Catwoman #39 “Better Than He Does Himself”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by Garry Brown
Colors by Lee Loughridge

Before I get into this review, I want to call attention to this cover, and how simple, yet amazing it is! I’ve found that people either love or hate Jae Lee, and if he’s not causing major delays to books, then I absolutely love him! I’m also happy that this cover is essentially an accurate teaser to what you’ll find inside the issue. Kudos!

Now, onto the issue itself. I’ve been singing Catwoman’s praise since the creative change, and I’m going to continue doing so. You’ll notice that I knocked the score of this issue down a little from last week, but if I’m being honest, it’s due to pretty minor things. As we tend to judge books like Batman or Justice League on a higher level of expectation, I’ve come to judge this book on a higher level of expectation as well. That means that small things are going to carry a heavier weight here. But in no way does that mean that I think Valentine or Brown are missing the mark or slipping. Aside from these two small problems – which I’ll get to later – this issue actually ups the stakes.

Black Mask is making his move on the city, and he’s doing so quickly. After the disaster at the dock yards during last month’s issue, Black Mask has taken control of every piece of real estate near the docks, aside from what the Hasigawa family already owns. If you’ve been following the plot, then you know that Black Mask already has the Hasigawa family in his pocket – therefore, he’s essentially controlling the docks. This is a major blow to Selina, and it’s left her scrambling to try and regain some ground. And to add insult to injury, Sionis scored these locations so quickly by claiming it was to build “safe, affordable neighborhoods,” and would be holding a press conference to cover the coup. This leaves Selina no other choice but to put herself out there, and play her hand in the politics as well – knowing that this display will make her an easy target.

It begins to look as if the Calabrese family have lost their edge over Gotham to Black Mask, but when he calls a meeting of the families, it’s clear that Selina still carries substantial influence. None of the patriarch members of each crime family attend the meeting, and opt, instead, to send representatives for them. It’s from this point on that Valentine masterfully dances multiple characters and plots through some immaculate pacing and narrative. So much begins to happen, that the momentum of the book picks up incredibly fast – the whole issue progressing every characters plot, while continuing to build the tension and suspense until next month’s climax and conclusion. I don’t want to give too much away – this issue is that good – but everybody is making their move here: Selina, Black Mask, Mason, the Falcones, detective Keyes and Alvarez, Catwoman (miss Hasigawa), and… the Penguin. Yep, that’s right! Ever the opportunist, the Penguin makes his play for the city, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

All cylinders are firing here, and all I kept thinking while reading this issue was: “I can’t wait to see how this arc ends.” “I can’t wait to read all of these issues back to back.” And “This would make one kick ass movie!” And everything that I’ve covered is essentially the first five pages, plus a teaser of what’s featured for the rest of the issue. It’s one power play after another, including more deception, an assassination attempt, an arrest, some brutal action from the new Catwoman, a member of the Calabrese family getting fired, Bruce Wayne, and an interesting kiss… So go pick up this issue already!

I know some of you miss the “comic” aspect in this book, and you desperately want to see Selina as Catwoman again, but I feel like that will be coming soon. For now, I recommend that you enjoy this intelligently, well written plot, that I PROMISE you will go down as one of Selina’s finest moments. And next month, Gotham City burns because it’s going to be an all-out turf war!

 

The Art: I openly admit that I’m a fan of Brown’s art! I love the texture and grittiness of his pencils because it adds a distinct tone to the book. That being said, this issue made some plot lines a little confusing due to his lack of clean lines and details – particularly concerning the faces of the characters. There are panels where I’m not sure who the character I’m looking at is. For instance, there were a couple of times when I couldn’t tell if I was looking at Bruce Wayne, or Selina’s adviser, Ward. Thankfully, Valentine writes her characters distinctively enough that it becomes easy to decipher. In the end though, even a split second of confusion can pull you form the narrative, and it did so on a few occasions for me.

Be sure to check out Brown’s art in the spoiler tag below!

Spoiler

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Ok… Continue reading at your own risk. There are SPOILERS below.

The Good: Valentine. That’s the best way to describe it. Her narratives and characters are so well thought out and planned, that she’s able to put so many subtle details into her stories. Every action has a purpose, and I love that. I can’t wait to see where else she takes Selina, and although I think Hasigawa Catwoman deserves more time to keep from becoming a “plot device,” I really hope I get to see Valentine write Selina as Catwoman.

The Power Plays. Black Mask has taken the docks. Lewis tips off the cops to a potential murder. Selina has Black Mask arrested. The cops actually get to Black Mask and arrest him before his men inside the GCPD can prevent it from happening. A member of the Falcone family tries to assassinate Selina. Selina fires Antonia. It’s a lot! And this is still barely scraping the iceberg!

Bruce & Selina. It’s a really brief moment, but it’s a damn nice one. Bruce’s concern for Selina, and her reaction towards it just felt write. I’m a big believe in Bruce and Selina being together, and it’s these tiny moments that continue to give me hope. The one issue I had, is that it was almost as if Selina knows Bruce is Batman, and currently in continuity, she doesn’t… but we all know how good the New 52 has been with continuity….

The Bad: Selina’s “brother.” Last month’s issue left off with quite the cliff hanger, so you might be scratching your head as to why I didn’t mention it. Well, partially because I’m still trying to process everything. I thought Selina’s brother was shown for the first time last month, but as you begin reading this issue, you find out that he’s been featured previously. I honestly didn’t recognize him – circling back to Brown’s lack of detail in his art – and I was forced to flip through previous issues to make some connections. As it also turns out, this may not really be Selina’s brother… It’s very possible that I just didn’t pay attention closely before, but I have to feel that other people wondered this same thing.

The kiss. So… Selina kisses Eiko while she’s dressed as Catwoman. It’s interesting. Now before anyone says I have an issue with two women kissing, I don’t. I’m gay. I wave that gay support flag (albeit, I don’t do it wearing in my underwear, covered in glitter, while marching down boulevards… I have my own approach, but that’s neither here nor there). The point is, I’m cool with lesbians, but this kiss bothered me. Even though I fully believe Selina is a straight female, I can completely believe her kissing another female. And had this just been left as a kiss without any dialogue, I would have written it off as Selina is riding/ dealing with the adrenaline/stress of the moment… but there was dialogue, and it really threw me for a loop.

The fact that Eiko says, “Was that for me, or the suit?” and Selina responds with, “… I don’t know” works for me. But then, Selina has a little thought bubble that ruins everything: “If we survive this, might be nice to find out.” And here lies my problem. I don’t believe this type of connection between these two. I do believe that Selina is fond of Eiko and there are a lot of similarities between the two, but I don’t get any emotional chemistry. It ultimately feels like a forced moment to add a little more edge and sexiness to the book. I honestly could’ve done without the kiss, or just left it with Selina saying, “…I don’t know.”

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been waiting for this book to pick up some momentum.
  • You love intelligently written mob/crime dramas.
  • You enjoy seeing Selina large and in charge.
  • You stopped reading this title because of Ann Nocenti.


Overall:  This book continues to impress, and I will continue to recommend that people pick it up. Valentine could become an outstanding talent in comics, and her introduction is near perfection! What this book lacks in masks and action, it makes up for with sheer, class writing and art.

SCORE: 9.0/ 10