Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #146 by Drew Barth
Old Cat, New City
Gotham is an essential setting in the DC Universe. We’ve seen it change dozens of times over the years. How far into the future can the city go and still be recognizable? Cliff Chiang pushes Gotham far into a troubled future in Catwoman: Lonely City.
Selina Kyle, Catwoman, has been in Blackgate Penitentiary for the past ten years for the alleged murder of Bruce Wayne. In that time, Gotham changes. A storm passed over the city, resulting in destruction and flooding, including Kyle’s old home. Harvey Dent has passed himself off as newly-reformed and is currently mayor of Gotham—a position he’s used to commute Kyle’s sentence early. All of this is the direct result of an event, Fool’s Night, that happened a decade before the story began, that resulted in the death of much of the Bat-family, Commissioner Gordon, and potentially hundreds more that we don’t know about yet. Gotham has reacted to this night violently, trying to exorcise the darker parts of itself—Catwoman and every other nemesis of Batman included.
I’ve written previously about characters aging in canon and how that lends a surprising humanity to them. In this series in DC’s Black Label imprint, Chiang confront aging especially well.
After her serious stint in prison, Selina has a bad back, her muscles have a harder time keeping her aloft, and Gothamites just sees her as this old thief who killed Batman. Others (Harvey Dent, Oswald Cobblepot, and Waylon Jones) are no longer their past personas. They’re instead mayor of Gotham, an off-shore accountant, and an aging bouncer, respectively. But Catwoman never gets this erasure—that cat-shaped cowl hangs from her head forever.
If there’s anything I want to keep seeing from DC’s Black Label, it’s realist-tinged stories like Catwoman: Lonely City. There’s something satisfying to seeing a character finally age after decades of them being in their ambiguous twenties/thirties. It gives them a sense of their stories actually progressing, of them changing as characters. And, as many comic readers are getting older, we can relate more to characters with back pain and bad knees.
Get excited. Get old.