Catwoman #42 “Gathered from All Sides”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by David Messina
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Alright, I want to jump right into this. I’m a fan of Valentine and what she’s done with this book. She’s spent a solid amount of time rebuilding the foundation of Selina, making the character interesting and intelligent again, and finally put her back in the cat suit… but I thought this issue was just average. Valentine is consistent with taking her time to build worthwhile plots, but this issue felt especially slow. I wasn’t sure why at first, and it took me a while, but I was finally able to put my finger on it.

There is so much going on in Catwoman at the moment. It may not seem that way, but there is. There are so many moving parts that are intricately intertwined that it’s creating a tug and pull on all of the characters in one way or another. Whatever one character does, it’s going to have a ripple effect on every other character in this book. I personally love this. For me it builds tension and anticipation, while giving me the sense that anything can happen. So what exactly went wrong with this issue? I don’t think any single plot got a chance to really stand out, so it never felt like we had that single moment that helped propel the plot forward. And the one plot that appeared as though it were supposed to be the shining moment of the issue felt a little clunky and fell flat.  So let’s break down the current state of things. Also, everything is so intertwined at this point that it’s nearly impossible for me to discuss this book without giving away any spoilers, so be warned! Spoilers follow! (And so does Spoiler the character…)

The gang war that was building within the first arc of Valentine’s run is still building as Selina tries to play the game of fulfilling her needs, the family’s needs, and Gotham’s needs. She’s essentially set herself up to be one person that’s trying to move in three different directions, all while Black Mask is still plotting to bring her down. Yes, Selina managed to hit him hard, but he’s recovering, and she’s lost momentum in becoming the head of the crime families in Gotham by directing her attention towards finding Batman.

She hasn’t completely abandoned her post as the head of the Calabrese family though. She’s set herself up with strategies that, for the moment, are working in her favor. Antonia is negotiating with the Falcone family. Penguin is in Selina’s pocket, but is also working with Black Mask as one of his advisors, while also acting as an inside source of information for Selina. And Eiko is fearlessly following Selina in secret, and has even taken on the mantle of Catwoman to assist turning the underworld to Selina’s favor.

While I feel like Eiko’s role in this plot has been given fair attention, I think there’s more that we could stand to see from Antonia concerning the Falcone family. And while we do get to see some of this play out, this was unfortunately an area where it is noticeable that there are potentially too many plots occurring at once. The families backing Selina and the Calabrese family want nothing to do with the Falcone family because they’ve been labeled as snitches. They demand to speak to Selina, but when she’s M.I.A., Antonia steps up after some coercion from Ward. I was a little excited because we haven’t gotten to see much from Antonia yet… but then she didn’t do anything! She essentially made a proposal, and then the book moved on. I really hope Valentine gives Antonia a moment to shine because this character has so much potential, but is starting to fade into the background.

Penguin is also in a similar boat. This is an amazing character, but he too hasn’t really had a chance to shine. I’m less bothered by this though because Penguin is just being the opportunistic little snake that he is. At the moment he’s technically working for Selina as an inside man on Black Mask’s team, but it’s clear he’s playing both sides waiting for that opportunity to take control as the head of Gotham’s underworld. The best part is that Selina is completely aware of this, and addresses it with him in what is probably one of the best lines I’ve read in a good while! Mark my words, Penguin is under the radar now, but he’ll do something radical within the next few issues, because whatever his plan is, he’s already started putting it in motion.

On the Catwoman front, things are a little different. Catwoman – the real Catwoman – is searching for Batman. She’s convinced he’s not dead, and is willing to risk anything to find him. Ward now knows that Selina is Catwoman, and that knowledge could ruin her since as Catwoman, she has taken actions against the Calabrese family to keep balance in her relationship with Detective Keyes and Alvarez. The good detectives and Catwoman have aligned with each other for information in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of situation. It’s an interesting dynamic that actually plays pretty well if go back to Winnick’s run.

They are both also looking into Batman in their own respects. Selina is directly searching for Batman, but Alvarez is investigating the murder of a P.I. who had been following the bat family. At the beginning of this issue, we learn that the P.I. has files on nearly all of the bat family, so I’m really curious to see how this plays out as Valentine continues to engulf Gotham in Catwoman. Another person that seems to be connected to this little investigation, is our favorite teen hero, Spoiler. She crosses paths with Catwoman – who is convinced this meeting isn’t a coincidence – and what I thought was going to be an awesome moment, ultimately fell flat. There’s a little scuffle, but I didn’t think the art was strong for the fight, and that definitely hindered the scene. The overall interaction itself was also a little odd. I’ll let you read it for yourself, but I walked away from it thinking, “Well that was weird.”

 

Be warned, there are spoilers below.

 

The Art:  As I stated last month, I’m a fan of Messina’s art. He and Loughridge are a good pair together, and I think they do a great job of capturing the tone of this book – especially now that Selina is back in the cat suit and more masks are popping up. I did mention that I wasn’t a fan of the action, and I stand behind that statement. The fight sequences don’t look or feel fluid and that hinders it quite a bit. And on a much smaller note, I’m also weirded out by Penguin’s hair. It’s a weird off-white, grayish-brown color. This is more distracting than anything else in the book, mainly because it looks like they forgot to color it… but panel after panel proves that this is the direction they chose to go.

For a glimpse at the internal art, check out the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

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The Good: The Politics. The politics of running a mob family is still the best thing about this book. There’s so much tension if you read into the details correctly, and it just continues to build and expand. When it finally does break, I’m hoping that all hell breaks loose.

Tweety & Sylvester. I would pay to see Catwoman and Penguin interact any day! They’re two amazing characters that play off of each other extremely well, and we get a great example of that in this issue. The mutual give in take that these two allow is fascinating, and Selina’s reaction to saving Penguin is priceless.

 

The Bad. Spoiler. She didn’t do it for me here. It makes since that she would show up in this book, but her appearance ended up feeling a little forced. She’s going to be around for a while, so hopefully her contribution begins to feel a little more natural.

Balanced Writing. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of plots and moving parts in this book at the moment. My problem with this is that Valentine appears to be trying to balance the parts equally in each issue. If she continues to do this, she’s going to put herself in the same rut that Futures’ End put itself in: touching on each plot begins to feel like there’s no progression. There always is progression, but it’s just baby steps. Hopefully she moves back to maintaining a stronger focus on a single plot for each issue, and touches on other lightly until it becomes the prominent problem. I feel like the big push in this issue should’ve been Selina looking for Batman, but by the end of the issue, I felt like we were in the same place we started.

 

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of Valentine’s direction of Catwoman.
  • You’re interested in seeing a Catwoman/ Penguin team-up
  • You’ve been waiting for Spoiler to exact revenge on Selina for holder her hostage in Batman Eternal.

 

 

Overall:  Catwoman is still the strongest it’s been since the book relaunched, but the team stumbles a little in this issue. That hardly means this issue is bad though, and if this is the weak spot in their run, then I don’t think we have much to worry about as we move forward.

 

SCORE: 7.5/ 10