Writers:Ty Templeton;Dan Slott
Artists:Rich Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Lee Loughridge;Zylenol(c)
Ty Templeton examines the Batman/Catwoman dynamic in Batman Adventures. "One Step Ahead" takes Catwoman back to her roots as a kind of Robin Hood for wild animals. She steals from those who would harm or exploit the fauna of the world, especially cats. Her target for this story is a well-chosen plump feline from an imperialist age that should have stayed dead; unfortunately some idiot gave Dick Cheney another heart. Seventy pheasants were pleased at the news.
Catwoman's actions naturally involve the Dark Knight. From her perspective his appearance is still unexpected but not exactly unwanted. The depth of feeling the characters have for each other is not telegraphed. Instead, Mr. Templeton keeps the emotions as an undercurrent flowing behind the words and the stage.
Batman actually speaks with Catwoman. He allows her to explain her actions and current agenda. This exemplifies how he feels about her. He does not treat her as a common criminal to be beaten, cuffed and caged. Catwoman does not treat Batman as an obstacle to overcome. She sees the man behind the mask.
Something new has been added to the relationship, but it does not derive from the characters. Mr. Templeton ties the current continuity of Batman Adventuresinto the recapitulation of the frequent midnight encounters by the two legendary adversaries and allies of the closest kind. Batman has been branded a vigilante by Mayor Cobblepot alias the Penguin, and his new status puts a new spin on the traditional symbolism. Batman fights for justice and stays within the law, but he has no authority. At least when working with the police and although not a specialized deputy, Batman still had a kind of defacto jurisdiction. New readers incidentally need not fear this ongoing thread. It is not confusing, and its presence in the book will become patently obvious. You won't need neurosurgery to understand what goes on.
Mr. Templeton cleverly shows how Batman's experience as a crimefighter allows him to easily evade the Gotham City PD, even if they happen to be slightly more effective law enforcers--an irony since Batman is partially the reason for the quality of that force. Batman has been called and rightfully so "the world's greatest detective." He is stealth incarnate. He can blend with shadow and move as silently as a wolf on the prowl. He can still himself to the point where he becomes scenery. In Batman Adventures this is how Batman behaves and how he is drawn. What exposes him to danger, and those construction sites have traditionally been lethal to him on at least two occasions, are his very human feelings.
Batman is not a psychopath, schizophrenic or a robot. In Batman Adventures, he is a man that earns the admiration and the respect from the readers. A multidimensional figure with depth, this is the Batman that attracted fandom.
The self-contained "One Step Ahead" concludes with a touching, layered scene in which Batman solves Catwoman's crimes on the slenderest of clues and through his tender, in character actions, makes another character purr.
Dan Slott in the second story--that's right a second story--characterizes Selina's playful nature and distinguishes her from the nastier form of cat burglars in real life and literature. He demonstrates why we readers like this character so much and how different, how warmer the Advertureverse is when contrasted against the cold, hollow DC universe--emphasis in the uni. Mr. Slott shows Bruce in a subdued, more realistic portrayal fitting with the last seasons of the animated run. He has genuine friends such as Veronica Vreeland, Lucius Fox and Selina Kyle.
Rich Burchett provides the simply perfect artwork, and he exceeds the high quality the reader has come to expect from the Adventureverse with an imaginative and motile use of the story title. In both stories, he keeps his design for Catwoman on model to that of the last run of the animated adventures. Less soft, less curved, his Selina is more feline and abstract a figure. Her amorphous black leotard, tailored fluidly by Terry Beatty, its lack of detail which can occasionally be seen in flashes of Lee Louridge's color sharply contrasts a bright white Cheshire grin that serves as a mask for what she may or may not be feeling. When she drops that grin, her words become honeyed and meaningful. It's at that point you can hear Adrienne Barbeau's sultry voice all of which reminds me of a line from Batman Returns: "Where's the man behind the bat? Maybe he can help find the woman beneath the cat."
Batman Adventures gives readers two stand-alone stories that are each worth the price of the book. Written with intelligence and a care for characterization as well as consistency that can no longer be found in DC's continuity titles, Batman Adventures simply put is the only Batman book on the racks and one of the very few books overall worth reading.
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