Catwoman #38 “The Serpent”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by Garry Brown

I love that Catwoman has become the book that I can depend on for a quality story at the end of each month. I really can’t describe how relieving and refreshing that feeling is, especially when considering that six months ago, that wasn’t the case. I do have a slightly lingering feeling of anxiousness going into each issue though. I can’t help but feel that Valentine is going to slip up at some point, and really drop the ball. I wouldn’t say that I worry it will happen, it’s more so that I greatly hope that it doesn’t.

The thing with Valentine and her style of writing, is that she crafts a slow burn. She develops strong characters, a complex, layered plot, and slowly introduces each aspect building tension and suspense over time. She doesn’t jump into quick gimmicks to try and snag your attention. She doesn’t rely on action to carry her story. Instead, she walks with you through a textured story, all while providing a commentary on human nature.

She’s helmed Catwoman for four issues and one annual so far, and it’s in this fourth issue that her narrative starts to brim. Selina has taken her family name, and is attempting to unify the crime families in Gotham as the head of the Calabrese family. The fascinating aspect of this isn’t necessarily her discovering her way through the family business, but how she deals with her humanity while doing so. Selina is walking a fine line of earning the mob’s trust, and protecting Gotham, her city. She’s been forced to make difficult decisions pertaining to her personal life, and her professional life, none of them weighing on her more than the order to have Nick killed.

In “The Serpent” we get to see Selina really deal with these consequences as she allows the situation to weigh on her so heavily. Her battle for atonement is silent and internal, but the repercussions are noticed in other ways. Antonia, Selina’s cousin, Nick’s sister, and the woman who completed the order to kill Nick, has interpreted Selina’s distance as lack of faith in her. It’s a misunderstanding that only begins to drive more of a rift in the family, but Selina’s quickly dismisses the unease with a single statement.

Selina’s humanity isn’t the driving force here though. It’s the other plots that provide momentum, and a building tension in this issue. On one end, Black Mask is making his move to challenge Selina and win the leadership of the mob families. He’s already fractured the Calabrese reputation by outing Nick as the rat in the family that was feeding information to the GCPD. This has led the GCPD to take a more personal interest in Selina and the Calabrese family, and they continue to apply that pressure in this issue. Siding with Black Mask, is the head of the Hasigawa crime family, whose daughter is ironically serving as the liaison between the Calabrese and Hasigawa families. She also happens to be the current Catwoman working the streets of Gotham. This new Catwoman was originally opposed to Selina and her methods, but is now working with her. And in all of this, there’s Batman! And Batman is bringing this situation full circle, back to Selina. All of these variables have forced Selina’s hand to change plans and take action, but whether or not she’ll be able to do so before Batman stops, or if it’s even best that he does stop her, is the question.

With the building tension, we finally get a little more action here as well! Selina meets with Black Mask, and while both parties only get more pissed off with each other, she manages to remind us that she’s more than just a pretty girl. She also has a decent scuffle at the end of the book as well, that’s rather quick but a little emotional. And then… Then, Valentine throws in another surprise reveal at the end of the book.

 

The Art: I always praise Brown’s art, his shadows, the texture, and how it fits the narrative. I still feel that way. So, I want to take a moment to cover something that I’m on the fence about… the way he draws action. I can’t decide if I like it or not. It’s interesting, and I really like the layout… but there’s not much “intensity” in the action. That’s the best way I can describe it. If this were a movie, and I saw a fight scene that was completely lifted from this (mood, style, energy), I feel like the fight scene would be low energy. But hey, that’s pretty much my only complaint, and I’m torn on how I feel about it, so it’s not that bad. The one thing I do like about the action in this book, is the use of colors, particularly red, to backdrop the action. It’s a nice touch.

Also, I kind of liked Brown’s Batman. I wouldn’t mind seeing Batman pop up a few more times.

As always, I’ve provided some of the internal art in the spoiler tags for you to review yourself.

Spoiler

IMG_0838

IMG_0839

IMG_0840

IMG_0841

The Good: Uh… the entire book? Seriously, I’ve been in love with this change in direction. I love the writing, the intelligence of the narrative, and that it’s character driven. I’m glad we’re starting to see more action slowly, but surely. And I’m glad we’re seeing more costumes. The highlight of this issue for me was seeing Bruce and Selina together. There’s so much in the “unsaid” between these two, and Brown captured it perfectly through body language.

Also: Selina… high heels.

 

The Bad: This isn’t bad, just a concern. There have been comments that this book is boring. I don’t find it boring, however, it’s not nearly as action packed as comics usually are. That being said, there is a build to the suspense and the action with each issue, and it feels like it’s leading to a major fight. If this building tension leads to nowhere, it will reflect poorly on this book.

 

Recommended if:

  • You’ve loved Valentine’s run on Catwoman
  • You’ve missed seeing Selina and Bruce together
  • You want to see how badass Selina is in high heels. 

Overall:  I still believe this will go down as one of the best Catwoman stories of all time. If you’re not reading it, then you need to! Seriously, get after it!

SCORE: 9.5/ 10