Gotham can’t escape the shadow of the Batman. Even in a world where Bruce Wayne is long gone, his legacy lives on. The question is whether that legacy remains true to Batman’s loftiest ideals or if it presents a warped vision that suits those who fill the power vacuum left after Bruce’s demise. In the first issue of Catwoman: Lonely City, Cliff Chiang’s new four-issue miniseries from DC Black Label, Selina Kyle finds herself in a brave new world. Costumed heroes and villains have been outlawed following the deaths of most of the Bat-family, including Batman himself.
When the erstwhile Catwoman is released after serving a decade in Blackgate for Bruce’s murder, she has to navigate a tyrannical police state, a city that thinks it knows her secrets, and former foes and allies alike who wish she would just get out of their way. Never one to back down from a fight, Selina is determined to figure out Batman’s final secret and reclaim her rightful place in Gotham. Even though Bruce is gone, she’s still Catwoman, and she casts a large shadow of her own.
Lonely City contains all the hallmarks of a Cliff Chiang book: sharp storytelling, bold graphic lines, expressionistic colors with weaponized neons, and angular dynamism. Chiang — who wrote, drew, colored, and lettered the book — presents an intriguing character study of Selina Kyle that sets Catwoman in relief against Batman’s legacy while making the story wholly her own.
Though the book pays tribute to Catwoman’s past, most notably in its use of classic costumes and passing references to major events in her career as an elite thief, Lonely City is ideal for new readers. Efficient and punchy in its narrative, the book gives context clues to readers unfamiliar with Selina and her relationship to various Gotham players, but it doesn’t linger on exposition that would drag down the plot or lose the patience of diehard Bat-book fans. It is rewarding for readers of all levels of comic book expertise, giving longstanding Catwoman fans a new angle on the beloved character and providing all readers with a thrilling noir-infused vision of Gotham that focuses on the woman who understands the city best.
Selina is 55 when she gets out of prison; between her age and her lack of practice, she has difficulty climbing back to the top of her game when she returns to her penthouse in the now-decrepit neighborhood where she once lived. Chiang etches the physical and emotional toll of serving a prison sentence for the murder of the man she loved most in Selina’s face, adding just enough lines to let readers know right away how hard the past decade has been for Catwoman.
Chiang also captures Selina’s personality and history in her body language, showing her leaping gracefully over walls and through windows or leaning forward and grinning as she remembers the joy of pushing her body to evade capture and steal whatever she wants. It’s a joy to watch her snap back into that muscle memory and do what she does best, just as much as it is heartbreaking to watch her take in everything that she’s lost as she visits the small graveyard at Wayne Manor. Chiang’s dialogue crackles, but the wordless panels depicting Catwoman’s highs and lows tell an even deeper, more affecting story.
Chiang’s skill in design and framing keep the story moving at a brisk pace, perfectly suited for this story of a woman who doesn’t know how to slow down, but the book still takes the time to let character moments breathe. When Selina faces off against Mayor Harvey Dent, Chiang cannily frames only one-half of Two-Face’s visage, giving him a frightening menace that once again requires no words to chill readers and tell them everything they need to know about the “reformed” villain.
The colors sing, tying in color schemes from Selina’s past costumes and giving the city a look of beautiful, fluorescent decay. It almost always seems to be dusk or dawn in the book, a transitory sensation that fits Selina’s fluidity and ambiguity both in terms of her abilities as a cat burglar and her constant dancing over the line between hero and villain, protagonist and antagonist.
This first issue of Catwoman: Lonely City is a fitting tribute to Selina Kyle and the importance she holds to Gotham. It is also an intriguing story about corruption, loss, guilt, and perhaps the biggest question of all: did the city ever need Batman in the first place? As the woman who knew and loved him best, Selina might be the only one who can answer that question. As Catwoman, she’s certainly the only one who can steal the clues and find the truth that will help her get closer to answering it. Though her fate is inextricably tied with Batman’s legacy, Gotham is Catwoman’s city just as much as it is his. With Cliff Chiang’s gorgeous and thrilling new miniseries, he explores what becomes of that city when Catwoman has to reckon with a world without Batman, one that is trying its best to pass her by.