Catwoman & Matches Malone fight crime

As Batman and Catwoman’s relationship goes from adversarial to passionate to cold to adversarial again, rinse and repeat, in 2004 they mainly just try to stay out of each other’s way.  For reference, this story takes place a month or two before the DC event Identity Crisis, where Zatanna reveals she magically-influenced Catwoman to be a superhero.  But before Selina Kyle’s breakdown, we get this lovely story from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #177-178, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Jean-Jacques Dzialowski.

Catwoman attacks the Triads, who make the awful mistake of getting involved in the sex slave trade in Gotham’s East End (Catwoman’s territory).  As talented and scary as Catwoman can be, she’s no Batman — she’ll need some help if she’s to take on an entire gang.  Luckily, even with Catwoman’s egocentric rules, Batman’s always been a rule breaker.

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It’s nice to know Batman can make his undercover identities even sleazier with just a few keys on the Batcomputer.  Note that this takes place after the Batman: Hush arc, so Catwoman knows Batman’s secret identity as Bruce Wayne.  Hence, with just a pair of glasses and a mustache, Bruce Wayne becomes unrecognizable as Matches Malone.  It’s what Clark Kent does and no one’s the wiser, despite him working in an entire office of amateur detectives.

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It’s important to note that despite Matches Malone’s obvious sexist comment, if Batman had said the same thing, her response would have been noticeably less chilly.  That just goes to show you: become a legendary symbol for all that’s good and just in the rotten depths of Gotham City and your occasional paramour won’t mind a flirty crack every once in a while.  I don’t always give dating advice on this website, but you should write that last tip down.

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Now we’re getting to Catwoman and Batman’s normal method of dating.  Whoever gets the least bruises at the end of the night wins the date.  You see Matches Malone’s face in that last panel? Fully take in his cartoonishly prideful smirk.  Whenever Catwoman fights back, I’m just impressed that Batman is able to counter, what with his boner restricting his movement.  Most importantly, good for Catwoman not to trust a henchman who looks more like a used car salesman than a crime-fighting force of nature.  Girls have been abducted, the bad guys are committing unspeakable evil, and Catwoman doesn’t have time for Matches Malone’s pervy investigations.  Of course, like all good Batman relationships, he unashamedly uses her to find out exactly what she’s after.

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Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game where Matches Malone and Catwoman seemingly compete to see who can free the girls first, hence Catwoman’s rage like in the page below as she spends the next fifteen pages yelling at him and dodging gunfire to find these girls.  See Matches Malone talking to the bad guys?  What’s his real motive?

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Spoiler alert: Catwoman finds and frees the girls.  Batman, who doesn’t help at all in this arc (if you don’t count his disguise), shows up at the very end stand there and bark orders at his soulmate.  I’m just saying he treats her more like Robin than his on-and-off again lover.

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All that’s left is to solidify Matches Malone and Catwoman’s partnership.  As in all that built-up anger (which pretty much drives Catwoman’s character at this point) towards our undercover agent has to get offloaded at some point, and we can see Batman be a delightful gentleman in having Catwoman being the one to squeak by with the victory here.  Also, it saves him being randomly clawed in the face at some point in the next few days.  Crime-fighting is a personality-walking tightrope.  Especially for Batman, who has difficulty with stuff like feelings and friendships and stuff.

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One more secret identity given up to Catwoman.  Their relationship takes one more dysfunctional step forward — then a dozen steps back in Identity Crisis, but that’s another story.  Next time, the goofy origin of Deadshot!

 

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