Hey, it’s that book I said I wasn’t going to review this month! Well, I had to review the Annual anyway so I went ahead and read this one so I’d be able to follow along. Turns out, reading issue #20 wasn’t totally necessary for grasping the complexities of the Catwoman Annual, who knew?
If you come around here often, it should come as no surprise to you that I didn’t like this issue and don’t suggest that anyone else go buy it.
Issue #20 has a good setup. It’s all the makings of a good Catwoman story! She finds out that her partner in crime is giving part of their take to The Penguin and she’s a bit miffed about this so she sets out to steal her cash back from Penguin and disrupt his whole operation. That all sounds great, but unfortunately, writer Ann Nocenti didn’t stop there. Instead she dredges back up that horrible Black Room storyline from a few months ago that showed a possessed Catwoman combating demons. It turns out that one of those demons escaped and he’s possessed one of Penguin’s nice, family-man of a henchman.
While the usual complaints I’ve listed in earlier reviews about Catwoman and all of her supporting characters remain, Ann Nocenti once again does a pretty good job with a classic Batman rogue. As difficult to comprehend as the Death of the Family tie-in was, she did a great job capturing the Joker’s voice! And in this issue and the Annual, Nocenti draws heavily from Gregg Hurwitz’s Penguin: Pain & Prejudice and it works! Regrettably, the story doesn’t spend much time with Penguin and we instead must slog through page after page of Escalate, the demon who escalates…things.
At first it seemed like he would just escalate emotions and it made for an interesting power for a villain to have even if a demon possession does feel horribly out of place in a Catwoman comic. But then the average henchman sprouted horns, big horns, and red skin and basically turned into the Tim Curry character from “Legend” and the narration stated that “Those birds, those clouds, the sand– nature around him is escalating— just like the men in the bar, he’s escalating joy and anger.” I honestly don’t know what the hell that means. Escalate sand like he escalated joy and anger? Sand has emotions? Does she just mean that he’s able to stir up the sand and make it hard to see? I flipped the page and whichever fill-in artist (Diogenes Neves or Mateus Santolouco) didn’t seem to think so. It’s a clear and sunny day on the following page. Nature looks A-Okay with zero escalation. All of the other beach goers in that particular scene (I forgot to mention that this scene takes place on a picturesque beach after just being in a dirty dive bar right on the boardwalk) however have been escalated… with sorrow and they are walking into the ocean to kill themselves. So the big question is: why didn’t Escalate just make Selina go kill herself like the rest of the beach crowd?
The art by Sandoval , as always is overly exaggerated and everyone has these noodly arms that wiggle and bow oddly and clothes that flow around them like everyone is caught in a high wind or the story is taking place under water. And apparently Sandoval is as disinterested in Nocenti’s scripts as I am because in one scene the dialogue between some gang members having target practice features the leader instructing his crew to stop turning their guns sideways and shoot straight, but Sandoval continued to draw the gang with their guns sideways in all the following panels. Even the gang leader who told them all not to do it is holding his gun sideways even while he’s telling everyone else to stop. Maybe he’s the “do as I say, not as I do” kind of teacher. The fill-in artists don’t match the more stylistic and distorted style of Sandoval later in the book and it’s noticeable but probably a good thing. The lines definitely get a lot thicker and Penguin gets a lot trimmer. I wish someone had made the beach a little bit stormy though. At the very least, the colorists did a good job with the opening graveyard scene.
It’s not the worst issue of Catwoman I’ve read and there are a few glimmers of a halfway decent story in there, but it’s all buried underneath some pointless demon possession nonsense. You don’t need to read this before checking out the annual, you don’t need to read it at all. Please, please DC, stop killing a great character with this awful series. Oh how I wish Nocenti did half as good of a job writing Selina as she does writing for Joker or Penguin.