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Batman #44 review: A touching tribute to Catwoman, past and present

Selina picks out her wedding dress in true Catwoman fashion.

Tom King
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Catwoman can’t sleep. Pre-wedding jitters, maybe?

So off she slinks into the Gotham night, bullwhip-slinging from stone gargoyles with a trapeze artist’s finesse and descending into dark, dripping sewer tunnels; there, after some careful navigation, she places a bomb on the ceiling, sets the timer and breaststrokes through sewage water before blowing apart the floor to her destination: a bridal gown shop. (Let’s hope Bruce’s quest to procure a wedding ring results in a little less property damage.)

Not exactly the most subtle of entrances for a cat burglar, but then, this is the same Catwoman who broke Bane’s back with a well-placed sucker kick, beat Talia al Ghul in a swordfight and spinkicked three Flashes into unconsciousness. Grant Morrison brought us Bat-God. Tom King has brought us Cat-Goddess, more or less.

Fitting then that Batman #44 is the most Cat-centric issue in writer Tom King’s run yet. Much like “Rooftops”, “Bride or Burglar” delves into the rich tapestry of Bat and Cat’s shared history through the use of flashbacks — more specifically, flashbacks of the many iterations of Catwoman over the years. From her infamous “What’s the use? I know when I’m… licked” appearance in 1940’s Batman #1 to her first costume, 1947’s purple dress and green cape look to the Go-go booted, Dracula-collared one-piece bathing suit costume of the early 1970s to the Jim Balent-era, free-flowing raven haired, purple bodysuited version — every epoch of the character is covered. In that respect, Batman #44 is a heartfelt tribute to Catwoman, past and present.

On the other hand, we’ve seen the recipe for this issue of Batman (or the rough outline of it anyways) used already by King on more than one occasion; first in Batman #14 and again in what might be the strongest issue exemplifying Batman and Catwoman’s love in King’s run or otherwise, the heart-rending opus, Batman Annual #2. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the flashbacks as much as the next guy or gal but after the the third time seeing the same formula the approach does lose a bit of its novelty. And because the flashbacks don’t apply directly to the story at hand, they become embellishments more than story devices. I found myself wanting the flashbacks and the stressed importance of Catwoman and Batman’s history to make way for a more involved look at her present day thoughts surrounding the matter.

The art is handled by Joelle Jones (art)/Jordie Bellaire (colors) for the present day and Mikel Janin (art)/June Chung (colors) for the flashbacks. If you’re anything like me — that is, a huge fan of both artist and colorist tandems, then this issue visually captivated you from start to finish. Look no further than Jones’ opening sequence, with Catwoman rappelling across the Gotham cityscape to her later lounging with a languorous air in the bridal shop, boots kicked off, muddy-green sewer water dappled about her newly bared feet to the full-page shot of Selina inspecting herself in the trifold vanity mirror wearing her wedding dress of choice for some of the issue’s most striking scenes. The flashbacks are handled with comparable skill, colors and backgrounds starting off sparse and mono-colored to emulate the Golden Age and progressively growing more intricate and detailed to reflect the appropriate time period. A flashback in the Bat-Cave, with the silverish glow of the Bat-Computer casting shadows on Batman and Catwoman’s embracing forms being one such indelible image.

Is It Good?

Despite the novelty beginning to wear off just a tiny bit, Batman #44 is another much-needed, touching recognition of Batman and Catwoman’s storied history together. With the two set to marry in the upcoming Batman #50, I look forward to seeing how King will even further bolster a bond between the two that is the strongest it’s ever been.

Batman #44
Is it good?
Solid present day art from Jones and flashbacks from Janin
King provides a nostalgic tribute to Catwoman past and present
... And manages to reinforce the loving bond between the two once again.
We've seen this same formula from King a few times now.
Not much meat to the narrative beyond some flashbacks punctuating Catwoman finding a wedding dress.

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