re a Tom King fan that is.
Tom King’s non-linear storytelling is on full display in Batman & Catwoman #1 as it is distinctly set in three different eras. One is the future where an aged Selina Kyle, now Bruce Wayne’s widow, travels south to visit an old friend. The vagueness of who the ‘friend’ Selina is visiting is intended as they speak like people who have known each other a long time but might not have always liked one another but feel a bond of obligation. There’s another era where the Joker and Selina as Catwoman are working with one another and their relationship may be a bit more than professional. It’s hard to tell, in Tom King fashion, as to when this story element takes place as there is some ambiguity of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship throughout their lifetime in this book. Yet the main story for Batman & Catwoman #1 is firmly in the wake of Tom King’s final Batman story arc, City of Bane. Alfred is dead, Selina and Bruce are once again romantically intwined and Gotham is as dark and seedy as it ever was. Enter Andrea Beaumont, former fiancé of Bruce Wayne, one-time violent vigilante known as the Phantasm, and a principal antagonist of the Joker. If that last sentence doesn’t ring a bell with you then you’ve never watched Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the 1993 classic animated film set firmly in the Batman the Animated Series universe. King’s hinted for months that the Phantasm, a violent vigilante who killed several mob bosses who threatened her family, would be making their DC comics debut and he did not lie. Andrea hasn’t been seen for years by the time of this issue takes place. In the cartoon continuity Bruce and Andrea first met when Bruce was young and had not yet taken on the mantle of Batman. They were engaged for a short time before Andrea disappeared with her father after the mob put a hit out on them, a hit that would be executed by the man who would one day become the Joker. In Batman & Catwoman #1 Andrea has returned to Gotham as she is searching for her son who has run away from home. Never one to let a child be in danger nor be sucked into the dark underbelly of Gotham Batman and Catwoman begin tracking the young Beaumont, taking them through the darker nether regions of Gotham and brings them face to face with true evil, evil that will no doubt set in motion the events that will occupy this twelve-issue series. How these three eras will join together should be an interesting comic narrative and at this point in time I trust Tom King to stick the landing.
Fore the better part of 85 issues of Batman Tom King and his plethora of amazing artists told an amazing array of stories, but one common element from the beginning was the rekindling of the romance between Batman and Catwoman. In the pre-Crisis DC universe, the Earth 2 Batman and Catwoman were married and their daughter Helena went on to become the Huntress. Yet that all ended with Crisis on Multiple Earths and since that ‘80s masterpiece the relationship between the hero and thief has run hot and cold. I loved the Bat-Cat dynamic and found their relationship to be one of the more authentic relationships in comics. So, I was sad to see King’s 100 issue run be aborted by DC but am happy to see King and rising star Clay Mann on Batman & Catwoman. As to where this story goes? It’s a Black Label mini-series so it will hopefully be a little darker, maybe a little sexier, yet easy enough for DC to say it’s outside of continuity. All I can say is that I enjoyed Batman & Catwoman #1, I found the story engaging, the art was incredible, and I loved the nostalgic inclusion of elements of Batman the Animated Series and in my opinion this book is a Buy.