It’s issue #52, and with this issue, Catwoman comes to a close in the New 52. This title has seen its ups and downs throughout the course of this run, with the best moments coming from Genevieve Valentine, and the worst moments coming from Anne NOcenti. In between these two runs, we’ve been graced with solid stories from Judd Winick and Frank Tieri, and some highly entertaining single-issue stories from an underrated Sholly Fisch. Am I sad to see Catwoman go? Yes, but I know she’ll pop back up within a matter of time. If there’s one thing that can be said about Selina Kyle, it’s that you can’t keep her down.
Interestingly, despite this being the final issue of the run, there’s nothing particularly grand in how this book closes. There’s no major reflection, or walk down memory lane, or anything that’ll make you say, “Wow! That ending was unreal!” But in many ways, it’s the perfecting “ending” because it doesn’t feel like an ending. Yeah, we’re transitioning from the New 52 to Rebirth and title is going away for now, but Selina will still be around and pop up somewhere. Because of that, I don’t want a “false” ending. I want to feel like the story will continue, and that’s exactly what Tieri does.
Despite some of the shortcomings this issue has – which I’ll get to in my breakdowns – Tieri played a lot of great cards. Between his two stories, he touched on the fundamentals of who Catwoman is, why she’s so great as a character, and provided a good representation of why Catwoman has survived for seventy-five years. Tieri’s first story was a fun, heist thriller that took us back to the basics. After a bold departure from what we know and expect form the character, he reminded us of who Selina is at her core – a master thief. The thing that impressed me the most though, was the voice Tieri gave Selina. As a character, he writes her incredibly well, and it makes me wish I could see what he would do with her over an extended period of time, without a “relaunch” looming overhead.
Another thing Tieri brought to the table, were classic allies/ antagonists for Selina. Harley and Poison Ivy played a small role in his first story, as did the Penguin. But the best move Tieri made, was shifting the story back to Black Mask to end this book. I think it’s fair to say that the best antagonist Selina has ever had is Black Mask. A lot of this is thanks to Brubaker’s fantastic run (which we’ll be reviewing the trades of before too long, so stay tuned for that). He crafted stories between Catwoman and Black Mask that make it nearly impossible to think of one character, without indirectly thinking of the other. This was an aspect that Valentine then picked up on and ran with, and now Tieri is bringing it full circle. There’s honestly no better way to send this book off. Which leads me into this chapter…
Tieri closes out his “Faceless” story, and despite some minor hang-ups, it’s an enjoyable read. My biggest callout here is the pacing – a common issue I’ve had with Tieri’s work on this title. Unfortunately, this story moves along at an incredibly fast pace, and never really takes a moment to dig in to the narrative that was established last month. I don’t want to spend too much of the review harping on this, because I’m honestly not sure where to direct the blame considering everything that’s going on at DC. So to keep things brief, we’ll just say the story is rushed and move on. On a positive note, I closed the book wishing I could have had more: More of “Faceless,” more of Tieri, and more of Catwoman in general… Which is a positive considering there was a point in time where I was begging DC to cancel this title if they weren’t going to implement a creative change.
Last month, we saw the introduction of White Mask, a look into the history of the Sionis family, and how Selina tangled with them even before donning the mantle of Catwoman. With papa Sionis on his deathbed, White Mask took advantage of the opportunity, and brought back the False Face Society. As expected, this discovery was less than stellar news for Selina, and she began a mission to bring down the Society and White Mask. What she didn’t bargain for, was that the man underneath White Mask would be a ghost from her past, David. Meanwhile Black Mask was paying a final visit to dear old dad, before also turning his sights on White Mask as well.
With roughly twenty pages to close out this story, I knew there was a lot of ground to be covered. Most importantly though, I knew we’d have to establish how David is still alive (since the last issue confirmed that he apparently died years ago), and beyond that, how he managed to become White Mask. Considering the short space Teiri had to work with, most of this topic is covered through quick exposition. I’m more of a “show it, don’t say it” kind of guy, but I’ll give this instance a pass. To be honest though, most of the explanation is pretty obvious, and I can’t help but look at Selina and think, “Seriously? You’re smarter than this.” Regardless, it makes for an interesting reintroduction, before taking a more entertaining turn once Black Mask arrives on the scene.
I did find myself extremely curious on how the confrontation would end, and with loyalties nonexistent or mostly fractured, it was going to come down to a matter of what each character desired more in the moment. I had no clue how the conflict would resolve itself, but I knew that one thing was certain: Selina was bound to land on her feet.
The Art: There are a number of artists on this issue, and each of them turn in some solid work. It’s not amazing, but it gets the job down. I’m not a fan of multiple artists working on a single issue, unless it’s nearly impossible to tell their work apart, or each artist is telling his own story (this includes an artist being confined to flashbacks). While the “flashback” example is used here, Miranda also splits the art for the scenes that take place during the “present day.” There’s a noticeable difference in quality, and because of that, I find myself getting pulled from the story in some instances…
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Sionis Family History. As I stated last month, I enjoy seeing a younger Selina. I like exploring her at an age where she’s trying to figure out who she is, where she fits in this world, and in turn, seeing her develop into who she is today.
The ascension of White Mask. As much as I hate the idea that he’s called White Mask (could he have not taking the moniker of Black Mask as well? I feel like that would have been more interesting.), the approach Mr. Sionis took, and his reason for choosing David, is great. The idea that he wants to move his business overseas, but doesn’t want any connection made to him, and sees potential in David, makes for an interesting story. This is where I wish I could see this events unfold over the course of time, rather than hear how they happened within two pages. Granted, if Sionis could catch David so easily after stealing his identity, he’d probably want to choose a better successor.
You can go. Here and there, Tieri adds moments of great complexity, but he does it in a subtle way. Case and point, is Black Mask telling Selina that she can leave because his issue is with David. I mean, these are two characters that hate each other, and wouldn’t hesitate to kill one another. But Black Mask has enough of an awareness that he won’t gain any wins of he tries to take out both Catwoman and White Mask. His vendetta is with White Mask at the moment, and that’s all he’s going to focus on. It doesn’t mean he’s over Selina, and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to watch her back, but in this moment, she isn’t a concern to him. And to match the complexity, we get to see Selina’s moral ambiguity when she lets Black Mask kill David… Well, one would assume that’s what happens, but we don’t get to see it.
Catwoman always lands on her feet. This chick just walked out with the damn faceless mask, and nobody even noticed until it was too late! If this were a movie, you could almost guarantee that the following song would be playing for this scene.
The Bad: Pacing. I mentioned this earlier, but there are elements in this story that I really wish I could’ve seen play out over time. I also want to give the editor, David Wohl, a slap on the wrist for not playing this a little better. So much of this story would’ve been better had David’s “death” played out in issue #51, then explained the reveal and dealt with the aftermath in this issue… It wouldn’t have prevented me from thinking that Selina should’ve known better, but it would’ve read better narratively.
The death of David. Speaking of David’s death, please tell me I’m not the only one who saw this coming from a mile away. If he was working under Mr. Sionis, then he probably had been for years. The only logical explanation was that he faked his death, and as I keep referencing, Selina should’ve asked more questions. I mean, if you never attend or hear of a funeral, and there’s apparently never even a missing persons report issued, something is off…
- It’s the final issue of the New 52’s Catwoman!
- You want to see how David became White Mask.
- You want to know what Black Mask has up his sleeve.
Overall: Catwoman ends its run with a decent story from Frank Tieri. If you’re a die-hard Selina fan, then you should definitely pick up this story, even if it’s just to say, “See you soon.”