Could a Gotham City without Batman be better for it?
Mild spoilers for Catwoman: Lonely City Book One follow.
In recent years Batman fans have posed a rather logical question. Couldn’t Bruce Wayne do more for Gotham by investing his wealth in the city instead of donning a mask? Cliff Chiang explores the complicated answer in DC Black Label’s stunning Catwoman: Lonely City. While some of the Dark Knight’s old foes have established new lives in a city without masked vigilantes, Selina Kyle is still trying to find her place. Her journey through a changed Gotham in Lonely City #1 is utterly captivating.
The world lost its greatest detective a decade before the story begins. A fiery massacre known as Fool’s Night took the lives of Batman, the Joker, Nightwing and Commissioner Gordon. Catwoman was sent to prison shortly after. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gotham became safer in their absence as costumed villains and heroes finally stopped trading punches in its dark alleys.
Selina Kyle, released from jail early, finds Gotham almost unrecognizable ten years after that fateful night. Some neighborhoods boom with business, others are damaged and neglected from a devastating storm long past. The Penguin prospers in a glittering casino (and it’s mostly legal). Killer Croc works long nights as a bar bouncer.
Harvey Dent—still scarred and remorseful about his time as Two-Face—is now the mayor of the up-and-coming city, emphasizing peace and safety by establishing a large tactical police force. Harvey might be on the side of the good guys again, but I can’t help but feel an undercurrent of danger in every panel he’s in. Chiang masterfully makes Harvey feels every bit as menacing as a politician as he was as Two-Face without a single growl or flip of a coin.
The most striking scene in this first issue is a quiet confrontation between Selina and Barbara Gordon. Bruce Wayne left his entire fortune to the city when he died, Barbara reveals. She can’t help but wonder if the Bat-Family wasted their time leaping across rooftops when his money seems to be doing just as much good for its citizens. Selina counters that they’re less free under the increased police presence. Barbara isn’t swayed, and Chiang gives us a lot to think about.
However, Selina has something else on her mind: a mystery known only as Orpheus. It was one of the words Bruce Wayne whispered with his last breath, and it’s plagued her since his death. Of course, Catwoman isn’t one to sit still. She starts recruiting a team to break into the Batcave to unlock the secrets it holds, starting with the oddly endearing Killer Croc.
Wait, does that mean we’re about to be treated to a heist with Catwoman and her crew? When does Book Two get here?! (Sadly, not until December 21.)
Chiang fills multiple duties on this breathtaking book, writing, drawing, coloring and lettering each of the four 48-page issues. His palette of golden colors in this first chapter is reminiscent of a sunset. The darkness is never very far away in Gotham, and I love that these warm colors subtly evoke that fading feeling.
Catwoman is as dazzling as ever, even as age catches up with her. From her bad knees and crow’s feet around her eyes to her searching for her role in a new normal, Chiang makes Selina feel more human and relatable than ever in this stirring story.
Bruce’s absence might be keenly felt, but this is Selina’s story—and now her city—and she could be playing more of a role than anyone expects in Gotham’s new future. I can’t wait to see where this path takes her.
Catwoman: Lonely City #1 by Cliff Chiang is now available in print and as a digital comic book.