Peter MilliganBatman
Batman: Catwoman Defiant
Medium: comic
Year: 1992
Writer: Peter Milligan
Penciller: Tom Grindberg
Inker: Dick Giordano
Keywords: superhero
Format: 46 pages
Series: << Batman >>
Website category: Batman
Review date: 6 September 2021
It's one of two prestige-format graphic novels released alongside the second Tim Burton Batman film. (No plot link between them, though.) DC commissioned two of their best writers, with Peter Milligan doing Catwoman and John Ostrander doing the Penguin. I quite liked both. This one's thoughtful. Milligan's been contemplating the purpose of the Catwoman character, which of course is "tits and arse". She wears a skintight catsuit and is regularly drawn in cheesecake poses. She has a teasing "bad girl" nearly-sexual relationship with the Batman. It would be insane to call her the only exploitatively drawn female character in comics, of course, but Catwoman's sexuality is part of the character in a way that's less true with, say, Harley Quinn, Batwoman or Poison Ivy.
The villain is Mister Handsome, a gang boss. He and his henchmen wear mannequin masks that make them look like Autons. On the first page, Mister Handsome is smashing art treasures. That's memorable. He hates beauty. He's lost his wife, he's had a throat operation and he keeps a giant super-ugly freak monster to which he feeds anyone he doesn't like.
The story's first half is unremarkable. Milligan's Batman is still one-dimensional (although he's relatively peripheral in this story) and I've never liked Catwoman. They team up to defeat Mister Handsome. It's exciting. There's nothing wrong with it. It's perfectly normal Bat-fare.
After that, though, Milligan starts digging into his theme. Mister Handsome, his late wife and Catwoman all have their own opinions on beauty and the unforgiving eye of the beholder. The story's making you aware of male gaze, because that's how Mister Handsome evaluates his victims. Mary makes the story both interesting and horrifying. Bloody hell. Her motivations and the things she did... you could almost call some of this a dry run for Milligan and Fegredo's Face three years later. "Some of the later operations didn't take so well."
I like the internal art too, which is solid in all departments. Tom Grindberg draws a hot Catwoman, as is important for what Milligan's saying... although, strangely, Brian Stelfreeze's cover makes her look weird and ugly.
It's a good story, despite Catwoman's annoying habit of calling bats rodents. (Why doesn't Batman correct her?) I'm not a fan of Catwoman stories in general, but I approve of this one.