This is the best portrayal of Catwoman since the DC "New 52" relaunch. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's "Batman and Catwoman" #22 gives us a Selina Kyle not seen in a long time, but the one long loved and waited for (not so patiently). Selina's voice is effortlessly on point, her morality effortlessly malleable in the way that has always made her fascinating. Tomasi and Gleason get her so right that one can't help but wish this was an ongoing title.
The story, a simple done in one, with Batman pitching in to help Catwoman with a good deed rescue mission works on all levels. It's a great opportunity to see the friendship between the characters as well as their fluid partnership. Their chemistry is well-handled by Tomasi and he doesn't feel the need to delve into gauche over the top sexual innuendo. It's nice to see a writer that can show the other sides of the characters without needing to dwell on it. They are more than just their insane attraction to one another, and it's terrific to see that reflected.
Unfortunately, the parts of the book with Carrie Kelly feel a bit off. The "b" storyline -- one of Carrie Kelly strung along by Bruce Wayne that Damian is still alive -- works well enough, and Tomasi even finds some bitter sweetness there that's welcome and not overplayed. The writing of Carrie feels odd and off-putting. It comes off as painfully chipper and a plainly forced Mary Sue for fans to grab onto in their desperation. She feels too perfect, like a character with bi-polar disorder going through her manic phase. Additionally, the way she inserts herself into Bruce's life, and her aggressive and bossy way with him doesn't feel authentic or believable, especially for a Bruce still very much in mourning. In the end, it feels out of sync with an otherwise splendid book.
Strangely, the visuals have exactly the same problem. On the whole, the art by Gleason, Mick Gray and colorist John Kalisz is bang-on. It's delicious in every sense of the word, from a grouchy pajama-clad Bruce Wayne to a svelte and thieving Selina Kyle. The action scenes (many of them rendered entirely in silhouette) are utterly fantastic -- both vibrant and fun, with perfect storytelling clarity. When it comes to Carrie Kelly, the issue suddenly just looks wrong, like she's a character transposed from another book into this story, or drawn by a different artist. She's too brightly colored, her body language is too extreme, her anatomy sometimes just plain wrong and her expressions falsely beam in nearly every scene. It's like stepping into "The Twilight Zone" to look at her blank smiling face, with her too-large eyes and bizarre head tilts. There's also an almost sexual way in which she moves and positions herself that is deeply unsettling as rendered.
Most of "Batman and Catwoman" #22 is a home run, with a nuanced look at Batman and Catwoman's very complicated relationship and a successful done-in-one story for the two characters. However, Carrie Kelly's very presence as written and illustrated feels like a garish blemish in an otherwise smart and subtle book.