Tom King returns to writing DC’s Caped Crusader this week with the first issue of Batman/Catwoman. For the landmark issue that’s been teased for over a year, King has partnered once again with artist Clay Mann, who had previously worked with King on Heroes in Crisis and Batman. While I have enjoyed James Tynion IV’s run on Batman so far, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss King’s take on the character.
The romance between Batman and Catwoman was a hot topic during King’s run on Batman and I am sure many fans grunted in fanboyish anger when it was announced King would be tackling the topic again. However, I have loved almost everything King has written at DC so far, even the divisive Heroes in Crisis. When it was announced that King would not only be returning to Batman, but would be integrating the Phantasm into the DC mythos, I was filled with excitement.
There is a lot going on in this issue, and the setup seems a little too much for King to bear. This is a stark contrast with the simplicity of the first issue of Rorschach, and it does not always work to King’s advantage. Within this one issue, we see the road King is laying for the whole series. This includes the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, a reiteration of events from his Batman run, and the seemingly canonization of the events of the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm animated movie. It is a lot to take in, but I will give King the benefit of the doubt that this is all in service to the story he is crafting. This is just the first issue after all, and if anything, it does a good job of catching both the mind and the eyes.
Clay Mann’s artwork is beautiful. It is always difficult picking a favorite artist at DC, with all of the amazing talent working on their books right now. However, to say that Clay Mann is one of the best is an understatement. You can see this best in the way he draws faces. The biggest struggle with a character like Batman is that only half of his face is showing most of the time. It is no easy task to show anything but a stern look with his design, but Mann is able to show a wide range of emotion with both Batman and Catwoman in their panels together. The colors from Tomeu Morey make the art pop even more. All of these aspects come together in the first panel featuring the two titular characters of this comic, with the moonlit sky behind them being coated in the red light of love (or it could be the red anger of justice).
I cannot deny how thrilling it is to see the Phantasm be brought into the comics, but there was just a little too much happening in this issue. Hopefully, the writing starts to unravel itself over the course of this series, but for now it just feels like several boxes whose contents are jumbled. Fortunately, the artwork is amazing and it is always great to see King writing Batman again.