18 May 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Gotham, Part XXIII: Batman: The Cat and the Bat

Comic trade paperback, 124 pages
Published 2009 (contents: 2008)

Borrowed from the library
Read October 2015
Batman: The Cat and the Bat

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Letterer: Sal Cipriano

Year Six, Summer
Well, this was a delight. While Batman's away on Justice League business and her father's out of town, Barbara Gordon decides to nick her father's case notebook to see if he has any secret identity suspicions she should be worried about-- only for Catwoman to steal it from her. Despite getting his name in the title, Batman is a minor presence here, as this is a tussle between Batgirl and Catwoman for possession of the notebook.

My only previous familiarity with Fabian Nicieza is from his terrible run on Alpha Flight (though "terrible run" is redundant when it comes to Alpha Flight), so I was surprised how much I liked this. He does a good job with the sometime-overused "dueling narrations" device, as both Batgirl and Catwoman give their perspectives on the unfolding events. This is definitely one of those stories with the structure of a well-told joke, as things just keep escalating and escalating, a structure at once both humorous and suspenseful, as Batgirl makes a series of incremental small choices that soon land her in the situation of battling the Riddler in Arkham Asylum! (As is obligatory for these early Batgirl tales, there's a nod to her future confrontation with the Joker. There's also some nice nods to earlier stories from this readthrough, including Batgirl: Year One and even Catwoman: When in Rome.)

Kevin Maguire is an obvious pairing for Nicieza on this story: no one does facial expressions, comedy, and (tasteful) cheesecake quite as well as he does, except for maybe Amanda Conner. Barbara and Selina's chase through the Gotham nudist club is a hilarious, and Barbara's building frustration through the whole thing is palpable-- but Maguire demonstrates his dramatic chops, too, with the Batgirl-in-Arkham sequence.

One of the facial expressions Kevin Maguire is best at is smirking.
I mean, in his art, I don't know if he personally smirks a lot.
from Batman Confidential #20

Like I said, Batman isn't in this very much... but his appearance is perfectly timed and made me laugh out loud. Like the rest of the book, it is a delight.

Next Week: A more serious set of circumstances for the Gordon family in Night Cries!

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