Joelle Jones brings her Raina Creel saga to its conclusion in the technically competent, but uninspired Catwoman #21 that mostly goes through the motions. Fernando Blanco’s pencils, along with FCO Plascencia’s colors, create stakes in this climactic ending that don’t fully exist in the writing. Unfortunately, the tail end of Jones’ Catwoman is a classic example of style over substance with an emphasis on flashy action, decompressed storytelling, and an overreliance on choppy narration to tie everything up.

Despite any disappointments in the overarching storyline, Blanco turns in some really great action sequences in the first half of the issue. Not only does Blanco pencil some great dynamic poses as Catwoman single-handedly takes on a zombie horde, but he creates a gorgeous two page spread that touches in with the supporting cast as well, giving a good sense of things coming full circle. The art and writing is in sync here, with its finger on the pulse on Catwoman’s current predicament, but also wrapping up the series’ subplots with a delicate touch. Jones’ narration for Selina plays through most of the book, and while I don’t think we learn much new about Selina, it does a good enough job of capturing her mental state and her desire to return to Gotham. Unfortunately, “good enough” is the main feeling I got from Jones’ script. Her normally solid narration feels like it’s on autopilot and ultimately serves as an inelegant device to return things to status quo. Jones’ metaphors become muddled and since they’re intercut with the action climax, it’s hard to track the metaphorical usage of scales, masks, hums turning into alarms, and so on. Even ignoring the art and just reading the narration, the prose’s flow comes off as choppy and without much depth beyond general platitudes of feeling out of place.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, FCO Plascencia, Saida Temofonte

The real excitement comes in seeing Selina finally face down Raina Creel. Blanco’s contributions to the mansion showdown can’t be understated. His paneling is pitch perfect, giving even snapshot style action sequences enough beats within smaller panels to create a sense of impact. There’s also a great page where he uses an overhead angle to show Raina look down upon Selina and her defeated zombie horde. Beyond the technical skill needed to create depth in an overhead shot, it’s great storytelling to put the reader above every character, which allows them to soak in the scope of the sequence. Plascencia’s colors are fantastic here too with the initial zombie horde fight seeped in pinks and purples and the more intimate fights between Selina and more notable minions, like Yilmaz, drenched in reds and blues. While the ultimate conclusion for Raina Creel is lackluster, the build up is great, and it’s smart for Jones to not have Raina stand much of a chance against Selina in a physical one-on-one fight.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, FCO Plascencia, Saida Temofonte

Jones’ strongest writing comes in a lengthy flashback sequence where Selina tells Raina her backstory and her emotional advancement from her beginnings to now. It feels a little shoehorned in since Selina pauses the book in its action climax to tell a story, but it’s a well-done sequence nonetheless. Blanco and Plascencia change up their styles accordingly, with the color palette entirely reliant on shades of blue and black. There’s an immense amount of depth in the pencils here and it’s a gorgeous sequence to look at. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that the entire series should’ve adopted this style as it’s rich in shadow and texture and captures a sense of noir that fits Catwoman. A few panels that show Selina break into an apartment and stare at herself in a mirror tell an entire story, even without the narration. Still, Jones’ dialogue here is also at its best as it flows along perfectly with the art and captures Selina’s transition from self-absorbed thief to…well still a thief but one with a higher set of morals. Jones plays with the idea of living with two different faces and Selina fits that theme well. However, Jones also tries to apply it to Raina Creel, due to her deteriorating physical condition, but her lack of truly substantial character development makes the attempt feel hollow. There’s a brief moment where Jones flirts with a different type of ending for Raina, but the issue quickly takes the easy way out.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, FCO Plascencia, Saida Temofonte
Spoiler
With Raina dead and Selina leaving without saying goodbye face-to-face to Carlos, Jones’ run feels without much consequence. For a series that initially was about Selina maturing, leaving without saying goodbye beyond a note feels like a backward step. Maggie also speaks in the book’s final page which feels like far too little and way too late. There’s a promise for more of the story to come in the 80th anniversary Catwoman special, but I’m not holding my breath for much of substance to be added.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve stuck around for the end of the Raina Creel saga.
  • A brief flashback sequence that captures Selina’s character in a nutshell is worth the price.
  • You want to get an idea of what the future holds for Maggie.

Overall

Catwoman #21 is a strong artistic showcase for Fernando Blanco and FCO Plascencia that serves as an adequate conclusion for Jones’ Creel storyline. Jones’ script sets the stage for a good action sequence, but once things slow down the lack of a coherent thematic through line for the series becomes increasingly obvious. There’s a great flashback sequence showing that Jones clearly understands Selina and what makes her tick, but unfortunately her main storyline doesn’t allow for the same amount of character work. What remains is a flashy, yet inconsequential finale that feels like a disappointment given the potential the series displayed in the past.

Score: 5.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.