DC Comic’s Batman/Catwoman is a quieter look at the superhero genre. It doesn’t concern itself with moral blacks and whites. This is a series that is written entirely in greys. But it also wants to look at the “blacks and whites” of this genre and see how they hold up in a messy world that colors outside the lines. Writer Tom King, artist Clay Mann, colorist Tomeu Morey, and letterer Clayton Cowles use Batman/Catwoman #6 to discuss Selina Kyle’s complicated journey through life.
When we first see Selina, she’s hanging out with Joker like he’s an old friend. King always brings us back to this relationship. At first, it seemed like Selina and Joker got each other. They were on each other’s level and they didn’t have to pretend around one another. But King juxtaposes this Selina with the older Selina from the future. Old Selina is impulsive, proud, and incredibly sure of herself. Some wrinkles and a little bit of grey hair won’t stop her from jumping right back into her old Catwoman outfit, jumping around on rooftops like she’s not a day over 25.
But when we really focus in on the younger Selina, she’s not this bold. Her lines may read as a casual exchange with her friend, or they’re part of a nervous dance. She doesn’t know what the Joker will find funny or infuriating. And how is he planning on getting under her skin this time? At one point, when they decide to decorate a Christmas tree together, she gets out her box of ornaments. Before Joker can say anything, Selina takes the lead: “Jesus &#$%@. These are all cats. I’m a cliché of myself.” It feels like she’s beating Joker to the punchline. She isn’t confident in front of him. In fact, she’s a ball of insecurities. But if she can criticize herself before he has the chance, this cool, calm, and collected charade can go on.
More than ever, in this series, the past and the future are interacting. Mann, on several occasions, will show a page set in the past, with one panel at the beginning that is set in the future, or vice versa. These timelines are inextricably related, and Mann wants to remind us of that. They exist because of each other.
But there’s an even more subtle moment of Mann’s art that really shines in this issue. When Helena is questioning Selina at the dinner table about the murder of the Joker, a mouse appears in the page gutters. It sticks its head into the first panel, hovering over Selina. As readers, we subconsciously make the connection that Selina must be the mouse. But then it scurries over to Helena’s side of the page, just as the dynamic of the scene is being flipped on Helena. And then we see the paws of a cat, running from Selina’s half of the page over to the mouse. Mann is telling us that this mother and daughter are playing a game of cat and mouse. But while Helena may think she holds all the cards, her mother can turn things on her in mere seconds.
There is a ton of color in this issue. Morey emphasizes the sheer joy of certain scenes, and the foreboding danger of others. In a brilliant splash page of Helena and Selina fighting crime — with great new characters like Dragoon, Four-Face, and Polymath — Morey gives us brilliant purples, yellows and greens. Not only does it look like something out of an old pulpy comic and make the scene fun, it covers the page in the colors of Catwoman. She’s literally wearing her old purple and green costume as she kicks butt, blending in to the lightning bolts of green and purple all over the page. The colors make it clear that this is Selina in her element.
Cowles does a great job of creating dynamics in a room. When Commissioner Dick Grayson speaks to the older Selina, the tail for his word balloon is long. When she responds, it’s with a word balloon that’s right next to her face, so the tail is short. These small visual elements make it feel like Dick chooses his words with Selina. He respects her, he pauses and thinks before speaking. But Selina is the queen of this crimefighting world and she always knows what to say before anyone else is even done talking. She’s quick, confident, and to the point.
DC Comics’ Batman/Catwoman series is showing us the complicated nature of Selina Kyle. She’s a hero, she’s a villain, she’s lonely, she’s surrounded by those who love her. But above all, she’s an interesting, three dimensional, human character. This creative team is masterfully turning this woman of many contradictions into the star of the show. Pick up Batman/Catwoman #6, out from DC Comics August 17th, at a comic shop near you!