Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with Slam Bradley having a dream in which elements of his missing woman's case strike a little too close for comfort. However the dream does inspire a course of action that allows Slam to discover where the missing girl went, as we learn she was killed by the very man who hired Slam to find her (Scooby-Doo, where are you?). We then look in on Holly's girlfriend, Karon as we learn she's aware of the bottle of pills that Holly has been carrying around, and she's taken to counting the pills each night to reassure herself that Holly hasn't been taking any. We then look in on Catwoman who pays a late night visit to Slam's apartment, only to find Slam is ready call an end to their late night meetings, as he realized they're doing more harm than good. However, Selina isn't exactly in the mood to hear what he's saying, and after she goes out an gets herself good and drunk, she comes to the conclusion that she had a lot more fun when she was a criminal. We then follow her as she circumvents the various security devices that guard a treasure trove of valuable objects, but when she stops to make up her mind about what object she'll make off with she finds Batman is there to tell her a return to a life of crime is not the answer. As the issue ends, we see Karon manages to act as the bridge that gets Holly & Selina back together.
The solution to the missing woman mystery that Slam Bradley was hired to look is hardly the most innovative answer, and while the writing does some strong work detailing the reason for the murder, the simple fact is that even Slam Bradley seemed to realized that the solution was an unimaginative affair. His little ploy that allows his to arrive at his answer is also a bit weak, as it requires our killer to have disposed of the body in such a way, that it would require a second visit to the site where the body was buried so that he would be able to expose this man's connection to the murder. Still, I will give Ed Brubaker credit for delivering a heartfelt confession, as the killer's reason are convincingly presented, so that one could understand why he would be driven to kill. I also enjoy the old school touches of Slam Bradley's investigation, as after he knows the man has all but implicated himself in the murder, he steps out of the shadows, to ask why. Now he doesn't really need to know why, but given he's an instrument for us readers to get the answer, it's fun to see the material have some fun with this scene, via the classic touch of having him reveal his presence to the villain by lighting up a cigarette. The first person narration is also done in a fun, hard boiled style which I found quite endearing, and even his name screams film noir detective.
The final two-thirds of this issue are devoted to mending the fences that were busted apart by the events that played out in the previous story, as Holly, Selina & Slam manage to emerge out of the emotional turmoil they've gotten themselves buried under. While a couple of the scenes felt a bit too easily resolved, speaking as a fan I'm rather glad to see these characters getting back on their feet. I mean wondering if Holly is going to return to drugs makes for a riveting bit of drama, but it's also an idea that doesn't really lend itself to an extended run, so it's nice to see this issue manages to resolve this subplot. There's also a nice quiet little scene between Batman & Catwoman where we see Selina was also about to return to her former life of crime, and while I'm still not sure about this relationship between Batman & Catwoman, it's certainly far more convincing in these pages that it is over in the pages of Batman's monthly title, as here Selina is allowed to bring more to the table than simply play the role as the sexy temptress in the tight leather outfit. In this book, Selina comes across a intelligent, highly professional, and most importantly her villainous past isn't ignored, as Batman actually has to step in to keep her from robbing the museum. We also get a nice little scene where Slam decides to put an end to his relationship with Selina, when he realizes the damage it is doing to them both.
From a storytelling sense Javier Pulido's work in this issue is fantastic, as there's a scene in this issue where the story is jumping back an forth between two different moments in time, as we see Selina robbing a museum, and this is inter-cut with Slam & Selina's breakup/the aftermath, and this sequence is not only easy to follow, but it's a wonderful way to contrast the two very different lives Selina leads. There's also some lovely visual touches, from the scene where we see her leaving the bar through the busted window, to her leap through the maze of lasers that guard the items in the museum. There's also something rather amusing about her using Batman's head as a lunching platform as she leaps backwards. On the other side of the equation though, I do think there are times when Javier Pulido's work is a little too cartoonish, as Catwoman's pointy nose looks like she's the love child of the Penguin, and the tearful moment she has with Batman is almost too mawkish in appearance for me to accept. Now the heavy shadows work exceptionally well in the opening pages of this issue as Slam Bradley carried out his investigation, but they are less impressive during the scene where Catwoman tackles the security systems, as it's difficult to really enjoy the show she's putting on, when one has to work with such limited visual information.
This follow-up arc to the Black Mask arc managed to walk a pretty fine line, as while it's nice to see the tragic events that played out in the previous arc have made an impact, there's also such a thing as being too dark & morose, so that it becomes difficult to find any enjoyment in watching these characters destroy themselves. This issue acts as a bit of a happy ending, as we see our three primary characters manage to find their way back into the light. Now I found the ending was a bit abrupt, as it almost seems like the book shifted its mood a little too quickly. However, I'm glad to see these characters are no longer drowning in self pity, and this book could certainly use a brighter mood, as these past two arcs have been enjoyable reads, but they've also been thoroughly grim & depressing. Now the cover overstates the Catwoman/Batman scene, but while it's a quick little exchange it's also one of the more interesting moments in the issue, and one wonders how closely Batman's been keeping tabs on Selina.
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