Catwoman Annual #2 “Shozen”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by Pat Olliffe and Tom Nguyen with John McCrea

Once again, Valentine delivers another well written, well planned story. I’ve been incredibly pleased with the change of direction for Catwoman, and I’ve hesitantly been waiting for things to start falling apart. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, it’s just that this has all felt a little too good to be true. Thankfully, this book has remained consistent – I would even argue that it’s gotten better with each issue – and is running with a water-tight story.

Over the past year, I’ve become more aware of how often writers tend to miss or neglect the finer details in their narrative. There are times when these instances aren’t a major miss or flaw, but then there are times when I read a comic, and I’m left scratching my head or looking around the room wishing I had someone to point this glaring flaw out to (yes, I’m looking at you Nocenti and Andreyko). I don’t want to completely blame writers for some of these misses – ultimately their editor should catch these things, and it’s quite possible that the editor might be partially responsible (re-writes, last minute changes, tie-ins, etc), but I haven’t seen any mishaps in Valentine’s writing so far! Yes, I know we’re only four issues in, but I’m considering this a win.

For this Annual, Valentine summarizes Selina’s ascension to become the head of the Calabrese crime family, but rather than just recant the story, she flips the script and tells it from the perspective of Eiko Hasigawa. I love this technique (I’ll discuss this same approach in my review for Grayson in Secret Origins as well) because it provides a fresh and interesting take on something we already know, and allows the opportunity to discover new information.

If you’re asking who in the hell Eiko Hasigawa is, she is a supporting character in the current arc of Catwoman. Her father is the head of the largest yakuza family in Gotham, and she is next in line to run the family. In previous issues, her father selected her to be the negotiator for the family in a deal that Selina is trying to set up with the Hasigawa’s to utilize their port and purge guns out of Gotham. The two have had meetings on and off within the past three issues, that resulted in the discovery that Eiko is the new Catwoman that’s been hitting the streets of Gotham recently. That’s right, there’s another Catwoman, and unlike the plot in Batgirl at the moment, this imposter is actually relevant and wasn’t a let down.

The great thing about this issue, is that we get the “why” aspect behind everything that’s going on concerning the Hasigawa family. It hasn’t felt like these details have been missing from the current story, but it definitely adds a new element to the plot, and changes the game a little. Eiko’s actions, as well as her father’s, feel more motivated, and that’s always a good element to include in a narrative. Valentine begins the story back when Selina was still Catwoman, and immediately adds a personal aspect to Eiko’s involvement. She’s spent her life working for the approval of her father, but ultimately never really cared enough about the family business to achieve it. When Catwoman spoils one of Eiko’s missions it begins a ripple effect that will slowly take over Eiko’s life.

She begins a mission to find and take down Catwoman, only for Catwoman to disappear shortly after she makes some headway. Lucky for her, she recognizes Selina after she surfaces as the head of the Calabrese family, and becomes intrigued with Selina’s lifestyle. Parallels between Selina and Eiko begin to surface, especially as Eiko decides to take on the mantle of Catwoman and thwart some of her father’s plans. Valentine continues to introduce new details and revelations as insight into Eiko’s history alters everything we’ve seen between her and Selina to date. A large part of these successful discovers comes from what I mentioned earlier – attention to the finer details, and thoroughly planning your story before you start writing. If you don’t believe me, read this issue, then go back and re-read all of Eiko’s scenes from the three previous monthly issues. Trust me, your perception of those scenes will change.

I’ve been rather vague in covering this installment, but it’s largely due to the fact that I don’t want to give away any of the specifics since they are what really make this issue special. It’s been an absolute joy to review this title since the creative change, and is the book I look forward to the most each month. Throw in some flashbacks of Selina as Catwoman, more details into how she quickly climbed to the top of the mob, Eiko coming into her own as a member of the Hasigawa family, her transition to become Catwoman, and a few scenes with Batman… how could you not love this book? What are you waiting for? Go get it!

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been wanting more details into how Selina climbed her way to the top of the mob.
  • You want to see more of Eiko as Catwoman.
  • You enjoy when stories are told from a different point of view, altering your perception of certain events

Be warned, there are spoilers below.

The Art: One of the things I was interested to see was how the change in the art would affect the story. Brown’s art is very textured, and adds a specific grit that works well with Valentine’s narrative. When I saw that Olliffe was taking art duties for this issue, I was a little concerned that his art would be too clean. Interestingly enough, his art was perfect for this issue! Since this entire issue was told from the perspective of Eiko, and the Hasigawa family – a crime family that is arguably more disciplined and refined than other crime families – it played extremely well into this issue. There was a moment when I had a terrifying flashback to Nocenti’s Catwoman, but it was quickly forgotten. In all, this issue made more appreciate Olliffe’s art far more than I ever did when Nocenti was helming the book – another testament to how both art forms rely on each other.

Tom Nguyen and Rob McCrae also covered some of the art in this issue. I’m not familiar with either of these artists, but I was impressed with their work, and wouldn’t mind seeing more of them. I feel they would be perfect for a title like Secret Six or the New Suicide Squad because their work contains a good mixture of the cleaner “commercial” style, but enough texture to add a slight mood and edginess. Maybe they’ll lead art duties for a new title that will launch after Convergence…

You’ll find examples of the internal art in the spoiler tags. Take time to read some of the panels as well. It’ll give you some insight into my praising of Valentine’s work as well.

Spoiler

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The Good: There’s a lot of good here! I’ve discussed the attention to detail and the planning, but it really is crucial. There are so many moving pieces in this book at the moment that it would fall apart without it. I especially liked going back to re-read some pieces from previous issues. I’m going to sound like a broken record if I repeat everything that I mentioned above, but it really is a great technique.

The Bad: There wasn’t any “bad” about this issue in my opinion. I have been a little perturbed by the different tones of Selina as a mob boss in Eternal compared to Catwoman. For instance, Eternal references the club that Selina oversees, and essentially presents her as an entitled b*!@&, while Catwoman showcases her as a woman who is confident of her abilities, but unsure of her new life… this is my only issue with Selina at the moment, and I’m not exactly sure where to place blame, or if I even should.

Overall:  This is a fun and revealing issue that only adds to the current plot. If you’re reading Catwoman  at the moment, then you should definitely pick this issue up. If you’re not reading Catwoman, then you need to be! Snyder created something that Valentine is courting to become one of Selina’s greatest and most defining moments!

SCORE: 9/ 10