From the very beginning of World’s Best Media, one of my missions has been to show people how cool comic books are and why they’re such an incredible way to tell stories (and maybe, just maybe, get some folks to give comics a try). It’s been a little while since I’ve done a deep dive into a comic book series or graphic novel, but a fantastic new series inspired me to take you guys on another journey into weird and wonderful world of comics. Let’s do it!
The book we’re taking a look at, is Batman/Catwoman. One of DC’s flagship Batman books. In my opinion, it’s also one of the best mainstream superhero book being published at either of “The Big Two” right now (otherwise known as DC and Marvel). This is all due to the incredible talent of writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann. These are two of DC’s best creators operating at the top of their game (and it shows).
As a longtime comic book fan, the stories and characters are what draw me in. A book can have the most beautiful art in the world, but it doesn’t mount up to a whole lot without a great story at it’s core. The last thing I want to do is minimize the incredible achievements of the artists working in the comic book industry. Most people don’t understand how important and difficult the work of a comic book artist really is. They’re not just drawing images on a page, they’re performing the characters, they’re directing the story. It’s one thing to draw beautiful images, but to be a great comic book artist, you also have to a great storyteller.
As much as I respect comic book artists, it’s always the writer that will draw me to a particular book. Whenever a writer like Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, or Neil Gaiman has a new comic coming out, it’s a guaranteed that I’m going to check it out regardless of the artist. Hell, some of my favorite writers have built up enough trust and good will, that I don’t even need to know what their latest book is about to give it a read. There are a lot of great comic book artists, but very few that would make me go out and buy a comic solely because they’re working on it.
This is a long winded way of me saying that artist Clay Mann’s work on Batman/Catwoman is nothing short of astonishing. I’ve been following his work for a while on Batman and Heroes In Crisis. However his work has just taken a massive leap forward with Batman/Catwoman. I don’t think I’ve been more impressed with an artists work in a long time. Mann’s work reminds me of Jim Lee or Tony Daniel, with its crisp detailed lines. It’s widely considered that Jim Lee drew the definitive modern Batman during his Hush story line. Jim Lee’s Batman from Hush is pretty much the basis for all modern versions of the character since. Now, Clay Mann has drawn the definitive modern Catwoman with this book and if things keep going the way they are, he may take the title away from Jim Lee for the definitive modern Batman as well.
It’s not just the art that makes this book so phenomenal. Batman: Mask of The Phantasm is arguably one of, if not THE best Batman film ever made. Unlike so many other Batman Films, even the great ones, Bruce Wayne is front and center in this story. Bruce Wayne is the most interesting character in any Batman story and most filmmakers get caught up in his flashy rogues gallery at the expense of exploring Batman himself. When I was a kid The Phantasm scared the shit out of me with its creepy look and unstoppable mission of vengeance. The Phantasm was an original character created by the people who made that film. Batman/Catwoman is a quasi-sequel to Batman: Mask of The Phatasm, making the character and the events of the film canon in DC lore.
This comic is really a continuation of the story that writer Tom King first began in his excellent run on the main Batman series. The question at the heart of the story was: Can Batman be happy? And If the answer if yes, can a happy Batman still be Batman? Can a Bruce Wayne who’s found some measure of peace still be The Dark Knight that Gotham City, and the world, needs? I thought it was a fantastic idea for a Batman story. It has so much potential and in the long history of the character it’s isn’t something that had been explored before. Also, let’s not forget that just because Bruce has found a woman who truly loves and understands him doesn’t mean he’s going start going on Costco runs. Their marriage consists of Selena joining Batman on cases and nightly patrols just like Nightwing or Robin would except after they go home and fuck each other‘s brains out (come to think of it, who’s to say that didn’t happen with Nightwing a few times? After all, Master Dick looks damn good in a lm skin tight leotard!). King explored this idea through Bruce’s growing romance with Selina Kyle. After years of hook ups and on again off again romances, Bruce and Selena finally get serious. They get engaged, and eventually, after some drama including Selena leaving bruise standing at the aisle during their first wedding attempt, things worked out and now they live as husband and wife. Living together in Wayne Manor.
Out of all the incredibly fascinating characters that populates Batman’s world, I was never particularly interested in Catwoman. I love Michelle Pfeiffer as the character in Batman Returns, but other than that, I was fairly ambivalent about Catwoman in general. It wasn’t until Tom King’s Batman run and Batman/Catwoman, that I started to really like her. Batman and Catwoman have had an off and on romance for years, one of their more notable attempts at a real relationship took place in the classic Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee story, “Hush”. Batman and Catwoman getting married may seem like another gimmick like the death or resurrection of a hero, but it makes perfect sense for the characters. So many storytelling possibilities open up. Catwoman is a character who lives in the gray, so what is it like being married to a man who only sees things in black-and-white? The story puts Selena in morally compromising situations in some really imaginative ways
This story is essentially a quasi-sequel to The Mask of Phantasm. Which is really cool because The Phantasm was an original character created for that film, so her inclusion here officially brings her into the main canon of DCU. But this is a Batman story after all, and if Andrea Beaumont has returned to Gotham City, you can be sure that she’s there for blood.
The story takes place simultaneously over three different time periods. The present, the past when Bruce and Selena we’re still more of an occasional romantic tryst than the serious couple and life partners that they’ve become, and decades into the future where Bruce has recently passed away. Leaving behind his beloved wife Selina and their beautiful daughter Helena. With Bruce gone the elderly Selina finally feels free to settle a vicious vendetta with The Joker. Specially for something that occurred years before with Andrea Beaumont, during the case involving The Phantasm that Batman and Catwoman are taking on in the present. Complicating matters in the future is Helena Wayne, who’s continuing the family business as Batwoman. She also seems to have inherited her father’s naive sense of absolute justice. Bringing the story full circle showing Selina keeping secrets about her morally questionable choices from the two most people in her life, Bruce in the past and her daughter Helena in the future.
Which brings me back to Clay Mann’s beautiful artwork. I love his design for Helena Wayne, the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, the Batwoman of the future. Both in and out of costume, Helena is of course her mother and father‘s daughter. A Gorgeous, stunning young woman while having dinner with her mother in Wayne Manor and looking all kinds of cool and bad ass in her new Batwoman suit. Which looks like a combination of the Batman Beyond suit and the modern version of Catwoman’s costume Mann has designed for this series.
This series is a great jumping on point for new readers because you only need to have seen the movie Batman: Mask of The Phantasm. If you’re looking for a fantastic superhero story with fantastic art, writing, and characters, then you can’t go wrong with Batman/Catwoman.
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