Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money #1

Some weeks, you don't get to read a Batman one-shot written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. Thankfully, this week isn't one of those. Chaykin has Batman and Catwoman team up to take down the Cavalier and an embezzlement scheme that robs Wayne Enterprises of its entire pension fund. The plot is serviceable, but what makes this 44-page comic worth it is Chaykin's art, as he structures the book through a series of repeating layouts and dynamic, bold line work.

The Cavalier is such a fun, goofy villain as drawn by Chaykin with his ludicrous outfit and constant confident grin. He looks out of step with Batman and Catwoman, making him the center of every page since your eyes are drawn to him. Chaykin has fun with the character by making him behave over the top in his persona, equally capable with his electric sword and a couple of pistols. You know he's going down in the end, but he's just so much fun to see in action that you can't help but root for him a little. The wannabe rich guy who dresses up in a cape, a feathery hat, and steals money? That's some entertaining villainy.

The use of repeated page layouts gives the comic a musical pace. The first encounters of both Batman and Catwoman with the Cavalier use nearly identical pages, but still shows two distinct scenes with different feels because of the writing and the shift of the Cavalier using a sword to his pistols. Later in the issue, the three people that stole from Wayne Enterprises are given a page each with the same layouts, highlighting their similarities and differences, while a conversation between Batman and Catwoman uses the same layout for a few pages in a row. Chaykin creates a rhythm this way and drives the comic forward with a familiar groove.

Jesus Aburto's coloring plays up the computer effects, aiding the campy feel of the story and art. Despite the topical 'pension theft' part of the story, "Follow the Money" is an over-the-top caper of a comic with a ludicrously dressed villain and art that brings that to the surface. The colors are bright and unnatural with the backgrounds using realistic textures that make the character pop off the page. Sometimes, the effect is inelegant, but, most of the time, it divorces the absurdity of the characters from the supposedly realistic setting.

If anything, the pension theft part of the plot works against the rest of the comic. It's almost too banal for the likes of Batman and Catwoman who need something as big and dumb as the Cavalier to take down. Their interactions are flirtatious, while also having a weariness to them. Instead of focusing on their romantic tension, Chaykin turns his eye to their familiarity. Yes, there's a spark there, but there's also a few dozen reasons why the two aren't together and he portrays them as a bickering couple that you can tell shouldn't be together with an undercurrent of attraction and romantic tension. It's different and effective.

A fun, campy story, "Follow the Money" is worth checking out for 44 pages of Howard Chaykin art and a gloriously fun and stupid story centering on a gloriously fun and stupid villain. Not grim, not gritty, just entertaining and skillfully done.

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