I’m a sucker for Catwoman and Batman as marrieds stories. I blame that Earth-2 story in Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. The feature in Batman/Catwoman Special is one of those stories. It’s got a gimmick—it follows Selina Kyle through life but only on Christmas Day. And it’s Elseworlds Selina Kyle. Or Black Label Selina Kyle.
The longest scene comes at the beginning, seven-year-old Selina in the Wayne orphanage making a Christmas present for her only friend, similarly aged Bruce Wayne, in the benefactors’ portrait. The scene’s a little forced—writer Tom King gives Selina a fifth-grade reading level so her monologue can be more verbose—but artist John Paul Leon finds the inherent cuteness to it.
He then toggles to the viciousness of an orphanage nun.
Leon passed away while working on the Special; he finished the first thirteen pages and got through breakdowns up to page twenty. Bernard Chang and Shawn Crystal do the art from the breakdowns (the issue includes the breakdowns, so you can see what they’re working from), then Mitch Gerards takes over for the story’s second half. There are no more multi-page Christmases after the first one. Instead, it’s every year or a few in Selina’s life as of Christmas Day.
There are some fun Batman adventures; some are just for the smile (Selina and Joker’s interactions over the years as she changes from Rogue to ally). Some are a little deeper, like one where Selina calls Batman out for exploiting her and the inherent inequity of their romance; for a page, it seems like Taylor’s going to take the book somewhere very interesting. He doesn’t. In fact, he gives Batman an accountability pass overall, even after Selina brings it up multiple times.
Kind of amazing Batman’s never got to learn a damn thing, even as we watch him age sixty years.
There’s a bunch the comic skips, like the Robins and Alfred’s inevitable death at some point. Because there doesn’t need to be character development if you’re just doing the one-page gimmick.
Still, it’s an affecting main story.
Then there are a bunch of pin-ups and a few written homages in Leon’s memory. Plus two reprint Leon Batman-related stories. There’s a Batman Black and White about the Riddler being a Lewis Carroll fanatic. Leon’s art is fine; Walt Simonson’s writing is not.
The second reprint is from something called DC’s Crimes of Passion. It’s a Question story, written by Ram V. There was some point Question didn’t read like PG-13 Rorschach, right? Art’s fine. Leon puts in the work.
If you’re a classic Catwoman and Batman shipper, the feature story is worth a look, even if it’s not entirely successful.
The Leon pages are the best, then the Chang and Crystal ones. The Gerards ones are fine but very much just “Batman house style.” Morbid or not—I mean, the comic invites it by its very existence: You can’t help but wonder how much better Leon would’ve realized the script than Gerards. Could he have taken it from “worth a look” to Greatest? I mean, the script’s got a lot of problems, but maybe. The way Leon can sell that kid’s monologue is exceptional, and his initial pages get the Special’s momentum going, which continues until about halfway through the Gerards pages.
I need to note the momentum doesn’t fall off because of Gerards; it falls off because of the script. Leon just was able to keep ahead of the writing better.
It also might’ve played better with the pin-up artists doing a page a year. The story lends itself to a Many Hands approach.
So, as is, okay and interesting. Not a failure and only a mild disappointment. But clearly could’ve been better.