Batman/Catwoman Special #1 – Tom King, Writer; John Paul Leon, Bernard Chang/Shawn Crystal, Mitch Gerads, Artists; Dave Stewart, Colorist
Ray – 10/10
Ray: After the death of John Paul Leon, one of the most influential DC artist of the modern era, Tom King’s one-shot with him was left unfinished. Now DC has taken what Leon managed to draw before his death from cancer and completed it with the help of two talented artists, Bernard Chang and Mitch Gerads. What’s come out of it is not just an excellent tribute to Leon’s long career, but easily the best issue of the book so far. It sums up the concept of King’s Bat-run without the slow pace of the main book, and delivers a brilliant look at Bruce and Selina’s relationship not just in three stages but in countless years—decades—each framed by Christmas, which means different things to them depending on the year.
From the start, even before they met, this issue is delivering emotional punches. The very first segment, which finds an orphaned Selina talking to a painting of Bruce right after his parents’ murder, gives us a great look at the harsh life she lived before running away. The use of the Martha Wayne Home for Orphaned Children is a great callback, and I was very happy to see another in-canon reference to Bruce’s Jewish heritage. This issue is told through Selina’s eyes, so we get to see some portions of her life that have really never been explored before we head into the time period we’re most familiar with from this book. It does an amazing job of getting us invested in her before she becomes Batman’s partner.
But let me tell you, if King wanted to get us to fall in love with these two as a pair, this issue does a better job in forty pages than the previous hundred or so issues before. This version of Bruce, kind and fumbling with the woman he loves even as he brings a grit and aggressiveness to everything else, is perfect. The mistakes they make while trying to parent their daughter are relatable, of course, but it’s never less than 100% clear how much they love her. I enjoyed seeing cats become a constant presence in the Wayne home, and the final segments that chronicle Bruce’s last days are stunning—although the dark last page coda took me a little by surprise, and feels like a spoiler.
It’s a brilliant comic, but don’t miss the backmatter, which includes tributes to Leon, two DC stories he illustrated for anthologies—one classic and one modern—and a fantastic collection of pin-ups. This is a true must-read tribute to a legend.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.