Catwoman #19 is a mess. With three different artists, a sudden shift into the horror genre, and overwrought narration, Joelle Jones’ run reaches its lowest point yet. In the beginning, Jones’ Catwoman was a focused, albeit slow paced, crime thriller with a strong sense of characterization and setting. Unfortunately, Jones jettisons much of what made her earlier arcs work in favor of citywide chaos courtesy of zombies created by Lazarus pit water. Most traces of its more grounded, noir influences have evaporated, leaving Jones’ near self-loathing Selina out of place in the books’ new status quo.
Most of Catwoman #19’s problems begin with the disconnect between the writing and the book’s three different artists. There’s an army of artists and colorists in this book and you can tell. Geraldo Borges’ pages focus on Carlos as he battles a horde of zombies that surround his aunt’s store. While I think Borges’ pencils are the weakest of the three artists, his work does suit the more overt horror tone with his deep inks casting dark shadows on Carlos’ face as he realizes his dire situation. Less effective are Borges’ misshapen eyeballs and questionable facial work. While the emotion on his character’s faces is clear, there’s a lack of nuance to his rough line work that stands out as incongruous to the other artists. While Borges’ weaknesses don’t bring the book to a complete standstill, it does him no favors when you flip a page to Aneke’s more delicate pencils. Borges’ Carlos has several lines on his face that betrays his more youthful vibe that has been previously established. He looks older than he’s meant to be and it’s noticeable when Aneke’s art portrays him much closer to his true self. Aneke’s pencils are more nuanced with the details on character’s faces, especially when it comes to Carlos.
Aneke’s art focuses more on Selina as she makes her way back to Carlos to help him fight off Raina Creel’s zombie horde. While Aneke’s art is more delicately rendered with impressive figure work, there are moments where the pencils don’t quite match the script to its full potential. As Selina leaps across rooftops, Jones has Selina narrate about how she feels emotionally compromised. However, Aneke’s rendition of Selina that accompanies this narration does not match. She looks powerful and confident, with a slight smile and powerful pose that in no way captures the self-doubting Selina of Jones’ script. It’s a gorgeous splash page, but deeply out of place. Jones’ one-note narration for Selina doesn’t help either. Selina is at peak self-loathing despite the previous issues putting her back on track to taking down Raina Creel. She pines for comfort as she notes the lack of rooftops in Villa Hermosa for her to run away on. Over the series’ nineteen issues, Jones’ Selina feels as though she’s made zero progress emotionally, which makes most of the run feel inconsequential. Meanwhile, Aneke’s pencils have Selina casually look down upon a zombie invasion without much more of a reaction than a slight narrowing of her eyes. Nothing really matches up tone wise. The narration behaves as if we’re still operating in the moody noir of the earlier issues, as if Jones doesn’t know exactly how to have her characters react to her sudden shift to horror.
Whatever reservations I have about Jones’ Selina, there is just a general lack of craft that permeates through the book. The dialogue outside of Selina’s narration is largely expository and the plot itself is thin. Zombies attack Carlos and Maggie at the shop and Selina rushes to save them. There isn’t much more than that and Carlos’ angry reaction to Selina’s arrival doesn’t ring true. I can ignore the lack of a larger picture for a series if an individual issue is thrilling enough on its own, but there’s a lot of wasted space on pages too. Some of Borges’ art has small panels that don’t fill the entire page, leaving large amounts of unused space. The fact that the unused backgrounds are colored white brings more attention to it and detracts from the horror atmosphere. Aneke also uses the same type of panel layouts, but fills those backgrounds in black, which makes it less of an eyesore.
However, some of Aneke’s panels are oddly inert despite the high stakes of the zombie invasion. There’s a panel where Selina sees a few zombies race down the street, but the composition lacks any sense of drama as it features the top of Selina’s head, a lot of empty space, and then a few tiny zombies in the corner. Even when Selina sees the zombies attack the shop where Carlos is, the composition remains exactly the same and lacks any sense of ramping up the drama. The colors, primarily done by FCO Plascencia, ping pong around without a sense of consistency, especially on the pages inside the store. Backgrounds hop around from white, to purple, yellow, blue without any real discernible reason why beyond a slight degree of pop that distracts more than enhances. By the time Inaki Miranda’s pencils join the book near the end with a completely different color palette, any sense of consistency has been obliterated. Miranda’s pages carry such a higher level of detail to Carlos’ shop that it almost feels like we’ve entered an entirely new setting. At least it looks nice. The spoiler tag below shows off his art, but features a plot development later in the book.
If there’s anything to take away from this issue it’s that Laura Allred deserves immense credit for her incredibly skillful colors. Allred only colors the last few pages of the issue, with Borges on pencils, but she clearly understands how to keep a scene’s visual consistency, while still imbuing it with a subtle degree of pop. Allred uses her character’s clothes to add a good degree of contrast and doesn’t resort to randomly coloring some panels with a different background to keep the reader’s attention.
- The zombie invasion sub genre appeals to you.
- You’ve been waiting for Selina to finally rejoin the supporting cast.
Catwoman #19 shows why having a consistent art team is paramount to a successful book. With three different styles fighting against, rather than enriching, each other, Jones’ script needed to provide a solid base to weather the storm. Unfortunately, Jones’ script loses its grip between balancing the nuanced character work she brings to Selina and the sudden shift in stakes and tone that accompanies a zombie invasion subplot. The only consistency are Jones’ well-written, but now grating, monologues she writes for Selina. There’s no endgame in sight for the ongoing saga of Selina versus the Creels. With Raina Creel now as a maniacal, zombie controlling villain, I don’t see a way back to the more effective crime tale Jones’ was once telling.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.