Peter J. Tomasi continues to take the Dark Knight through the five stages of grief, now onto stage four: despair or depression. We see Carrie Kelly return to stately Wayne Manor as Bruce wakes up to another day. She’s been hired by Alfred to ensure Titus, the family dog, gets enough TLC while Damian is "away," but she seems just as focused on getting in touch with him about his sudden dropping of her class (she knows nothing of the Wayne’s secrets nor that Damian was killed in action as Robin) and agrees to make a deal with Bruce if he puts his son immediately in touch with her in exchange for both a movie she made about Titus as well as an interview she conducted with Damian. While Bruce mulls this over, Catwoman bursts onto the scene, saying her new JLA contacts need her to rescue an American spy being held in a foreign embassy. I absolutely adore how Tomasi writes these characters, but particularly Catwoman. Geoff Johns might nail epic, large-scale dialog, but Tomasi captures her playful mischievousness within two lines of her being on-panel, and it only continues from there. He makes her charming without resorting to hypersexualization, and it’s cool to see her holding her own, but part of that credit is also due to Patrick Gleason’s fantastic pencils.
Mick Gray and John Kalisz are on inks and colors and everything the three of them draws turns to gold. Which makes for easy coloring. But in all seriousness, the characters look great, the action flows naturally from panel-to-panel and page-to-page and the pacing is never broken. There’s a great economy to every image, everything serves a purpose and I couldn’t be happier with how the art turned out, particularly, again, when it comes to Catwoman. The overall plot of the issue becomes extremely tangential and almost unnecessary to how the characters interact with each other, and the ending treads the line on being pure schmaltz, but never crosses it and comes off as genuinely emotional and sentimental.
The whole “spy rescue” part of this issue isn’t entirely unnecessary, it’s a great excuse to get Bats and Cats together and out on a mission, but the length of time spent on it, particularly the supervillain throwdown, feels tacked on because someone, whether it be the creative team, the editors, or whoever, felt like the issue “needed” a fight scene. The characters, wearing state-of-the-art armor have their origins mentioned off-handedly and are dispatched with little-to-no effort, creating no real suspense or thrills. They are literally there to fail and take up a few pages and could have just as easily been non-powered for how little they contribute. For a book focussing so much on emotion and character, this felt completely superfluous and I found myself wishing that more interactions either between Batman and Catwoman or Bruce and Carrie had been used on the pages.
Emotions still run high and are plentiful across the book, don’t get me wrong, and I love a good superhero scrap as much as the next fellow, but the one in this feels like wasted potential. It’s a very small part of the book, which IS part of the problem, but it absolutely doesn’t wreck it or make it difficult to recommend. This is one of my favorite entries into this stages of grief storyline and absolutely worth picking up, if for no other reason than the beginning and the ending. There’s also a very interesting tease on the final page that makes me very, very interested in what’s down the road for Batman and his partners.