Catwoman #43 “Them That Bear It”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by David Messina
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Well… you know what they say… “Ask and ye shall receive.” I hoped Valentine would let loose a little, and in this issue, she didn’t’ disappoint. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in my reviews of Catwoman, Valentine takes her time when crafting plots, and in turn, we get well thought, character driven stories. There are times that her writing style can almost feel a little too slow though, especially when you only get a piece of an arc each month. There’s so much subtlety and attention to detail that it can feel like there is no plot progression, or that the plot just goes in circles, if you don’t have a solid recollection of the details from previous issues. That being said, she kicked things up a notch here.
For those of you that need a refresher, the entire first arc focused on developing Selina Kyle/ Catwoman as a valuable character again. We were introduced to her new life as a mob boss, as well as the key players within the Calabrese family. Throughout the first arc, we learned the politics within the crime world as Selina and Black Mask competed to reign over the families of Gotham – battling for land and stakes such as the dockyards. Other opposing elements also made their way into the main conflict with the inclusion of Detective Keyes and Alvarez investigating the mob, dissention within the Calabrese family, the power plays of the Hasigawa family, and of course Batman. While I greatly enjoyed the first arc, it was a lot of set-up and exposition – which isn’t a bad thing, because it was well done and greatly needed.
Moving into the second arc, I expected the story to start moving along more quickly, and was a little surprised when we received more set-up. I started to become skeptical of the big picture, and my concern grew deeper after the second issue. What I didn’t realize until this issue, was that while the first arc focused on setting up Selina and her world, this arc has put more attention into setting up the mythology of Gotham by featuring other key players such as Penguin, Spoiler, and Killer Croc. Now that I’m keen to this, I say bring it on! It’s ultimately more layers, more suspense, and a taller, less stable house of cards for Selina to manage.
There have been signs for months now that Selina’s world could implode due to the multiple plans she’s juggling, and it looks like that time has come… Selina has made power plays. Black Mask has made power plays. Penguin is waiting in the wings for an opportunity to strike. The cracks in the Calabrese family are more defined than ever. Selina is Catwoman again, and mentoring a second Catwoman, Eiko, who happens to be mentoring Spoiler. Batman is missing. In response, there’s a new robo-Batman on the streets controlled by the GCPD. And a private investigator who kept tabs on the real Batman has been murdered. Considering all of this, the only way I feel I can continue discussing issue #43 is by revealing spoilers…. So, spoilers are below.
Keyes and Alvarez have laid low as far as the mob is concerned. Instead, Selina has enlisted their help to investigate the private detective that had been keeping tabs on the Bat family in hopes that it would help lead her to him. Catwoman does encounter the new Batman, and I wouldn’t consider it a good run-in. In fact, I have a sinking feeling that it wasn’t Gordon in the suit based on how aggressive he was. I could be way off base here, but I feel like Batman and even Detective Comics have hinted at this to a small degree as well. And to give credit where credit is due, once again, Valentine does the best job of portraying the idea behind this new robo-Batman over any other book.
On the other side of Selina’s life, the Calabrese family is making ground and losing it at the same time. More crime families are defecting from Black Mask’s ranks to join the Calabrese family – which is good for Selina – the only problem is she’s not there to deal with it due to her mission to find Batman. Knowing, and disproving, of Selina’s secret life as Catwoman, Ward pushes Antonia to take initiative with the family in Selina’s absence. Antonia has already started to question Selina’s trust as it is, and that divide is beginning to grow larger.
Black Mask isn’t taking the news of Selina’s growing ranks too well either. He’s played the politics of it all, and he’s tired of the cat and mouse game. He wants payback, and he wants it now. Those that are close to Selina aren’t safe. The families that back her aren’t safe. And an ally of Selina’s is on the receiving end of his wrath… but he isn’t done. The Hasigawa family has been training men for combat since the beginning of this run, and Black Mask wants their services.
Eiko, however, has more on her agenda than just training her father’s men. She’s also training Spoiler in secret. I have to admit, Stephanie works much better for me in this issue than she did in last month’s issue. She actually felt right here. While she felt young and true to herself, she wasn’t annoying. She doesn’t have a direction in this world, and is looking for which way the wind blows. Although I think she could have a better mentor, this is definitely a good and believable start. It actually felt so right that part of me wished this event was taking place during the old continuity considering the history both Selina and Stephanie had with Black Mask. Stephanie hasn’t found her purpose yet, but she’s been given a compass to lead her in that direction – serving as the most interesting plot for her character since her introduction.
And then, Valentine turned the book on its head.
Some major things happened in this issue. Due to Selina’s absence, Antonia is forced to negotiate with Penguin… and the opportunity that he’d been waiting for easily presented itself with Antonia’s presence. Without missing a beat, he pinpointed the exact reason Antonia was there, used her lack of experience against her by playing on her concerns and doubts – beginning his move for the thrown of Gotham’s underworld. I love seeing Penguin when he’s written well, and Valentine has done a damn, fine job! We’ve seen his business mindset. We’re seeing his crookedness. All that’s left is the monster that lies beneath the dapper man…. And you know for a fact it’s only a matter of time before you see him.
Black Mask also takes out more than just a low level asset in this book. He manages to make his way onto Catwoman’s balcony, and when she returns, he’s waiting for her.
There’s only one problem. It isn’t Selina. Granted, Black Mask doesn’t know this, but he will soon. This could work in Selina’s favor if she can keep her head straight when she does find out. I know there are a number of people that don’t like Eiko – and I can understand why – but you can’t deny how critical and dangerous she is in this plot. She’s the catalyst of so many things. She’s training her father’s men for battle under Black Mask. She’s Selina’s confident. She’s working as Catwoman, which helps keep people off Selina’s trail. She’s training Spoiler – who has yet to find a reason to fight until now. And she has her own stakes in this. Whether you like her or not, she’s gone, and so many other doors are open… including one that leads Antonia to discover Selina’s identity as Catwoman. Three heavy hits… and I didn’t even touch on Bruce and Selina’s interaction in this issue.
And when all was said and done, this happened…
The Art: I’ve got to give it up for this art team! They’re so damn good. Each character looks amazing, and every panel conveys the energy and emotion of each scene perfectly. I see these characters. I believe these characters. Creating this type of quality work is rare, and is worth celebrating when it happens. The one thing that’s made me nervous about this book are the actions scenes. Previously, every fight or altercation has had low energy, and felt awkward or stiff. I’m happy to say it’s much better here. There are multiple action scenes in this issue, and they’re all enjoyable – especially the fight between Catwoman and robo-Bats.
For a glimpse at the internal art, check out the spoiler tag.
- You’ve been waiting for some action in this book.
- You enjoy the political balance of the mob.
- Catwoman vs robo-Bats is something you’ve been waiting to see.
Overall: Daring, intelligent, and full of suspense, Catwoman is the best it’s ever been since the launch of the New 52! Selina’s reach into Gotham gets further and deeper with each issue, and her claws have never been this sharp!
SCORE: 9.5/ 10