Overview: In Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1, Catwoman tries to recover a family heirloom her single mother had to part with years ago.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1 opens on Selina Kyle in her apartment. Her tools of the trade and a book on Treasures of the 1940s are on the table. She scoops them up and heads out onto the street. It’s daytime, and protesters are taking to the streets, holding signs advocating affordable housing.
Selina submerges into the crowd, following them to the museum where a Treasures of Mid-Century France exhibit is on display. While protesters clash with police, Selina stares out a window, seeing who she used to be.
Years earlier, the Kyle sisters are with their mother. The mother is at a pawn shop, selling a priceless family heirloom. It’s a brooch from Paris. The pawnshop owner tells the mother that the heirloom is a fake, then offers her $200 for it. Reluctantly, Selina’s mother accepts.
In the present, Selina sneaks into an alleyway and changes into Catwoman. Two guards on the rooftop of the museum are arguing over whether the protesters are right about the wealthy or not until Catwoman leaps into action, breaking up their debate. Catwoman takes them out, then sneaks into the museum.
She spots the brooch that belonged to her mother, which was supposed to have been a fake. It’s going for a cool $20,000. Changing into formal attire, Selina stalks the brooch from the ground.
An older woman dressed in purple clothing and hair tells Selina the significance of the brooch. During World War II, when France was occupied, jewelers rebelled by creating art pieces of caged birds. When the occupation was over, they made uncaged birds, which is what this brooch was. It was symbolic of freedom. The woman goes on to talk about how the pawnshop owner didn’t know what he had, having bought it off some poor single mother who needed the money to keep a roof over the heads of her children. When the woman waxes about how the have-mores keep taking from the have-nots, a tear comes to Selina’s eye.
When the woman offers Selina a tissue, she introduces herself as Vivian Page. She promises that she’ll bump into Selina again after the auction. Ms. Kyle joins the auction party, spotting Bruce Wayne among the people gathered. She flees, bolting through the kitchen and quick-changing into one of the caterers.
The auction starts and Selina pretends to make a wrong turn into the room with all of the jewelry pieces. She pretends to fall with her tray of food onto a table with all of the jewelry, using the resulting commotion among the auction staff to steal the brooch.
When the auction staff realizes the brooch is missing, Catwoman is long gone, admiring it in the Gotham night sky.
Later, Selina calls her sister Maggie. Maggie is working a register at her job, and when Selina breaks the news about recovering the brooch, it seems that Maggie has moved on, having no capacity to process the significance of what this recovery means to Selina.
Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1 continues later that afternoon as Selina tries to make it up to Maggie by taking the brooch to a jeweler and getting it appraised. She’s remiss to find out that the brooch, despite what Vivian Page might believe, is truly a fake. Selina smashes the appraiser’s desk, then storms out, talking about the age and family history of the brooch. The appraiser retorts that people lie about family history all the time and that said history becomes mythology very quickly.
Selina returns home, stewing on how the wealthy still hold all the cards, deciding what’s valuable. As she ponders her extreme ups and downs of the day, she remembers something Vivian said about how the brooch had a “very unusual setting for a carnot brooch” of its era.
Catwoman realizes that Vivian is a fraud and a thief as well.
Selina returns to the crime scene, staking out the museum from atop the roof. She waits for Vivian to leave. When Vivian does leave, this time donning a disguise, Catwoman follows her. When Vivian enters a corner store, a man greets her as “Mrs. Hughes.” Catwoman can’t help but admire the gall and craft of this con artist.
Before Catwoman can pounce, Batman arrives. He tells her that this “Mrs. Hughes” is very dangerous, having raked millions of dollars pulling tricks like this at auction houses all over. He tells Catwoman that he’s been watching Vivian for some time, putting together his case.
After Batman offers to help her, the two of them give in to the passion of their relationship and kiss. When Catwoman leaves to confront Vivian, Batman asks her to wait a few days. He tells Selina that if she pounces now, Vivian will only pay for one crime, not many. Batman and Catwoman talk it over, and Catwoman leaves anyway. Though Batman believes in the justice system because it’s the only system they have, Catwoman prefers her own methods.
Catwoman confronts Vivian about the brooch. Vivian reveals that she knows it’s a fake because she made it thirty years ago and sold it to a desperate, gullible woman. She accuses this gullible woman of being greedy and says that all Vivian did was help this woman indulge in greed.
