I’m not a fan of dialogue covers, but I will say you should heed this cover’s warning… Read Batman #50 first. That, or make sure you know what happens in that issue, because it will help explain some things here. Also, there will be spoilers for Batman #50 in this review, so proceed with caution. Before I get into my opinion of this book though, keep in mind that Catwoman is its own book. No matter your thoughts or opinions on Batman #50, this is completely separate and should be viewed as such.
Catwoman’s history is one for the books. She’s been around for nearly 80 years and received various portrayals and imaginings throughout this time. Naturally, the quality of her character has varied greatly, but there’s no doubt that Selina Kyle hit a type of renaissance when she moved from mere thief to a full-blown anti-hero. She’s one of the most complex characters on DC’s roster, and is iconic in many people’s eyes… That’s why I’m happy to say that Joelle Jones does an excellent job with her while giving one nod after another to various incarnations. Go ahead and take a sigh of relief!
Yes, the biggest question I had going into this issue was Jones’ ability to write a script. Writing is exponentially more difficult than people often realize – especially if you’re expecting good writing. Beyond that, Selina is an incredibly complex character, which also adds its own challenges. This is a tall order on its own, and many writers have failed to deliver good books with only this feat in front of them. But there’s an added challenge here – the aftermath of the wedding… Or, you know, the lack thereof. Regardless, Jones handles all of this incredibly well in this issue… But where does Selina go from here? What happens now that the wedding is off? Well, she leaves Gotham.
It’s clear Selina’s mind is focused on two things – the road ahead of her, and the man and world she left behind. It’s been roughly a week since she stood Bruce up, and as I’m sure many would expect, she’s in a bit of a tailspin. On one hand, you could say you don’t feel any empathy for Selina since she chose not to get married, but then you could also say that she chose this for the greater good and it’s gutting her. Either way, we’re not here to examine the reasons of the outcome for Batman #50, but the path Selina must now embark on.
Despite her efforts to start fresh, Selina is finding herself in situations that she’s not unfamiliar with. For one, to make ends meet, she’s doing what she does best… stealing. Now, in this case, it appears she’s less of a burglar, and more-so rigging a system to win big at various gambling outlets. And this, honestly, isn’t her problem at the moment – though I’m sure it will be within time. Her problem is that Catwoman has murdered people… Or so it seems. The reality is, there’s an imposter out there. Someone is tarnishing her name, and Selina Kyle is taking the blame. Naturally, that’s going to have the place coming after her – especially considering two of their finest were murdered by Catwoman.
While an “imposter” Catwoman is nothing new, nor is Selina being chased by the law, there are slight differences here that make this story unique. There’s a whole supporting cast of characters that add an endless amount of nuance to the book. Better yet, they’re supporting characters that you’re automatically intrigued by. Often, comics introduce characters and you know they’re just there for the arc, maybe two, and will ultimately be cannon fodder… But here, Jones shows her craftsmanship in developing plot threads that are intended to be set up for a long run. We meet, roughly, eight to ten new characters that will undoubtedly continue to pop up and play a role in this book. I’ve always been a believer that supporting characters help a book remain interesting long-term, and Jones takes that concept and runs with it. In fact, I’d say this is the best supporting cast for Catwoman since Valentine’s run!
What I love more than the plot and direction is Catwoman herself. There are strong influences from previous incarnations of Catwoman that can easily be identified under Jones’ guidance. Clearly, King’s take on Selina is the dominant presence considering his portrayal is the definition of Catwoman in Rebirth. There’s also hints of Loeb’s Catwoman as well, especially from Hush. This should come as no surprise since King himself pulls heavily from that time, but the idea is still there and worth noting. So these two influences come as no surprise. They’re basically the expectation.
These aren’t the only influences though. There’s a grit and edge that reminds me of Brubaker’s brilliant Catwoman run – one that undoubtedly redefined the character – that textures Jones’ script perfectly. That darker backstory of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks is ever present. You can almost feel that history based on Selina’s presence. This is where that nuance comes into play. This is where minor details take a book from good to great! But this isn’t where Jones’ influences end.
While pieces of this book are grounded in emotion and grit (King, Loeb, and Brubaker), there’s a sense of wisdom, maturity, and grace that takes me back to Genevieve Valentine’s stellar run. The relationships Selina has with the people around here – as brief as they are – are full of so much context that you get way more story than you would expect. And then, finally, somehow, there’s another influence… Michelle Pfeifer. This isn’t found in the script as much as it is Jones’ art, but you see the same charisma and feral, slightly unhinged presence that made Pfeifer’s portrayal the defining representation of Catwoman for an entire generation. The suit also plays into this idea, especially with the mask.
When you put all of this together, you realize the sheer brilliance of what Jones is doing. She’s taking Selina’s current continuity and infusing it with the most defining traits from Catwoman’s best runs! Catwoman – like Batman – is iconic enough that you can’t create a version of her without entertaining comparisons… But in this situation, the comparisons aren’t negative. They’re going to be more of a celebration. This run will most likely side-step debates on who did what better, but instead, be met with acceptance and excitement.
In the end, I feel comic fans – and especially fans of Catwoman – are being treated to a real gift. Where Batman #50 failed in many ways, this issue succeeds ten-fold. Is it perfect? No, there are a few mishaps, though they are very minor. Selina is perfect though, and we have an intriguing roster of supporting characters, and interesting concept, and a villain that should prove to be an excellent foil!
I have a feeling that I will be gushing about Joelle Jones every single month over the next few years, so please prepare yourself. This woman is incredible! Batman “Rules of Engagement” gave us a glimpse of what she’s capable of with Selina Kyle, and I think we can all agree that we were impressed with her work… But that is nothing compared to what she does here. The fact that she’s writing the script and contributing art allows her to understand and capture nuances that are often lost in translation from writer to artist. So much of the story told in this issue is from body language, character presentation, reactions, etc… And my God, it’s beautiful, engaging, dare I say perfect?
I’ve commented on this before, but the way Jones’ adds narrative through visual presentation is stunning. Take one of Selina’s housemates. You learn so much about him just by seeing him. His clothes, his demeanor. Nothing needs to be said. You just get a good chunk of who this person is. I can’t discuss the art without talking about Allred’s colors. She and her husband are known for delivering some of the best covers in the industry, and her craft with colors really accentuate the work Jones is doing. The book is beautiful, and the quality of the art is worth well more than what you’re paying for!
- Joelle Jones is reason enough! Trust me! But…
- You’re a fan of Catwoman.
- This is a culmination of the best traits of Selina Kyle/ Catwoman from her best runs!
- Please give this book the shot it deserves. Don’t let your opinion of Batman #50 keep you away. That would be an injustice for Joelle Jones.
Overall: I honestly don’t know who the real star is here, Joelle Jones or Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. From start to finish, this book is pure purrfection! Not only does Jones drop the mic with an engaging, well-written, emotionally complex script, but she provides art that, if this were a film, would rival the greatest directors and actors in the industry. Quite frankly, this is the Catwoman book we’ve always wanted, and Joelle Jones is the storyteller we never knew we needed!