Overview: As Knight Terrors plunges the world into nightmares, Catwoman faces a demonic Joker, her terrifying superheroic sister, and a brand new Batman in her dream in Knight Terrors: Catwoman #1.
Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): In the villain Insomnia’s clutches, Catwoman (Selina Kyle) dreams of a Gotham City after her plan to run all crime herself collapses. Her sister Maggie is a nun by day, terrifying superhero “Sister Zero” by night. They fight as Selina dazedly tries to stop the Joker. At Maggie’s church (after much exposition), Selina convinces her sister to investigate the Joker. That night, they find the Joker’s hideout, and a huge fight ensues. Joker seems to perforate Maggie with a machine gun, so Catwoman kicks him off the roof. Batman (Bruce Wayne) saved Maggie with his bulletproof cape. This version of Batman is a newbie (similar to Batman Annual #2), and is bitten by one of Joker’s snakes. Selina takes him to her house for antivenom and sleep. When Bruce wakes up, they kiss passionately. Maggie interrupts them, ashamed of their lust. Batman and Catwoman leave her and vow to fight the Joker together.
Analysis: Tini Howard takes a break from her ongoing tale of Catwoman vs. Gotham’s organized crime to tie into the ongoing two-month ‘Knight Terrors’ event. Reasonably, she integrates large chunks of her ongoing plotline into her two-issue Knight Terrors: Catwoman miniseries/mini-arc.
Selina’s plan to unite crime in Gotham City under herself backfires terribly, leaving her scarred with only one eye. Similar to how Ram V setup many of the themes and relationships for his Catwoman run in the Future State two-part arc, Howard attempts to play with the themes and relationships we expect her to deploy in Gotham War and beyond. However, the dream mechanism does not work as well as the future, so the storytelling is full of madness. Though a nice change from the obnoxious men vs. women thematic structure of Howard’s main run, the madness of Knight Terrors proves plodding and repetitive. Tom King’s “Knightmares” arc, as well as Chip Zdarsky’s just-concluded “The Bat Man of Gotham” alternate universe arc, played with basically the exact same trio of characters, and many of the same tensions, and Howard’s only real addition is Catwoman’s stereotypical “I’m a bad girl” monologues. There is some real emotion and tenderness between Howard’s Selina and Bruce, but the whole dynamic was done infinitely better by Tom King in the aforementioned Batman Annual #2. All in all, on the writing front, this issue wittingly or unwittingly draws from the same well as too many Batman and Catwoman comics of the past 5 years without providing anything that new.
Leila Leiz provides guest art for main Catwoman artist Nico Leon, and the contrast is quite sharp. Where Leon tends to be sketchy and spare in linework, Leiz is thick-lined and chaotically full. Every background is rich and detailed, which is nice to see, but the storytelling lacks flow. Part of this chaos is almost certainly because of the nightmare frame, but it still lacks coherence unnecessarily, as when Batman is bitten by the Joker’s snake and appears to be standing over his own sleeping form. Leiz’s most prominent work to date is her high profile teaming with Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke in the bizarre comic Mother of Madness (MOM). Surprisingly, Leiz’s connection with the feminist themes of that comic didn’t seem to land her as the main artist for Howard’s version of feminism in the main Catwoman run, and that philosophical exploration is largely absent this issue, thankfully. However, the incoherence of the storytelling, even within the nightmare frame, perhaps shows why Leon was pursued instead as the main artist. Marissa Louise provides colors, and again, within the nightmare frame, it makes sense, but the overall impact is messy, overfull, and garish. All in all, not unskilled, but not very appealing either.
Interior artist Leiz provides the main cover, also doubling as the black and white 1 in 50 variant, featuring a shiny Catwoman arching her back in a disturbing way as she’s attacked by snakes…the psychological symbolism there might be a bit too on the nose. Tula Lotay’s main variant shows Catwoman being caught by a disturbing skeleton with wings. Corin Howell provides another Catwoman and snakes variant, this time with added apple with a bite out of it and bat-wings symbolism. Dustin Nguyen’s Midnight Variant features the black profile of Catwoman behind venetian blinds, her white face and eyes providing gloriously stark contrast against the red and black of the midnight theme. Lastly, trippy artist Dani (so odd that she’s not been tapped for one of these Knight Terrors Knightmares miniseries) provides a nice, almost Frank Miller-esque Catwoman and Sister Maggie black and white variant for the 1 in 25 incentive – strong and intense poses, huge eyes ringed with vigorously thick lashes and eyebrows, and powerful use of negative space in the two-tone image.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced 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.