Catwoman #35 “Comfort to the Hurt of the King”
Written by: Genevieve Valentine
Art by: Gary Brown
God this has been a long time coming! I can’t express the joy I have that Nocenti is no longer overseeing this book. I’m so glad that we have a new team, and are moving in a new direction that will make Selina relevant again. The question is, is the transition actually a good transition, or are we on the brink of another major letdown like the one we experienced when Winick passed the book off to Nocenti? It pains me to say this, but prepare yourself, because it actually can get worse… Kidding! I’m kidding! That’s nearly impossible.
Selina has put her Catwoman identity aside, and is now attempting to take Gotham back as the new Calabrese crime boss. Most of this issue is exposition, but it’s done well and doesn’t feel tiresome. We’re thrown into Selina’s new world, and her attitude towards the whole venture is quite captivating. She’s different than how we’re used to seeing her. It took me a few pages to adjust to this change, and I started to think, “Oh God, does Valentine not have a good grasp on her?” Then I realized that wasn’t it, and thought, “Has it really been this long since I’ve read a smart Catwoman story?”. While this is definitely a slam on Nocenti, it’s not just the fact that her Catwoman run is the freshest (and worst) one on my mind. This Selina is different than any representation I can remember reading.
Before you point out the obvious fact that she’s different because she’s not Catwoman anymore, but Selina Kyle: mob boss, I want to clarify what I’m saying. In her core, something has changed. In Dick Grayson’s shift from Nightwing to Spyral Agent, he’s managed to remain true to what we know and expect him to be. Selina, however is not. There’s no flirtation with danger. There’s no “fun” in what she’s doing. Everything is business now. She’s grown in her approach and understanding of crime, and the only time you see the true, old Selina is when she’s physically stopping some crime at the beginning of the issue, or reminiscing about her past… and I loved every bit of it, because Valentine and Brown did an outstanding job of conveying the tone and emotions she was feeling,
It’s honestly the things that go unsaid by Selina that fascinate me the most. She leads with a quiet, demanding confidence, but is also plagued with silent doubt. And this discovery was my “ah-ha” moment. This is when I realized exactly what was different about her. I’m not used to Catwoman being so swallowed up in doubt. But what really drives this home, is how subtle it is! She never directly mentions this doubt, but it’s eludes to it time and time again as she tries to convince herself that she’s capable of changing Gotham. It’s almost as if she’s defeated in some ways, has put herself on autopilot, and just going through the motions because it needs to be done. Her passion seems to have completely dissipated… yet she’s still headstrong and, so far, successful. I’m eating this complexity up!
We’re introduced to new characters during this issue as well, including Nick and Antonia, Selina’s family – literally and figuratively. Nick and Antonia are Selina’s cousins, and again the creative team managed to develop them pretty well considering they’re not the focus, and don’t get much focus. While these two appear to be loyal to Selina, there is naturally some dissent in the ranks. With these introductions, we get to see some familiar faces as well. Detective Alvarez and Detective Keyes pop up, investigating Selina. Black Mask is back on the streets of Gotham. And then to top things off, Batman has a nice moment with Selina that reminded me of the way things were prior to the New 52. All of these scenes are small layers that serve as a building block for a complex and engaging story for the future. Add in Selina’s approach to running crime, and you get a deliciously appetizing story that will leave you wanting more.
- You’ve been waiting for a smart Catwoman story.
- You missed Selina being a bad-ass.
- You want to read the beginning of a textured, detailed, and layered story that is understated with a gritty, noir vibe.
Be warned, there may be SPOILERS beyond this point.
The Art: While I wouldn’t say the art is amazing, I’m a big fan of it! I love the gritty tone of Brown’s art, and think it suits this new direction perfectly. It kind of reminds me of Mazzucchelli’s art (Batman: Year One), and it compliments Valentine’s writing so well. Brown’s ability to convey emotions through facial expressions is so good, that I fell in love with his work the moment I saw one panel of Selina.
I’m going to show you two. Why the hell not? Look at the expressions!
The Good: There’s a lot of good here! I love the new direction, and I love the stories they’re setting up. I can’t wait to see how things unfold with Selina, what pushes her limits, what breaks her, and how she continues to change and develop. Overall, I enjoyed the story so much that I didn’t want to give many details away, because the details and subtlety make this issue special. Considering this is Valentine’s debut in this medium, I can only imagine the stories she’ll craft once she hits her stride and gains more experience! She’s definitely worth watching.
And who is this Catwoman we get to see at the end!?!?! Any guesses?
The Bad: I only have one negative comment, and I don’t really think it’s a negative (clearly I love this book). This new direction is definitely more stylized than people may like their idea of Catwoman to be. I find Selina as a mob boss extremely believable, and everything about it feels right.
There were also moments where I felt like the transition from Catwoman to mob boss felt a little disjointed, but I had to remind myself that this issue takes place after Batman Eternal – although I would like to know how far past Eternal we are.
Overall: Valentine and Brown team up to bring a smart and sexy interpretation of Catwoman. The new direction is a risk, but turns out to be a home run! I feel like Selina is at her best when she’s cloaked in complexity, and there’s definitely plenty of that here!