Catwoman attacks Vivian, and Vivian counters everything Selina can throw at her. The two fight, and when Catwoman finally asks why this woman convinced an auction house to sell a forgery knowing full well the money wasn’t going to her, Vivian asks, “What changed now that you know the brooch is a forgery? Is it less beautiful? Less meaningful?”
Vivian knocks Catwoman so hard that Selina’s vision starts to fade. It’s at this moment that the woman, who calls herself the Forger, tells Catwoman that they’re on the same side. The Forger is trying to get by in this slippery world of people with masks. Vivian makes her exit.
Batman arrives and helps Catwoman to her feet. He tells her he misses her and offers to put a steak on her bruised eye. Batman asks Catwoman to come home with him, and she promises she’ll meet him later. First, she has to clear things up with her sister.
Selina pins the brooch on her shirt and heads out into a new Gotham morning. She calls Maggie and apologizes. As Selina Kyle submerges into the Gotham crowd, she plans a coffee date with her sister.
Analysis: Bat-Fans have had a stellar couple of weeks regarding entries into the One Bad Day anthology series. Last week saw the release of Batman: One Bad Day: Bane #1, arguably one of the best stories thus far. This week, Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1 easily climbs to the top, presenting readers with a story that embraces the zeitgeist of the times while telling a very adult narrative wherein Selina Kyle is forced to look past her Catwoman career to the more valuable things in life.
It’s hard to describe the events of Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1 without talking about the atmosphere in Gotham City. As Selina Kyle narrates, we see a Gotham that morphs around her, teeming with haves and have-nots. Protesters hit the streets, calling for affordable housing and an end to homelessness. They clash with the police. Meanwhile, two guards on a roof debate the validity of the protesters, using it as a launching pad to discuss whether they’re truly above the protesters because they have gainful employment or if they should ally with them because their boss rakes it in for their hard work.
Selina uses the crowd to her advantage, submerging herself into the noise, so she can steal back what she believes is a priceless family heirloom that her mother was forced to sell. Catwoman is clouded by her own mythology of the haves and the have-nots. Her obsession with plundering the wealthy has blinded her from seeing what these heirlooms really are. Catwoman isn’t a Robin Hood; she’s a taker, much like the Forger who crafted this fake heirloom that Selina’s mother tried to pass off as a real art piece from postwar France.
Writer G. Willow Wilson lays down a heavy shade of gray over everything in Batman: One Bad Day: Catwoman #1, presenting multiple viewpoints that push Catwoman and readers to self-reflection. When Catwoman confronts the Forger about the brooch, the Forger questions Catwoman, asking Selina why her mind’s valuation of the piece changed. Similarly, when the appraiser tells Selina that this brooch is indeed a fake, she throws a fit, wringing her hands about the haves maintaining the status quo and controlling the change of money that exchanges hands. Though Catwoman can steal from the rich, it never upsets the system, not really.
All the while, Maggie Kyle works a job as a cashier, completely uninterested in Selina’s quest to recover a brooch — regardless of whether it’s real or fake. Maggie has moved on from this low point in their childhood, so the case is closed.
Batman, similarly, sees the system for what it is — complicated and imperfect. He does his part to put all the pieces together, so he can best help people knowing he won’t be able to tear down the status quo. He can only mend it and maybe guide the ship to better days.
When a new day dawns, Selina wears the recovered brooch and calls her sister. She’s learned that their connection is important, that her love for Batman is important. Selina is no longer a caged bird stuck in a cycle of righting wrongs as a solitary thief. She’s a part of something, part of a family and perhaps a society.
Jamie McKelvie provides art, colors, and a cover for this issue. The art is absolutely stunning. There’s a theme of purple throughout that really shines through and evokes this sense of royalty, and the irony is, though the purple puts on a good front, it’s a fraud. It’s a trick of perception, especially since it’s most closely associated with Vivian Page, the Forger, who manages to put Selina in a vulnerable state over a fake brooch.
McKelvie sets the tone with a sense of realism in character designs and settings. While there are moments that very much evoke a classic Gotham vibe, the setting throughout feels more in line with a realism straight out of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. That’s a good thing, as it helps to sell this complicated idea of what truly matters. McKelvie ultimately creates an adult tone that works perfectly with Wilson’s scripting.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.