Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham, Books 1 and 2 (DC Comics, 1999)
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Jim Balent and Kim DeMulder
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
"Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham" was a two-volume series published in DC's "prestige format" in 1999. It appeared under the "Elseworlds" umbrella, where characters are twisted and changed into something other than what readers are used to seeing them as. (I don't know if DC is still doing these, but from what little I know about what's been going on in the DC Universe in recent years, it ALL sounds like an Elseworlds series.)
In this one, it's Catwoman who is Gotham City's biggest superhero. She's allied with Commissioner Jim Gorden, she battles versions of the Joker, Two-Face, Killer Croc... all the usual suspects. Oh, and then there's the mystery Bat-man, a homicidal criminal the likes of which Gotham has never seen. Will Catwoman be able to capture him? Or will she be the one laying dead by the end of the night?
"Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham" is a fast-moving tale of gritty superhero action. If you liked the violent psycho-phase of the Batman titles, you'll probably enjoy this little alternate reality story. Doug Moench is in top-form writing-wise and there is plenty of entertaining stuff here. The romantic attraction between Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle that's been present in the Batman series since "Batman" #1 in the 1940s is used to greater effect than I think it's been anywhere outside the "Long Halloween" graphic novel.
Similarly, Jim Balent turns in some great pencils. His redesign of Catwoman's costume (which I think is the fourth or fifth one that did during his years drawing the character) is excellent and in keeping with the look of the rest of the "re-envisioned" Gotham City. The costume of the evil Bat-man is also a great and appropriately, insanely horrific. On the downside, Balent was well into his "breasts must be at least the size of the woman's head" phase. (But it's not as bad as his work on his self-published "Tarot" series... where breasts are at least TWICE the size of the head.)
The end result is a book that's entertaining and worth reading if you're a Batman or Catwoman fan--especially as the characters were portrayed in the 1980s and 1990s. However, it's not a "classic," so, despite the upscale and long-lasting format it was originally presented in, I doubt it's easy to find a decade after its publication. Should you come across this two-issue series at a flea-market, comic book convention, or on eBay, I recommend grabbing your copies.
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