Alright, before I delve into this, I just want to say two things:
- Some of you have expressed in the comments section of previous posts how sorry you are that I’m reviewing this book. Don’t be. I chose to do this. I chose to volunteer my time to write reviews, and I chose to review this book specifically. Even though I think Ann Nocenti is a terrible writer (and she is, but I promise to review her issues fairly), I love Catwoman/ Selina Kyle as a character. When she’s written correctly, she’s one of the best, most dynamic characters in the DCU! Her complexities create a foundation in her that numerous readers connect with and understand, and that is why she tends to be one of DC’s leading ladies.
- Which brings me to my next point – Catwoman can, and hopefully will, be a great book. I’ve noticed that at the moment, when someone mentions Catwoman, there’s a genuinely negative reaction 90% of the time. Unfortunately, I think it’s gotten to the point that some people no longer have a negative outlook on Nocenti’s Catwoman run alone, but towards the actual character Catwoman, as well. It’s as if she’s developed some type of stigma. Because of that, I want to remind everyone of the potential that this book has. Think back to Loeb’s “When In Rome,” or Brubaker’s “Trail of the Catwoman” and “No Easy Way Down.” They were excellent stories that could hold their own with the best of books. Hell, even Winick’s run in the New 52 was damn good, especially “The Game!” It’s just a shame that we, including Catwoman, have been stuck with Ann Nocenti (Can you imagine how different the “Death of the Family” and “Requiem” tie-ins would’ve been with Winick writing it?). The book does have potential. It will just take a new creative team to meet it. I’m crossing my fingers that it will happen this fall! Until then, Ann Nocenti’s Catwoman ladies and gentlemen.
Catwoman #30: “Race of Thieves, Part 1: Crime Pays”
Written by Ann NOcenti
Art by Patrick Olliffe
This issue comes straight out of “Gothtopia,” where Selina struggled to come to terms with the alternate reality of being a hero (Catbird) vs her true nature as a criminal and thief (Catwoman). The opening page of “Race of Thieves” is quite an intriguing one, as it continues this plot by showing Selina burn her Catwoman costume and vow to leave that life behind. (There was an “inventory” issue by Sholly Fisch in between “Gothtopia” and “Race of Thieves” that was a fun read, but it looks like we’re not going to acknowledge that event. Let me know if you want me to review it.) Considering what we learned in Batman #28 pertaining to Selina Kyle, I was excited and concerned that the book was going to start moving that direction… Don’t get me wrong, I want to see this transition covered in Catwoman – Scott Snyder has stated in interviews that we will – I just don’t want Nocenti to be overseeing this book when that happens.
Anyway, Selina is moving on. She’s done with Catwoman, and is working towards a better life. Long gone are the nights of “kicking butt or leaping across rooftops.” She’s doing things that a good, normal person would do: she’s working out at the gym, adopting tons of little kitties from a shelter, etc. She even receives an invitation that’s a challenge for the best known thieves, and she tosses it aside. This Selina is focused! She’s even working for a crime/suicide hotline. That’s right, a crime/suicide hotline. (Yep… It’s something Nocenti started during the alternate reality of “Gothtopia,” and somehow it’s carried over… I can’t really explain how that works, so we’ll just continue.) I would typically find this very interesting and think that it would add to Selina’s complexity, but the writing is so terrible. Seriously, it’s BAD. See for yourself.
And of course, the person on the other end of the line is none other than Selina’s former friend, Gwen. For those of you that don’t remember Gwen, she’s the fence that replaced Lola on Winick’s run, killed Spark, worked with Penguin behind Selina’s back, and ultimately betrayed Selina. She’s a peach. You’d be happy to call her a friend. Actually, Gwen is a character that could’ve been amazing, but instead, we get this mess.
From here, we actually get introduced to the Race of Thieves. Selina’s fence, Gwen, ends up helping Selina crack the code to the invitation she received earlier. Due to unrelenting circumstances (I’ll get into this later), she decides that she needs to participate. Selina and Gwen team up with Tesla – the tech friend of Selina’s that we were introduced to during the Gotham Underground story arc – to equip Selina with some nifty gadgets, and ensure she’s prepared to dominate this race. Oh, and Gwen just happens to have a spare Catwoman outfit tucked away for Selina. How convenient.
We jump to the Race of Thieves showdown, where everyone who made it apparently got a memo to dress for a masquerade ball (I really don’t know… I’m not able…). There are some familiar faces in the crowd, such as Volt and Mirror Master, as well as Trip Winter with Roulette – the self proclaimed “greatest thief in the world” – who created this challenge. Those who made it here, passed the first test, but there are two more tests, and the second one starts NOW! Screaming kittens, Catwoman! We’re off to the races!
- You think Ann Nocenti is the cat’s meow.
- You’re a fan of Gwen or Tesla.
- The thought of a challenge or race to steal something is exciting.
- You’re a poor shot with a gun and want to feel better by discovering someone else is clearly much worse than you…
The Art: The main thing preventing me from praising Olliffe’s art, is the fact that it’s incredibly inconsistent. You can definitely tell what he enjoys drawing, and what he wants to quickly complete so he can get to the next thing that he’s excited to draw. I thought the first page was outstanding, and he’s amazing with eyes… when he wants to be. His eyes can contain some of the most expressive emotions that I’ve ever seen drawn in comics (to the point that you don’t need dialogue and can clearly tell what the character is thinking or feeling), or it’s just a blank, doe-eyed, deer in the headlights type of look. It’s the extreme differences that take away from the book.
I also don’t understand some of the artistic decisions. As with Nocenti’s writing, sometimes things just don’t make sense. For example, the panel pictured above in the spoiler tag that shows Gwen on the floor with the gun. She’s supposed to have attempted suicide, but there are nearly 20 BULLET HOLES IN THE WALL! 20!!! What was she doing? Running from her own gunshots? It’s ludicrous. And I’m not even going to get into the questionable wardrobes that constantly pop up (I’m looking at you Tesla… and nearly everyone else).
The Good: There’s not much good here. I mentioned that I enjoyed the opening page and how good Olliffe is with character’s eyes when he wants to be. Other than that, the only thing I liked about this issue was how the masquerade dress that Selina wore was a nod to Catwoman’s original costume from the 40’s. I think it’s completely un-needed and only there to provide that nod, but it was a nice gesture regardless.
The Bad: Almost everything… Seriously. The art is inconsistent. The story is ridiculous. And the dialogue is even worse. Who writes things like, “You’re dead to me Catwoman. You ruined my life. I meet a man, you drive him off. I make a friend? They die. I build a normal life? You shred it. I’m Selina Kyle. You’ll never possess me again, Catwoman.” Ok… nice conversation with yourself. I’m glad Black Mask has inspired you in certain ways… Then there’s the hotline conversation, and these little gems: “Greatest thief in the world? She is not! I am! Who is this Roulette chick?” (Are you 12?) Or upon finding out that Roulette is holding children hostage, “Damn her! Kids in trouble… my Achilles heel. It’s as if she knew.” I could easily spend pages discussing what’s wrong with this book, but I’ll spare you all and just stop.
Oh, and she has a charm bracelet with explosive cat heads. Thank you for that, Tesla. Thank you. (Sorry, had to get one more jab in.)
Overall: It’s the same thing we’ve come to expect from Ann Nocenti: random trite that is just irritating. Fingers crossed people! Fingers crossed!