New 52 – Catwoman #19 review

So I was reading the comic and about midway through my phone chimed with an email alert. I read the email and then figured I’d browse around the web a bit. After about a half hour of that I made myself something to eat and started reading Justice League, then He-Man #1, and after that I started playing more of the Injustice: Gods Among Us game because I’m going to be reviewing that soon for Batman News and it wasn’t until I saw Catwoman in the game that I remembered I never finished reading this comic book! That’s really not a good sign.

At least if it was really, really bad I would at least be consciously putting it off but I just flat-out forgot this thing even existed. A story about a prison break should never ever be like that.

Catwoman #19 is the first issue of this serious to tie into the ongoing Justice League of America series. Strangely though, it ties into issue #3 of Justice League of America, which won’t be released until May! It’s pretty strange to see an editor’s note telling you to check a comic that’s not available yet to get more info. It’s even stranger that this isn’t the only comic I reviewed today that did this. Issue #19 of Red Hood told me I should read issue #20 if I want answers.

The JLA have a plan to attract the attention of the Secret Society and use Catwoman as a spy within the organization. All they have to do is publicly catch Catwoman to prove she’s a baddie and all Catwoman needs to do is escape her prison in a jiffy so that the Secret Society of Super Villains knows she’s not only a threat to the JLA but a brilliant escape artist.

It’s a pretty good concept for a comic book! Probably the best story idea that’s come up in Nocenti’s run. Where did it go wrong? First off, if you want to impress people with your escaping abilities you should probably pick a prison that’s not so often referred to as a “revolving door”. There’s someone breaking out of Arkham all the time. How’s that supposed to impress the Secret Society of Super Villains? Secondly, the artwork in the book is abysmal. It took 3 artists and 3 inkers to get it done and Catwoman never looks well. The style of her outfit changes, Arkham looks the least crowded and threatening it ever has (it’s one of the most atmospheric settings in all of comics, come on), and sometimes the prose don’t match up with the imagery at all. One page in particular describes a secret chamber in disgusting details like there being rust and teeth marks all over the walls yet what we see is the most beautiful marble stairway you’ll find in any comic book this month.

And as for the portion of the book where Catwoman is actually locked up? I have so many questions from the way the asylum handles her processing to who her roommates are, it’s all bizzare. To begin, let’s look at who she’s sharing a cellblock with: Vortex (I have no idea) and Black Mask. It’s here that we learn that the New 52 Catwoman and Black Mask have never even heard of each other. Quite the change from the Pre-52 status quo in which Catwoman actually killed Roman Sionis. When it comes to Black Mask’s portrayal– he’s got the mask on… but in every other instance of him showing up in the New 52 the mask is exactly what gave him his mind control powers so why would they let him have it? Is it supposed to be a fake mask? A placebo to keep him calm?

Why did they put Selina Kyle in a straight jacket but leave her suit, goggles, and razor sharp gloves on? Wouldn’t the Arkham employees search her over before admitting her to the asylum? Wouldn’t Dr. Arkham himself wonder about it? Didn’t anybody think it was weird that the Justice League of America was dropping off a criminal that was already wearing a straight jacket?

If the only thing stopping the inmate Vortex (he has a super power that pushes energy out or pulls it in…or something) from bringing down the entire building with his powers is the taking of pills, wouldn’t the asylum make damn sure he took them instead of trusting he takes the medicine on his own?

It’s not a very impressive escape when all you had to do was ask the inmate on your right where the secret exit is and then ask the inmate to your left to use his super power to knock down all the walls.

It’s a good concept but really it’s just a side-story to the real tale which will be in JLA #3 and JLA #4 so there’s really no point in reading this. It could’ve been a very thrilling episode but it’s poorly executed with an overly simple escape, awful dialogue (“Cured? I’d rather be dead. I like to steal. It’s fun.”, “Smashing you two gives me great pleasure.”) and weak and inconsistent artwork. I have no idea how this comic book continues to exist. It’s sad to see such a great character bastardized month after month after month.

SCORE: 3/10