Catwoman #41 “Caesar or Nothing” Part 1
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by David Messina
Colors by Lee Loughridge
I’ve missed this book, and I’m glad to have it back from its two month vacation. As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Valentine’s work on Catwoman, and I’ve praised her for writing a version of Selina Kyle that has depth. She takes her time with characters and narrative, and intertwines intelligently complex plots that allow her to build to a worthwhile payoff. Some people have expressed disinterest in her work because they find the book “boring” or they don’t care to read anything where Selina isn’t Catwoman. Well, to that I say, “If intelligent, psychological narratives are boring, then I love boring things.” And if you weren’t reading this title because Selina wasn’t Catwoman, then you need to pick it back up because Selina Cats is back (just make sure you at least catch-up first so you’re not confused before you start this new arc)!
Yep, that’s right! After what felt like years of reading a crappy Catwoman (Nocenti), we now have a good writer, and “Mob Boss” Selina is back to her old ways as the elusive Catwoman. Valentine spent a great deal of her first arc working to rebuild the foundation of this character and book – something that this title desperately needed. Spinning out of Batman Eternal, Selina became the head of the Calabrese family, and quickly worked her way to the top of Gotham’s underworld. Throughout the first arc, we were introduced to numerous new characters, including other members of the Calabrese family – namely Antonia and Ward – the Hasigawa family, the Falcones, and other crimes bosses. Returning characters such as Penguin, Black Mask, and Detectives Keyes and Alvarez also found their way into the fold, bringing us to where we are now: a time bomb waiting to go off.
There’s a power play running between Selina and Black Mask that has the underworld divided. And conveniently straddling both sides, is none other than our favorite opportunist, Penguin. The build to this point in the comic has been comprised of one political move for power after another; tension and anticipation building with each strike. In this issue, we continue to build upon this foundation, while reminding readers of everything that’s occurred. Both sides of the conflict are regrouping after the previous arc’s gang war. Understanding how critical it is for her to get ahead, Selina takes on the mantle of Catwoman again, and is able to manipulate events to her advantage. But this return to her true nature isn’t only good for business, it’s good for her as well. Becoming Catwoman again is a way for Selina to feel complete within herself after spending months struggling to accept her new identity and responsibilities. To her, Catwoman is a form of comfort and confidence.
If there’s anything that can falter Selina though, it’s the events of Batman #40.
So much of this issue plays into the outcome of Batman #40, that it makes me wish Catwoman #41 had been the first thing I’d read following that issue. It feels like the perfect introduction to this change in the status quo. I love the glimpse it gives into how the outcome of that book personally affects Selina’s world, as well as the city. The way Valentine introduces the GCPD’s new Batman initiative is perfect. There are no details other than Batman is gone, and the GCPD will now deploy a Batman initiative under the police’s direction and authority in the wake of what happened. This doesn’t sit well with Selina or Eiko – who is still operating as Catwoman as well – nor with Detective Keyes or Alvarez. Surprisingly, it’s Black Mask who is the most eager to embrace this change due to the number of GCPD he has on his payroll.
Ultimately, it’s the events of Batman #40 that begin to spiral this book in a new direction. Selina’s priorities shift from her current situation, as she sets out on a new mission. In doing so, she’s set the first domino in motion in what I’m sure will be a chain reaction of events as Antonia is left to make critical decisions for the family, Penguin is left to initiate more opportunity for himself, and Selina mistakenly reveals her identity as Catwoman to someone that could easily use that information to bring her world down around her. Buckle up, because this arc is going to be a wild ride!
Be warned, there are spoilers below.
The Art: During his run, I praised Dan Brown’s art almost nonstop. When I first heard Catwoman was getting a new artist, I was a little uncertain in how I felt about it, but if I’m being honest… I think I like David Messina more. He kept the same shadowed tone and noir-like vibe that I loved from Brown, so that’s a plus! That specific look and feel has essentially become synonymous with the overall tones and themes of this book, so it was definitely a smart move on behalf of the artists. While keeping this grit and texture though, Messina also manages to deliver much cleaner lines and details. The characters are actually drawn with detailed faces now, and have strong, emotional responses. Everything about the art looks like a progressively strong step in the right direction. It’s almost as if DC closely examined what was and wasn’t working with Brown’s art, then found an artist who could deliver in both the books strengths, and it’s opportunities. And considering Selina’s return to Catwoman, it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
If there’s one thing I’m now questioning though, it’s if I actually loved Dan Brown’s art throughout the first arc, or if I really loved Loughridge’s colors. So much of the ease in transition between the two artists is because of the consistency of the colors. It creates an easy transition for readers, and ultimately highlights how effective a colorist can be for a book!
For a glimpse of the internal art, check out the spoiler tag.
The Good: There’s so much good here…
Selina. Seeing Selina divide her time as Catwoman and the head of the Calabrese family is near perfection. We barely get to see her as Catwoman here, but we get enough that it highlights Selina’s two strongest character traits: the free-willed, fun, exhibitionist-like swagger of Catwoman, as well as the strong, morally ambiguous, yet emotionally sound, core of Selina Kyle.
Bruce’s “death.” Selina’s reaction is a 10 out of 10. I would love to see this played out in film. I want those goose bumbs! If her love for Bruce has ever been apparent, it’s here. But what I liked even better, is how well she actually knows Bruce. Once the shock of the revelation has passed, she realizes that there’s no way he’s dead. He can’t be. And she makes it her mission to find him!
GCPD “Batman.” Much in line with my feelings, nobody in this book seems to think this is a good idea, except for Black Mask… Let me ask you something, if you were in a room full of people, and Black Mask was the only person that thought something was a good idea… do you really think it would be a good idea? No. I know it’s too late, but let’s learn from this book, and openly admit that Robo-Popo-Bats is a terrible idea. Granted, I feel like this book has handled this change, and will probably continue to handle this change, better than any other book (with the exception potentially being Grayson.)
The Bad. I wouldn’t consider this bad, but considering this issue does take time to essentially recap the events of the previous arc, remind us of our key players within the title, and set-up the aftermath of Batman #40, there’s a chance that readers may find this to be a little uneventful. I, however, disagree.
- You’ve been waiting for Selina to get back to her old ways.
- You’re curious to see Selina’s reaction to the events of Batman #40
- You loved Valentine’s first arc
Overall: Catwoman continues to build upon itself as it leads into the second chapter of a story that is sure to define the character for years!
SCORE: 8.5/ 10