This Batman article contains spoilers.
Batman/Catwoman, the long-awaited follow-up to Tom King’s 85-issue run on Batman, has finally hit your LCS with a first issue that packs quite a punch. True to the book’s marketing, Bat/Cat #1 positions the maxi-series as a true sequel to Mask of the Phantasm, arguably the best Batman movie ever made.
The book features the return of Andrea Beaumont, Bruce’s first true love who was later revealed to be the killer vigilante the Phantasm. Bruce thought she was dead after all these years but Bat/Cat quickly moves past the impact of this surprise reunion and on to the task at hand: Andrea’s son has gone missing and she needs Batman to find him.
This search leads Batman and Catwoman, who are more in love than ever before, to the lair of a surprising deep cut villain from both of their pasts. Where’s the best place to look for a lost kid in Gotham? Underground, in the halls of the Sewer King!
Because the book marries the DC Comics canon with plot points from Mask of the Phantasm, Bat/Cat provides King and artist Clay Mann the perfect opportunity to bring in other elements from The Animated Series, including an opening splash page that nods to the classic title cards from the cartoon. Joker also appears wearing a fedora, a look that he donned several times in The Animated Series (which he matched with a black trench coat for the ultimate 1940s mobster look).
But the big standout really is Sewer King, who was first introduced in The Animated Series episode “The Underdwellers” as the ruler of an army of orphans and runaways whom he subjugates and manipulates into committing crimes for him. He was created by series writer and producer Tom Ruegger, who incidentally co-wrote one of the best episodes of the entire show, “Beware the Gray Ghost.” While he was the first original villain created for the series, he was far from The Animated Series‘ most popular, only appearing in a single episode and one issue of 52. Hardly any competition for Harley Quinn, right?
Banished to the lowest tier of Batman’s rogues gallery, where he joins the likes of Condiment King and Crazy Quilt, the Sewer King has a fun cameo in the first issue of Bat/Cat nonetheless. It’s even revealed in his brief scene that the villain has a past with Selina, who apparently served as one of the Sewer King’s thieving orphans when she was a kid on the streets.
“What were you when I found you? Lost! Starving! Dying!” Sewer King shouts as he sics his pet alligators on the heroes. “Who protected you from the city? From the filth! Who taught you a trade? How to live? What would you be without me, girl? Another dead cat!”
Despite the fact that the book establishes that Sewer King played a part in inspiring Catwoman’s life of crime as a master thief, Bat/Cat #1 doesn’t slow down to unpack this at all. The issue just moves too quickly across multiple timelines (a King storytelling staple these days) to do much more than briefly dig up the past. It seems that the implications of all of the issue’s big revelations will be explored throughout the remaining 11 issues.
But for now, Batman/Catwoman is off to an exciting start, with a central mystery that should hook fans of King’s past Batman stories as well as lovers of the classic animated series. I’m sure Sewer King appreciates the nod after all of these years as well.
Batman/Catwoman #2 is out on Jan. 19.