You know when you’re watching a television series, and before certain episodes, you’ll get a, “Previously, on ______.” That’s essentially what 90% of Catwoman #4 is.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jones’ Catwoman run so far. She’s spent a lot of time focusing on Selina as a character, building a foundation of supporting characters, and introducing an intriguing villain. And all of this, of course, has been illustrated by her as well, making for a rich, textured narrative. This month, Jones continues that trend with the assistance of Fernando Blanco.
Most of this chapter consists of flashbacks, especially those concerning Selina’s sister, Maggie, who was revealed as a cliffhanger last month. The flashbacks pull heavily from two previous stories: Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper by Mindy Newel – a companion story to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One – and Ed Brubaker’s iconic Catwoman: No Easy Way Down. Within these flashbacks and recalls, we are treated to a new flashback of Selina and Maggie as children on Halloween. Considering this is the one plotline that is fresh, it was a welcomed addition, and the fact that it touches on Halloween only makes it better!
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Maggie, this issue gives you a good rundown of her backstory to inform you of how she transitioned from a normal sister, to a nun, to a catatonic state. I’ll give you fair warning, the story is equally heartbreaking and morbidly disturbing, but it’s damn good. While it’s handled incredibly well by Joelle Jones, I’d urge you to hit pause, go find the first two Catwoman trades from the early 2000’s (Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman and Catwoman: No Easy Way Down), and read them to fully experience this story. You have a month (maybe more) before the next issue of Jones’ Catwoman hits stands, so not only do you have time to binge it, but it will also provide so much more context about these two women, how they grew up, and how/why this tragedy occurred. So, if you’re open to recommendations, take it.
If you’ve never read Brubaker’s run and opt to read this issue anyway, you’re most likely going to find the “reveals” to be disturbing and unsettling. All of this information will be new to you, and it is a lot to swallow (yes, that is an intentional pun). But in the end, this chapter is honestly nothing more than a recap for those of us who are more familiar with previous runs. Again, this is not a bad thing, but there is also nothing exciting for us either. For the most part, we’re getting a twenty-page recap of a story that has already been told masterfully over the course of multiple arcs… And no matter how good this venture is, it just doesn’t live up to what preceded it.
The heavy focus on flashbacks also inhibits any plot progression aside from a minor development in the final pages. The lack of plot progression in this issue isn’t my only concern though. I have a greater concern pertaining to the lack of progression in the overall title itself. This is the second issue now where I feel the plot fails to move forward. In addition to this, Jones’ focus appears to be all over the place. I’d be curious to know how much planning was completed prior to launching the book, because the title appears to embark in new directions with each chapter – which is fine, but it would be better if there were some momentum built up first. Clearly, the conflict with the Creel family is the main plot thread, but the story is developing so slowly while other plots are being thrown in or created, that it feels as though it’s meandering about aimlessly.
The Art: Fernando Blanco handles most of the art for this issue considering 90% of the book is a flashback. Upon seeing the first page, I immediately thought, “Wow! This looks incredible!” There’s a certain noir, gritty vibe to his art that is fantastic, but also a lightness in tone that prevents the story from feeling too bogged down during the childhood flashbacks. In fact, the art, in many ways, takes me back to Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart’s approach where simplicity prevailed. Nothing is overly detailed, you just get exactly what you need to make each panel, as well as the narrative overall, tell the story it needs to tell. And then, of course, when Jones’ art is featured, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
- You’ve never read Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman and need a Cliff Notes version of the story.
- Just go read Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman first and thank me later!
- No, seriously… If you haven’t read this chapter yet, put it down and go read Brubaker’s first two Catwoman trades, then come back to this issue.
Overall: Your enjoyment of this issue will depend heavily on whether or not you have read Ed Brubaker’s iconic Catwoman run. In no way is this issue bad, but if you’ve read Brubaker’s run – especially Catwoman: No Easy Way Down – then this will be nothing more than a twenty-page recap of that epic and iconic story. If you haven’t read this run, then you’ll be treated to a dark, morbid, and emotional that will serve its purpose well, but really should be experienced in full by reading the source material. In the end, this chapter does a solid job of establishing what is important: the relationship between Selina and Maggie.