Catwoman #33: “Race of Thieves Part 4: A Cold Case”
Written by Ann NOcenti
Art by Patrick Olliffe

Ok… I know I’m the one reviewing this issue… But can anyone connect the dots of this arc, and logically make sense of it? I mean, I understand everything that happened, but I don’t see how anyone could argue that these are realistic, reasonable, or sensible results of the previous actions. The pieces just don’t add up. And I feel like I’m ultimately left asking, “Why? What was the point of this?” Oh Ann… I’m befuddled as to how you continue to have a job writing…

In the last issue, we actually had the race of thieves, which concluded with Catwoman and Mirror Master teaming up to keep Roulette from winning. But before they can go after her, Detective Alvarez and Detective Keyes show up to arrest them (let me remind you that this is all taking place in South Asia, not in Gotham), but Catwoman talks her way out of it, and then they realize that Roulette has disappeared – which results in Catwoman throwing a temper tantrum and breaking stuff.

This issue kicks off with… You guessed it! Catwoman throwing a temper tantrum and breaking stuff! Except she’s back in Gotham now with Tesla and Gwen… And everyone else who has been involved in this arc is nowhere to be found. Apparently, Catwoman was “gaslit” by Roulette. I had never heard of this term, so I had to Google it to see if it’s an actual figure of speech. Turns out, it is. So what does “gaslit” mean? Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Unfortunately, Nocenti didn’t explain it as well, nor did she really use it in the correct context. And to make it worse, she kept using it over and over again as if it were a new word that she was trying to make trendy. It was really annoying.

Catwoman seeks to get revenge on Roulette after she fixed the race (that’s not really how I would describe what happened, considering the race ended the way Selina wanted it to – aside from Roulette disappearing – but whatever), and plans to gaslight her to do so… except Catwoman’s version of gas lighting is essentially playing pranks on Roulette’s OCD. It’s all really asinine.

Spoiler

What did Catwoman do to Roulette exactly? She messed with Roulettes weights when she was lifting. She threw an electronic device into the pool that grasps Roulette while she’s swimming to slow her down (imagine a portable, handheld Doctor Octopus), and we’re supposed to believe Roulette (and apparently her guard) believe that they’re going crazy for thinking something is wrong. I mean, really… how could you not notice this?

Catwoman 1

To continue, Catwoman tampers with an elevator.  And on top of it all, Roulette can’t tell that her driver is Catwoman despite the fact that Catwoman is STILL WEARING HER MASK!

Catwoman 2

It’s all just terrible, terrible writing.

To make it even worse, the murder “mystery” that’s been taking place as the subplot of this arc, is suddenly and randomly connected to the race of thieves in ways that were conveniently left out previously, then the plot is thrown away. It’s literally represented in a “Oh… I guess we should address this… Umm…. Ok, just connect it to our main plot somehow, then reference a solution, and we’ll be golden!” sort of manner.  It’s just bad writing. Really bad. And Nocenti’s writing has been this way for a LONG TIME.

I don’t understand how DC or the editor could allow something like this to get published month after month. It seriously tarnishes the brand. As terrible of a writer as Nocenti is, there are definitely others to blame. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, but what did their review meetings or pitch meetings look like? I feel like Ann has to be best friends with someone really high up, or she’s such a cool, friendly, easy to work with professional, that they want to keep her around. They definitely don’t keep her around for her talent. If I were the editor, I’d want her gone, or I’d request to edit a different book. And if that couldn’t happen, I would probably give up. If that’s the case, then I picture their pitch meetings going something like this:

Spoiler

DC: “So, Ann, what do you have in mind for your next story?”

Ann: “I was thinking it would be really cool to have a competition between thieves. It makes sense because Catwoman is a thief, you know? But we could have them steal stuff, almost like it’s a race to see who executes the best heist. Oh, and to play on the idea of having a “Thieves Race,” we could have them actually race different vehicles, and it could take place in a foreign country somewhere.”

DC: “Ok. That seems like it could be fun. What is the motivation for this race?”

Ann: “Catwoman is the best thief.”

DC: “Ok, yeah, but what’s the point of it?”

Ann: “To find the best thief.”

DC: “Right. No, we get that. But why would Catwoman join this race? Why should we tell this story? And why would she want to do it?”

Ann: “Because kids are being held hostage, and that’s her Achilles heel. She wants to save them.”

DC: “Ok, not bad. That could be really enjoyable.”

Ann: “Oh, and there could be an ancient murder mystery that pops up too.”

DC: “Wait, so you want to do a murder mystery instead?”

Ann: “No, the race is because of the murder mystery. It’s a cover-up.”

DC:  “Um, I’m sorry, I’m a little confused as to how the race and the murder mystery are connected.”

Ann: “Because there aren’t really any missing kids. A character will just say his kid is missing, but he can hire another villain to host the race while he sabotages the murder mystery that’s opened back up. But really, Catwoman is being gaslit.”

DC: “Gaslit?”

Ann: “Yeah.”

DC: “…Ok, but why would this guy hold a race for thieves, only to cover up a murd – you know what? Have at it! You go do your thing Ann! Good job!”

Look, I know some of you are going to say I’m being really mean to Ann. Please understand, I’m not attacking her, I’m attacking her work. I would love to meet Ann, have lunch and interview her, pick her brain about comics, why did she start writing comics, what’s her dream job, etc… But this IS her job, her profession, and she’s failing at it miserably. If you or I were failing at our job, we would most likely be fired. And while she will no longer write Catwoman beginning in October, she’ll still be writing for DC. What I will say about her is this: she put herself out there. She made an effort (I think), created something, put herself out there for others to see, and that is honestly more than most people ever do! And she does it time and time again. This is the exact reason why you will never see me give a 0 for a review. If you create something, then you deserve something better than nothing. In the same respect, you’ll never see me give an issue a 10. I don’t think that anything is ever perfect. Will you see a 9.5? Hell yeah (I hope)!

Recommended If:

  • You’re a fan of Ann Nocenti.
  • You want to see how this arc ends.

Overall: I don’t recommend reading this. It’s bad. It’s so bad that even when Olliffe provides solid art, you don’t notice it because the story is so baffling. And it doesn’t help that Olliffe’s art is really inconsistent, so if you do notice it, it may not be good. The one takeaway that I did enjoy, is that I learned what “gas light” is. I also learned that the phrase developed due to a 1940’s film, which I fully intend on checking into at some point. So thank you, Ann, for introducing me to this.

SCORE: 1.5/ 10