Now that we’ve taken a look at the pitfalls of a poorly rendered Batman and Catwoman dynamic, it’s only fair that we take the time to highlight one that manages to dance over most, if not all, of them.
If you’ve been keeping up with Rebirth’s current Batman ongoing, you’re definitely familiar with the newly rekindled flame between Selina and Bruce by way of, well, a marriage proposal for one thing. Yeah, it’s that serious.
But more importantly, it’s also overtly sexual. The mini-arc that actually set up the question-popping moment, “Rooftops” by collaborators Tom King and Mitch Gerads, featured a diamond drenched sex scene during one of the duo’s many rooftop rendezvous. At first glance, it’s a scene that could very easily be read as a cut-and-paste retry for the distinctly similar New 52 pages I just spent the last several paragraphs critiquing.
The thing is? It’s not.
Why? Well, for one thing, the escalation to the moment of truth comes care of two full issues designed to make the connection between the two characters ring as legitimate -- and what’s more, “Rooftops” had the advantage of a full thirteen issues of Rebirth Batman marching before it to seed the relationship. Compare this to the New 52’s issue one announcement, and it’s not hard to put two and two together. A romantic subplot is always going to be more easy to believe when it’s spent some time making itself at home in the page real estate afforded to it.
But the real delineation between the Rebirth and New 52 incarnations of the relationship has less to do with the relative ease at which it’s introduced to readers and more to do with the way Selina works in this newly kickstarted DCU.
Rather than being the “victim” of Bruce’s undeniable, brooding masculine magnetism -- a Bond Girl style vixen who just “can’t help herself” but fall for the dangerous and strong hero even though she knows better -- Rebirth Selina is an active player in the “game” she and Batman had established between themselves. Bruce isn’t an object of uncontrollable lust for her, he’s not a reluctant participant in the crosshairs of Selina’s performative sexuality, he’s the other half of a conversation happening across Gotham City’s rooftops, gargoyles, and crime scenes.
This incarnation of Selina’s femme fatale tropes isn’t invested in making the reader believe that her sexuality has a one to one ratio with her physical strength, but takes the time to build a believable case for mutual attraction and mutual gain between the two parties involved. For Batman, Selina represents an exit sign on a very long, very dark highway -- the potential to escape his endless crusade, despite the innate knowledge that he’ll never be satisfied with calling it quits. For Catwoman, Batman represents the ultimate conquest, a shot at stealing away the love and attention of the Dark Knight, the most valuable thing in Gotham, despite the unmistakable understanding that she’ll never be able to hold on to it for too long.
It would be inaccurate to say that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship on the table, but it’s certainly mutual, and that’s what matters. The power is evenly distributed. And maybe more importantly, that distribution of power doesn’t force Selina to sacrifice or compromise her autonomy or her sexuality. It’s her decision, within the narrative, when, how, and why she should weaponize any aspects of herself -- and she does so to serve the story she exists in, without the added baggage of performing for a target demographic of readers.
So, can a relationship between The Bat and The Cat work? Certainly. The bones of a romance have been written into these two characters from day one. It’s just been a matter of mining their marrow, stripping out the failings of seventy plus years and sequencing the DNA into something new -- something successful that serves to bolster both characters. This is something Rebirth Batman has done to great effect over the past year, with painstaking attention to detail and restraint. It doesn’t just work, it works well, for maybe the first time in almost seventy years.
But, should it work? Is this a sustainable path for a Batman story to travel?
Well, Catwoman’s answer to Bruce’s proposal is set to be revealed in Batman #33, so, until then, your guess is as good as mine.