It is impossible to overstate the importance of Identity Element in the Cat-Tales oeuvre or the Batman/Catwoman relationship. The first half of the tale retells Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, then goes on to the fallout of the mindwipe.
In Chapter 1, we see Selina's rejection of the public perception of Batman and state unequivocally "We both know you’ve got a bigger heart than any of them. If they actually do not know that just because you grunt and scowl, then they are quite simply too stupid to live", and Bruce's rumination on Sue Dibny's murder and a set of bed sheets Selina purchased, the implications for the both of them if she spent his money as if she was his wife. The next chapters develop the latter through his effort to protect her, having her help with the investigation thinking it would mean she would remain in the Batcave. After that, she is sent to the Fortress of Solitude, to be protected alongside Lois. This first half of the story also reveals her increasingly maternal attitude towards Tim, underlining her acceptance of the entire family, not Bruce alone.
After the murder, just prior to the revelation of the mindwipe, Bruce and Selina's walk marks a pinnacle of acceptance and partnership.
"What were you really thinking about just now instead of your shoes?”
“I thought how I was away this year, at the Fortress. I wondered if you’d come up here alone or if Alfred or someone maybe came with you.”
“Really? That’s what was going through your mind?”
I felt funny. It was like he caught me out at something.
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.”
He smiled—more than just a twitch. Then he did that density shift, the smile vanished and it was Batman glaring again.
Lost as soon as it is achieved with the revelation not only of the mindwipe but the realization that Superman (Bruce does not call him Clark) knew. The betrayal strikes at the heart of Bruce's ability to trust, and he goes from including Selina as a given with all the "we" repetition in these scenes to shutting her out completely.
Selina's anguish is threefold: she feels the attack on Bruce for its own sake because she loves him, she feels the loss of the part of him that trusts, and she feels the loss of control. In making a home here, her happiness is now tied to these other people. Martian Manhunter empathizes, he lost a home and family once, now the Justice League is his family and he is on the cusp of losing that. He urges her to fight for her family as he is about to for his.
What follows is not only some of the best writing in the series, it is the best material on the subject of the Identity Crisis mindwipe, period. By the end of the story, Batman and Catwoman are over the initial hurdle, but there is no quick fix after such a monstrous betrayal and violation. Repercussions are still to come in Book 4.
Like all Cat-Tales, Identity Element can be read online on the Cat-Tales website or mobile mirror, and can be downloaded as an ebook or pdf, which is sized for printing at Cafe Press. It is collected in Cat-Tales Book 3.
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