Catwoman #44 “Fire”
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Pencils by David Messina
Inks by Gaetano Carlucci
Colors by Lee Loughridge
It’s almost been a year since Valentine started her run on Catwoman, and every issue has built an intricate world featuring Selina’s transition from master thief to the head of Gotham’s underworld. Now that our first year is coming to a close, it looks like Selina’s tenure as Gotham’s mob boss could be coming to an end. She’s questioned her role in this world throughout the entire run, so I knew the end would eventually come, but this issue definitely made things feel a little abrupt. And if I’m being honest, I’m not sure if it really is abrupt, or if I just don’t want it to end…
Last month’s issue kicked things into high gear. Valentine abandoned her “slow burn,” opting to progress the plot rather fervently. It was a nice change of pace, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Penguin has played both Black Mask and Selina to open themselves up. Antonia is going behind Selina’s back to make decisions during her absence. Black Mask is preparing to launch a full attack against the Calabrese’s with the Hasigawa family. Eiko Hasigawa is secretly working with Selina, training Spoiler, and is also hitting the streets as Catwoman… And then Selina’s house of cards came tumbling down. Penguin ordered for her death. Catwoman inadvertently put Batman on her trail. And Black Mask – who is starting to reach that point of crazy that we were hoping we would see – shoots Catwoman. But it wasn’t Selina who took the bullet, and the chaos of the event ends up leading to Antonia finding out Selina is (the real) Catwoman.
For this issue, I was curious to see where Valentine would take it. I wasn’t sure if Selina was going to become vengeful and take action, or step back to deal, recover, and regroup. I expected her to become vengeful, but thankfully, that isn’t the case. “Fire” kicks off with Selina going underground to meet Killer Croc and check on Eiko. For those of you that don’t remember, Croc and Selina created a sort of partnership back in Eternal, and it’s been a relationship that I hope continues to grow and develop. As odd as the pairing might seem, it actually works incredibly well (especially now that Croc isn’t dressing up like an Egyptian…). Eiko is injured, but will ultimately be ok. I know some of you aren’t fond of her, but I really feel like she fits well into this entire equation, and it’s in this issue that those threads come to light.
Selina urges Eiko to finally put away the mask now that she’s experienced the risk – which could fall on deaf ears considering Eiko’s loyalty to Selina – before asking Croc to get her back to her house. The rest of the issue revolves around Selina cleaning house. She’s aware that she’s been playing with fire, and that it was only a matter of time before the balancing act she’d been managing would crumble on top of her. So instead of continuing the game, she changes it. So she confronts the family, reveals secrets, recruits Spoiler, and puts initiatives in place… all in the hopes of leading to a conclusion of her current situation. But before any of her plans can move to action, Black Mask stumbles upon a discovery that sends him over the edge, putting him on a homicidal rampage.
Be warned, there are spoilers below!
The Good: This issue was incredibly focused, and that made for an interesting dynamic. Most of Valentine’s run has covered a number of plots, slowly and intricately moving chess pieces to build tension, drama, and suspense. This issue picks up from the rush of last month’s issue, but instead of continuing that momentum, slows down to focus on the main plots that are at hand: the gang war and her family. All of the other plots took a back seat, aside from her investigation of the detective that was researching the Bat family, and even that was covered in a quick recruitment of Spoiler.
Coming clean. Selina calling a family dinner with Antonia and Ward was great. This is the Catwoman I love! Smart, daring, sure. She’s been playing a number of sides, and some of her actions as Catwoman have been directly against the family, or could jeopardize the family if her secret gets out. But what really makes this interesting is the talk of family, Antonia coming clean about Penguin, and why she had no intention of selling Selina out. It’s intense, but honest and real… and I hope it pulls through as being genuine. Selina also offers the family to her. She knows it should’ve been Antonia’s to begin with, and knows it even more now. As much as I love mob-boss Selina, it will be exciting to see her step away from this and hit the streets again. I just hope that the creative team doesn’t abandon Antonia and Ward when they do move on. While Ward has essentially just been the Lurch of Catwoman, there’s a lot of potential there that could be explored. As for Antonia, I think Valentine is just at the cusp of really developing this character.
Loyalties. Loyalty was a commanding theme in this issue. There was the expected coverage of it between Eiko and Selina, and Selina and the family, but what was really great to see fleshed out a little, was Croc’s relationship. Valentine has done an amazing job writing there characters she’s been graced with: Penguin, Spoiler, robo-bats, and now Killer Croc. She picks up from the foundation that was built in Batman Eternal, portraying Croc as being more than just a monster. But it’s that very word that I think brings the two of them together. I believe both characters view themselves as monsters to a certain degree (in fact, I think back to a specific line Selina has during Winick’s run where she describes herself as a monster), but they’re both much more than that, and have a mutual understanding. There are benefits to their relationship, and on top of that, there’s respect. As with Antonia, I hope that this is just the beginning of what we’ll see with these two.
On the other end of the spectrum of loyalty though, is Black Mask and Hasigawa. When Croc took Eiko back to her home, Black Mask saw her returning on surveillance, but she was in the Catwoman uniform. He came to the conclusion that the Hasigawa’s had been sheltering Catwoman this entire time, and sent an all-out assault to wipe out the family due to their lack of loyalty. Eiko wasn’t home when the attack happened, but seeing her father figure out what actually happened and choose to protect his daughter before being murdered was incredibly powerful. He wasn’t a very redeemable character, but he managed to become one within a page or two. When I first saw the solicitation for November’s Catwoman I was really confused as to what would pit Eiko against Selina, but now it makes sense. I do, however, hope that the solicitation for that month is a little overstated. While I can understand Eiko’s frustration towards the situation, and even a hatred towards the idea of Catwoman, I can’t see her turning on Selina. If that’s the direction the book turns, it will end up being a low point in Valentine’s run.
The Bad: The only callout I have, is that Eiko went from wearing street close with Crock, to being in the Catwoman uniform while going back to her home. It’s very minor, but it’s pretty convenient to create the Black Mask/ Hasigawa fallout.
And while it isn’t bad, I am a little sad that we didn’t see or deal with Penguin in this issue. I strongly feel like we’ve yet to see his part in things, and there’s a part of me that believes it could actually involve Antonia. I hope it doesn’t because I’ll have to kick Antonia out of my fan-club at that point, but the thought is lingering…
The Art: The art team continues to knock it out of the park for me! I’ve grown to become a huge fan of Lee Loughridge, and honestly don’t think colorists get enough praise for the work they do. The pairing of Messina and Loughridge is pretty stellar though. They complement each other so well, and help play to the other’s strengths. The art also aids the book incredibly well. The choices these to make help define the tone of Catwoman and give this book a voice that is unique from the other series at DC.
For a glimpse at the internal art, check out the spoiler tag.
- You love reading an intelligent Catwoman.
- You enjoyed the relationship that was built between Selina and Killer Croc during Batman Eternal.
- You’ve been waiting for Black Mask to snap.
Overall: Valentine’s Catwoman embodies everything you want it to be: daring, bold, intelligent, dark, emotional, and hopeful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This will go down as one of the best Catwoman stories ever told.
SCORE: 9.0/ 10