Gotham City is a busy place, with a lot going down each and every week. In this monthly column, Joshua Lapin-Bertone helps you stay on top of it all by letting you know what you should be paying attention to within the Bat-Family…and why.
Five years ago, Batman and Catwoman were getting ready to exchange wedding vows. Now they’re preparing to go to war with one another, with all of Gotham caught in the middle. Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War is DC’s latest crossover event, revealing just what can happen when superhero relationships go wrong. Breakups can be rough, but a citywide war is next level. How did we get here, and was this destination inevitable? Can Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle come back from this, or are they both too stubborn?
If you’ve been away from the Bat-Books for a while, or if you’re a new reader (WELCOME!), you might be wondering how we got here. Not to worry, this month’s Gotham Gazette is all about bringing you up to speed. From weddings to warfare, here is everything you need to know before reading Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War.
Wedding Bell Blues
After years of their on-again-off-again romance, Batman proposed to Catwoman in 2017’s Batman #24. Things were looking great, until the Joker and Holly Robinson caused Selina to question whether a happy Batman could be an effective Batman. Fearful of depriving the city of its Dark Knight, Selina left Bruce at the altar in 2018’s Batman #50.
It gets worse. Holly and Joker’s poisonous whispers were all part of Bane’s plot to break Batman psychologically. Everything came to a head in “City of Bane,” the final chapter of Tom King’s three-year Bat/Cat storyline. Bruce and Selina were able to defeat Bane and resume their romantic relationship. However, they tabled the issue of marriage, which doesn’t come as a surprise if you know either of them.
Catwoman’s Greatest Heist
Here is where things started to go wrong. You can probably blame The Gotham War on a criminal mastermind known as the Designer. Years before the aborted Bat/Cat wedding, the Designer approached Gotham’s criminals and helped them craft grand capers. Working with the Designer, Selina came up with a plan to steal Bruce Wayne’s entire fortune.
The Designer died, and Selina never went through with the plan. Of course, in Gotham nothing stays buried. During the 2020 storyline “Their Dark Designs,” the Joker used the mastermind’s old plans to steal Bruce Wayne’s fortune. Selina had never told Bruce about her past with the Designer, and she initially tried to hide it from him when his plans resurfaced. As you can imagine, this didn’t help their relationship.
“Joker War” dealt with the aftermath of this, as the Clown Prince went wild with Batman’s money. Catwoman was able to steal the money back, but had to funnel it elsewhere, leaving Bruce nearly broke. Batman forgave her, but the incident left some unanswered questions about their relationship.
Would the shadow of Selina’s cat burglar ways always come between them? Why couldn’t she tell him about the Designer? In 2020’s Batman #101 the couple decided to pause their relationship to give each other time to figure things out.
Split Personalities and Nightmares
Selina wasn’t going to wait around forever. In 2022’s Batman #125 Bruce called Selina during a moment of loneliness. He was disheartened to hear another man in the room with her. The World’s Greatest Detective had missed the obvious—they had grown further apart when he wasn’t looking.
Believe it or not, that awkward phone call was a picnic compared to what Batman faced next. During the storyline “Failsafe,” Batman battles an android created specifically to destroy him. The Dark Knight’s alternate personality, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, had designed the machine as part of a contingency plan in case he ever went rogue. In order to stop Failsafe, Bruce had to confront the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh side of his personality, which wasn’t pretty.
What does any of this have to do with The Gotham War? Let’s just say Bruce has had a hard time shaking the whole Zur-En-Arrh affair.
This brings us to “Knight Terrors,” which has pushed Bruce to the brink. A villain known as Insomnia has put the world to sleep, trapping DC’s greatest heroes in their own nightmares. While Batman slept, the hero known as Deadman possessed his body, using it to combat Insomnia. The entire experience took a lot out of Batman, who collapsed into a long slumber when the conflict ended. When he awakes, Gotham will be completely different.
What are Batman and Catwoman Fighting About in Gotham War?
I don’t want to spoil what’s coming, but I will tease you with this: when Bruce wakes up in Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War - Battle Lines #1, Selina will have changed Gotham. Catwoman has reduced Gotham’s violent crimes by over 70 percent, leaving the city more peaceful than ever. How did she do it? She simply poached all of the city’s henchmen, offered them more money, and redirected them to non-violent burglaries against Gotham’s richest residents.
This all but takes out other villains like the Joker or Mad Hatter, since they don’t have any goons to assist them with their heists. However, Batman can’t turn a blind eye to any crime, which puts him into direct conflict with Selina.
Was it Always Going to End this Way?
If something was going to tear Bruce and Selina apart, it would be Gotham. Their bond is too strong to be broken by the typical things that couples fight about, like lifted toilet seats or jealousy over ex-lovers. Justice and Gotham are two things Batman will never compromise over. In fact, some might argue that Catwoman isn’t Bruce’s true love, the city is.
As for Selina, as much as she loves Batman, she has never been one to let her affections for him compromise her own goals. She has her own plans for the city and for her criminal empire. If anything, Batman’s opposition will just make her more determined to dig her heels in.
Could this have been avoided if Holly and the Joker hadn’t talked Selina out of the 2018 wedding? Or if the Designer had never built the blueprints for robbing the Wayne fortune? When you look at Batman and Catwoman’s 83-year history, it becomes clear that if it wasn’t those specific things, it would have been something else. The biggest thing keeping Bruce and Selina apart isn’t Joker or the Designer, it’s themselves.
The Gotham War is a major turning point for Bruce and Selina’s long relationship. It’s the inevitable culmination of decades of conflicts, leading to a lover’s quarrel that could tear the city apart.
By the way, if you would like to dive deeper into the events that led us to The Gotham War, here is a recommended reading list.
1940’s Batman #1
1943’s Batman #15
1983’s Batman #355
2018’s Batman #44
2018’s Batman #50
Batman: Their Dark Designs
Batman: The Joker War
2022’s Catwoman #48
2023’s Catwoman #51-56
Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Battle Lines #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Tini Howard, Mike Hawthorne, Adriano di Benedetto and Romulo Fajardo Jr. is now available in print and as a digital comic book. Look for future chapters in issues of Batman and Catwoman over the next two months.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DC.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.