Batman / Catwoman 1, review: Tom King and the deconstruction of the Dark Knight

Batman / Catwoman 1, review: Tom King and the deconstruction of the Dark Knight

Batman / Catwoman 1, review

Batman / Catwoman 1 marks the debut in Italy, obviously thanks to Panini DC Italia, of the maxi series of 12 numbers signed by Tom King and Clay Mann with which the much appreciated writer of Mister Miracle and Omega Men ideally closes his management of Batman after a public response to say the least conflicting and especially after the decision by the DC management to prematurely interrupt its stay on the regular newspaper of the Dark Knight.

Batman / Catwoman therefore arises from the need to close to the long “horizontal” plot that actually marked the management signed by Tom King and at the same time giving the author a new “stage”, fresher and disconnected from the needs of the regular series, and certainly more suited to his writing style.

Batman / Catwoman 1: the one who doesn't kill…

In Batman / Catwoman 1, the two heroes have resumed their relationship. However, a real ghost returns from the past, Bruce's first true love or Andrea Beaumont. After becoming a vigilante and later deemed dead in a fire involving the Joker, the woman is now alive and well and asks for Bruce's help in tracking down her son who has escaped to Gotham.

Catwoman is obviously suspicious and a little jealous even if the sudden return from the dead is not unusual in the profession of heroes and masked criminals. Meanwhile, we follow two other Catwomen: the first, in the future, visits a lively old man. The two greet each other like old friends, but who will really be the guest welcoming Selina? The second in the past is approached by the Joker during a theft. The request is to commit murder: why does Selina categorically refuse?

Batman / Catwoman 1: deconstruction and comfort zone

That the management of Batman signed by Tom King was not comparable to any of the immediately preceding management on the character was immediately evident. From the very first pages, in fact, his Batman was certainly not Scott Snyder's all action and reaction one, nor the self-aware witness of his own editorial and narrative history made by Grant Morrison (just to cite the two closest examples). On the contrary, starting with muscular plots and all action, the author had begun a slow but painstaking deconstruction of the character. Nothing new on the horizon were it not for the fact that at one point it had become clear that the object of this deconstruction was not Batman but Bruce Wayne.

The flywheel of this deconstruction had been the relationship with Catwoman and the peak of her had been the missed marriage between the two. In a tension between an effective and lasting change in the character's status quo and a continuous subtraction of certainties, not to mention essential narrative elements for the character, King had alienated a part of the readers. In the second part of his management then, this alienation had been increasingly evident and marked forcing DC to a change at the helm of the series.

However this has not prevented Tom King from having a space to conclude his plots thus returning to arrogance on that relationship between Batman and Catwoman, the true narrative and ideological pivot of its management, with Batman / Catwoman.

Batman / Catwoman 1 is in this sense yet another change of narrative structure for Tom King who digs into another corner of the vast Batmanian production, even recovering some suggestions of the pre-Crisis Batman on Infinite Earths and then finding a new comfort zone to share with fans, that is, drawing on, and ideally restoring in continuity, the character of Andrea Beaumont from the cult animated film Batman - Mask of the Phantasm.

The beginning is decidedly intriguing, although, as in all of King's works, it is difficult to understand exactly what the extent of the story will be told. The intertwining of three different temporal levels allows the writer to give free rein to his writing style always devoted to subtraction and made up of implications and dialogues that are never too explanatory. The most interesting aspect, however, remains the drastic change of point of view in the narrative that from Batman (extremely introspective and indebted to the Dark Knight of the 70s as signed by Steve Englehart) passes to Catwoman becoming more "passionate" but also less " sure "by exploring some gray areas previously left out to give space to the most classic of psychological deconstructions.

It is early to say if Batman / Catwoman is a more satisfying continuation / conclusion for the plots left open by Tom King from his Batman's management is in fact, however, the change of perspective and the opening words are very interesting.

Batman / Catwoman 1: Clay Mann's neo-classicism

Clay Mann is the interpreter perfect of Tom King's scripts. He had seen it on the unfortunate Heroes in Crisis where his graphic work had unequivocally been the proverbial "extra gear" and in Batman / Catwoman comes the confirmation of his complete maturity both from the point of view of the sign and the construction of the table . It may also be due to the obvious inspiration of King's own script, but Mann is also influenced by Batman: The Animated Series.

It is impossible not to notice the influence of the Dark Decò style, not so much in the aesthetics (apart from an initial sequence there is very little space for gothic or neoliberty environments / ambietations) as in the general atmosphere of the tables and in the choice of shots (see for example the only short action sequence that clearly recalls the directorial style of the animated series). Blacks, but above all, the plays of shadows therefore become fundamental and are implemented in a different way, albeit always effective, in the three timelines on which the narration is located.

Graphically, Clay Mann's research is always was devoted to a realism that exalted the more statuesque anatomy, and of a typically American matrix, of both male and female figures. In this first issue it is very easy to trace this matrix both in the lithe sensuality of Catwoman and in the grandeur of Batman. Long and broken lines, evident hatching to enhance expressiveness and dynamism are the characteristics of the designer who does not betray them but on the contrary implements them in a construction of the table that is now more orderly and traditional, now more heterogeneous with overwhelmed figures and larger and more airy squares. br>
An excellent job, as Clay Mann has accustomed us by now, which becomes the canvas for an ideal neo-classicism of the American school, the same school that had been redone in the two decades preceding John Byrne first and Jim Lee then, but which here is dampened by the exuberant anatomical hypertrophy in a more refined formal balance.

Tomeu Morey's excellent work on colors and lights should also be underlined. In fact, the colorist starts from the lighting by choosing a very material color, in which even pastel emerges in some situations, obtaining different palettes for each sequence and timeline. Just look at the differences in the shades of gray for the costumes of the heroes, one of the few signs that allows us to orient ourselves while reading.

The register

Panini DC Italia has decided to publish the maxi series of 12 issues in 32-page stapled books for € 3 with a classic comic book format or 17 × 26 cm. This is a choice common to many international DC publishers (in Spain, for example, the same format has been adopted). As for the editorial care, the Italian editor of the series signs two editorials: the first, very punctual, makes a "summary" of the events that link the maxi series to what is read about Batman (the regular series) while the second focuses on the origins of Andrea Beaumont's character and how the relationship between Batman and Catwoman was treated in the seminal Batman: The Animated Series.

Both the translation and the Italian adaptation are very good, the paper chosen is coated but not very shiny and with an excellent weight. Also noteworthy is a small gallery of variant covers at the end of the register. In this regard, Panini DC Italia has published a Variant Metal for the album signed by Francesco Mattina.

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