If nothing else, Joelle Jones clearly understands Selina as a character and successfully highlights her troubled emotional state after she left Bruce at the altar. The best scenes in Jones’ Catwoman run have been in quieter scenes where Jones’ strong dialogue works hand in hand with her highly detailed art that enriches each character with emotion. Since Jones is still on art duties, it’s impossible to not open Catwoman #17 and not be impressed initially. She’s drawn another gorgeous book and it’s worth flipping through for that alone. Unfortunately, Catwoman #17 spends more time looking backward instead of pushing the molasses paced narrative forward.
Jones continues with the non-linear storytelling that the arc has leaned on so far, which exposes the issues greatest flaw: almost nothing of consequence happens. So far, the arc has jumped between two different scenes. The first is Lex Luthor’s offer to Selina which is finally revealed here. The second is Selina confronting Raina Creel and her zombie family servants at a Lazarus Pit. Despite seeing these scenes fully play themselves out, we don’t learn enough new information to justify half the issue being dedicated to them.
We have four pages used on Lex’s offer to Selina which ends up being a ploy to get Selina to confront Mrs. Creel at the Lazarus Pit. We already knew Lex’s offer results in Selina heading to the Lazarus Pit so the revelation that Luthor’s offer is telling Selina where it is falls flat. Additionally, the way it’s presented by Lex says that what Selina does next will result in her being a hero or villain. Rather than being an interesting dilemma, the offer feels shoehorned into the narrative to merely match a DC mandate that required each book to have Lex show up. Selina’s conflicting emotions about returning to Gotham has been the heart of the book, so to have Lex emerge as a plot device and fecklessly monologue about light and dark doesn’t fit the overarching narrative.
After an ineffective opening, we then get three double page spreads that recap Selina’s journey the past year going all the way back to pre-wedding events in Tom King’s Batman. The double-page spreads are absolutely gorgeous to look, but as someone who has read the entire Bat-Cat saga, it’s nothing more than a nice looking recap in a book starved for plot progression. Still, these pages are probably the highlight of the book even if we don’t learn anything new in them. Selina gets time to ruminate on her nature and the way she balances the good and evil in her life. As Selina’s time in Villa Hermosa heads to a close, these pages try to synthesize the run and its themes into a tidy package. I’m not entirely convinced Jones succeeds here. The “evil” side of Selina hasn’t emerged enough (if at all) for there to feel like there’s truly been an internal battle within her. The main emotional crux has been Selina’s feelings for Bruce, not so much her double-sided nature. Selina says that she’s a “believer in distraction through action”, which I think accidentally sums up my thoughts on the run so far. The run has felt like a distraction when it should’ve been a companion series to King’s Batman since its emotional core is tethered so closely to it. No real emotional catharsis has emerged in Jones’ run, and I fear there never will be. After over a year of hemming and hawing, Selina hasn’t made much emotional progress and without a strong storyline to distract readers, the run finds itself being much ado about nothing.
Without a compelling emotional arc, Jones’ action sequences don’t inspire much interest beyond the visceral. We see the full fight between Selina and Creel’s minions in the Lazarus Pit, but since we already know how it ends, not much tension brews. Of course, Jones’ art carries the weight enough to not entirely write off the sequence. One particular page has two new zombie minions emerge from the Lazarus Pit in a panel that would befit an outright horror book, aided by Laura Allred’s appropriately steely and ominous colors. Unfortunately, the fight scene ends abruptly with a two page recap sequence that plays out as if it’s being fast forwarded on a VHS tape. Aware of the issue’s repetition, Jones attempts to mask the monotony with a cheeky sequence that calls attention to its redundancy by having Selina narrate this sped up version of events. While momentarily amusing, it only calls more attention to the fact that almost nothing new has happened in the plot. However, Allred’s work deserves a shoutout as she creates atmosphere in several different settings and page layouts. From a luxurious manor house to the dark, mysterious depths of a Lazarus Pit, Allred has effectively set the mood without fault. The only art flaw that stands out to me is that the backgrounds can be too gaudy at times, as their bold color choices clash with the polka dot textures.
- Joelle Jones’ art is worth flipping through on its own.
- You want to know everything about Lex’s offer.
- The end of the Villa Hermosa saga is something you want to see.
Once again, Jones has created a visually stunning single issue that lacks narrative progression. While previous issues had great sequences that were entertaining despite the slow pace, Catwoman #17 indulges in Jones’ greatest flaws as a writer. Her reliance on non-linear structure drains any tension from each sequence and Jones’ attempts to bring her themes full circle don’t fully work due to Selina’s lack of emotional progress. Jones’ Catwoman #17 is a beautiful distraction as it finds itself wrapped up in on itself, with only glimpses of forward thinking in sight.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.