Review: BATMAN/CATWOMAN #10
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman/Catwoman #10: Don’t mess with Catwoman! As our three storylines experience a rare moment of convergence, Selina fights for her life against The Joker and her own daughter, Batwoman. What secrets from her deadly friendship with the Clown Prince of Crime will cause this row between mother and child? Find out in an action-packed issue that proves this cat can fight!
Right from the start of Batman/Catwoman #10, we know this issue is going to be something special. The credits spread contains the same Advent calendar that has been opening each issue. But this time, the calendar is mostly obscured by a blizzard, leaving only the 10th door visible.
The blizzard is a striking image and a symbol of the turbulence present in the issue. This title has been following the story in three different time periods – past, present, and future. And Catwoman is facing a climactic fight in each time. In the past and present times, she faces the Joker, but in the future, she faces her daughter, the future Batwoman.
Selina comes to a shocking realization that she confronts the Joker with, and which she relates to Helena. “You want to know the Joker’s secret?…It’s a a @%@%# act!…You’re just a guy on stage saying his #%@$% lines, hoping everyone claps at the end”. Selina reveals that the Joker only feigns insanity and that he ultimately does so for attention.
She goes further: “You’re like him! Just @%#@$ exactly like him! You wear a costume and an attitude to hide the stupid #%@# truth! You know exactly what you’re doing. You know why you’re doing it! You know wrong from right and you just chose a @$%## side!”. She accuses Joker of being exactly the same as Batman. The only difference is that Batman opted to work for good, while the Joker decided to become evil.
This is quite a revolutionary view of the Joker, which seems to fly in the face of how the character has been portrayed in the past. But could Selina be right? There is some precedent for this characterization of the Joker. In his Golden-Age appearances, he was portrayed as a gangster whose gimmick was dressing as a clown. Also, I remember once being struck by the text on a Topps trading card from the 60s. It claimed that the Joker, unlike the rest of Batman’s foes, was completely sane. Which is exactly what Selina is claiming here.
Also, this is a DC Black Label book, which means that this story is not necessarily canon. It might be, but future Batman writers will be free to incorporate or ignore any elements of King’s story. So, the Joker may well be sane in King’s story, but completely insane in the canon DCU. However, whether he is or not became moot upon his death at Selina’s hands. She believes that he is, and it’s Selina’s state of mind that is the focus of this story.
Selina felt herself trapped between the Batman and the Joker. Both wanted her to give her life over to the ethical side they had chosen for themselves. But Selina is torn between good and evil. She fears that she’s evil at her core, despite her attempts to be good for Bruce. She’s in the middle of a bizarre love triangle. Perhaps King should have named this title Batman/Catwoman/Joker.
Selina spared the Joker’s life in the present timeframe at Bruce’s request. Selina tells Helena, “Your father asked for something, just once, in his whole life…It was the only time I ever saw Bruce need something…And I said yes. With no conditions, just for him. Against everything I believed, I said yes”. Selina believes that means she is owed a debt by Bruce, and that Helena has inherited that debt from her father. She states, “I get to ask as he asked, and you have to say yes”.
And that’s where Batman/Catwoman #10 leaves off. We have to wait until next issue to see if Selina can get that “yes” from Helena. The recent Batman/Catwoman Special seems to hint that she will. That story showed Selina back to her normal life as Bruce Wayne’s widow. And that was just prior to her death, so it had to be set after the events shown here. On the other hand, it didn’t reveal anything about the status of her relationship with Helena. Selina might get through this encounter relatively unscathed, but it could come at the cost of a major falling out with her daughter.
Clay Mann did a stellar job on the artwork for this issue. There were some especially striking images. I already mentioned the credits page was obscured by a blizzard and I loved the panel showing the Joker making a snow angel. It’s a bizarre, but fascinating image. And I love the depiction of Helena’s Batwoman costume. It appears to take some inspiration from the Batman Beyond Batsuit. This is fitting, as Helena is, like Terry McGinnis, a possible future successor to Batman.
I’m not sure that I’m convinced by the idea that the Joker is sane. However, this doesn’t detract from the story, as it’s Selina’s belief that is relevant, whether or not she is right about the matter. And it certainly gives readers an interesting theory to debate about.
With Batman/Catwoman #10, Tom King’s epic story kicks into high gear. This series has been an utterly fascinating exploration of Catwoman and her relationships with both Batman and the Joker. Can King produce a satisfying conclusion to his story? If he can stick the landing, Batman/Catwoman will undoubtedly be another Tom King classic, alongside Mister Miracle, Rorschach, and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow.