Catwoman #31: “Race of Thieves, Part 2: Gauntlet”
Written by Ann NOcenti
Art by Patrick Olliffe

In the previous issue, we saw Selina swear off Catwoman, “save” her friend, Gwen, from suicide, then become Catwoman again, and join a race of thieves to help save kids who had been kidnapped by Roulette – apparently, that’s her “Achilles’ heel,” how did Roulette know?!? There are three tests that each thief must go through before they join the race. The first test was to crack the encryption for the invitation to the race, and receive the location for the next test. Turns out the second test is for the thieves to prove their prowess in combat. The race turns into a free-for-all, and in the heat of battle, Catwoman is sent to the Mirror World by Mirror Master. Which is where this issue picks up.

*Sigh* Nocenti writing the Mirror World is… well… if half of what Ann Nocenti writes doesn’t make much sense, then imagine her writing about something as “complex” as the Mirror World. So, to see Catwoman hanging from the mirror she was just pushed through, trying to figure a way out, it just seemed stupid. Clearly your way out is through the mirror you’re hanging from. The addition of Swindle and Vice being stuck in the Mirror World with her didn’t help any either. These two characters are constantly bickering, and while it’s intended to be humorous, it’s not. Catwoman strikes a deal with Vice and Swindle to take down Mirror Master, and together they break free. Thank God this happened within the first few pages! I would’ve been pulling out the whiskey bottle if I had to read a full twenty-plus pages of Catwoman trapped in the Mirror World with these two.

The three break free, and the battle is… over? Wait, is it over, or is it just a standoff? Oh, Roulette just congratulated them on passing the test, so yeah, it’s over. Ok… I’ll go with it. Selina takes advantage of this time to also strike up a deal with Mirror Master to ensure they both make it to the final round – tricky girl! We’re reminded that Roulette has a rich guy’s kid held hostage, and the remaining competitors are informed of their third task: to steal something of value from the mysterious Viceroy Manor. The trick, and reason for interest, is that the Manor has opened an “archaeological dig” due to a police investigation that has been re-opened. This just happens to segue into the B-plot of this story. The sole surviving descendant of the Viceroy family wants to re-open an investigation to clear the Viceroy name that has been tainted due to a murder scandal. A cop is transferred to the GCPD on private funds to run this investigation, and the whole thing is just odd. It’s clear there’s more to this story, but what’s the catch?

Meanwhile, the thieves take action, and try to steal valuables from the Viceroy Manor. Catwoman enters the heist and begins to execute her plan, betraying some alliances, following through on others, and utilizes assistance from other’s who aren’t currently in the race. But will she manage to complete the heist for Roulette? Who else will complete the task? What happens when a surprise twist changes Catwoman’s chances in the race? And does this twist play in her favor, or against it? The only way to find out, is to grab a copy of this issue. Or read the review for the next issue. Or just see below for spoilers.

Recommended if:

  • You pick up books because Ann Nocenti wrote them.
  • You enjoy a good heist story.
  • Catwoman executing a tricky heist sounds like fun.
  • Mirror Master is one of your favorite Rogues.
  • You want to see an angry coroner with a funny haircut

Beware, there are opinions and spoilers a plenty down below!

The Art: Olliffe’s art is much better in this issue than the previous issue. Overall, it’s just much more consistent. I’m still a fan of how he draws eyes – they are the window to the soul after all – but he still has an opportunity with the action. His action panels are a little unclear at times, and I find myself having to piece it together to understand what actually happened. I think he could also stand to improve a little on understanding how Selina moves. She should have very distinct characteristics to her physical presence and ability, and I don’t really see that too often.

The Good: Someone pinch me. I’m not sure if I’m just on a high from my family being in town, or if I’m excited that they left today and I actually get the opportunity to relax a little… but I enjoyed this issue more than I expected to! I thought Nocenti crafted a decent plan for Selina’s heist. I mean, there were actually some complexities to it! It was far from perfect, but when you consider that Selina struck an alliance with Vice and Swindle, then struck another alliance with Mirror Master, brought Volt in – who had been eliminated from the race – to play a key role in the heist to shut down Mirror Master, utilized crooked cops working at the Viceroy Manor to gain an upper hand in the heist, and is secretly working with Gillbrite. This is something that Catwoman would actually do! I’m shocked! Shocked!

The Bad: Despite (slightly) enjoying this issue, there are still a lot of negative aspects. I’m shocked, but it’s only because I’m comparing this issue to other issues that Nocenti has written, not works that are classified as good or great. There are still a number of things that logically just don’t add up (the whole Viceroy case is just weird), and Nocenti continues her knack for convenient plot points. There’s also still an opportunity to bring quality, emotional depth to these characters, but I’m not holding my breath.

Overall: While this issue is a step up from the mess that Nocenti usually provides, it’s still a little messy. That being said, this is probably the most enjoyable issue I’ve read during her run on Catwoman, and that’s worth something. There’s still a lot of room for growth before this book becomes what it should be though.

SCORE: 4.5/10