Catwoman #24 manages to land a solid ending to an otherwise overstretched storyline that never quite honed in on a coherent theme. Blake Northcott’s script has fun on the mind, but the more nuanced writing and characterization feels rushed within this two-issue arc. Nonethless, Cian Tormey’s art, combined with Northcott’s emphasis on the fun factor ensures that most Selina Kyle fans will be more than satisfied with this month’s chapter.
While Catwoman #23 threw too many ideas, characters, and plot points at the reader, Northcott does a great job of streamlining the narrative in the first third of this issue. The cliffhanger from last month is quickly resolved, but that’s for the better as it was obvious that Selina would team up with the locals and their guardian god, Kisin. I do think the art here isn’t at its best, however, and Tormey struggles to generate as much excitement as I thought he would with Selina fighting a giant jaguar god. The big two page spread is efficient, but the sense of movement in the action as Kisin swings Selina around by her own whip doesn’t work due to the lack of dynamic poses between panels. It feels stiff and Northcott and Tormey clearly struggled to give Kisin impactful action beats. Northcott’s dialogue also goes for the joke rather than remaining consistent with the characterization. Kisin’s companion, Angelica, offers Selina some herbs to cure the poison she stabbed her with to which Selina responds with an overly long quip about whether or not she looks “like someone who wants to get high and party”. It’s adequate, but overwritten and the bevy of drug related humor grows tiresome even without Snowflame around.
Much better in every way is the next scene where Selina is nursed back to health by a local villager named Liseth. The one-note characterization of the nondescript South American setting nagged at me last month, but here we get a much better sense of place and empathy for the locals that Snowflame exploits. It’s in this conversation that we get solid characterization for Selina as she comes to terms that she might have to stick around to help instead of just rob a diamond and leave. Whereas the previous issue felt more in the vein of a Commando or Predator, this month Selina takes on almost an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style mission. There’s a nobility to Selina’s goal that was missing before, and it unlocks a feeling of true heroism in the arc, which mostly rids the issue of feeling like a reductive throwback storyline. There’s a great panel where Tormey draws Snowflame’s compound off in the distance on the side of a tall cliff, while Selina and the others remain in the foreground in the small village. That image tells the story of the island’s history more than any amount of exposition.
Unfortunately, the second half doesn’t quite live up to the potential introduced with Liseth and Selina’s scene. The big missed opportunity is that the locals and Kisin don’t have a bigger role in defeating Snowflame. Kisin is present for the finale, but only for a few panels where the giant jaguar walks down some stairs and looks moderately intimidating. This only further cements my feeling that Northcott and Tormey weren’t entirely sure how to utilize this character beyond a few flashes of promise. The same goes for Angelica who has a cool character design, but never amounts to more than that. There are a few moments of fun, such as Killer Croc fleeing at the sight of Kisin and bemoaning that he “didn’t swim all the way here for this”. Tormey also flexes his impressive facial acting skill set as Snowflame’s expressions are fantastic. They range from cocky, scared, frustrated, and deathly serious sometimes all within the same page. As much as I don’t think this finale works since it feels oddly stuck in place, Tormey pulls off some great action beats within the limited frame work. I love a panel with a couple guards’ machine gun barrels in the foreground as they fire at Selina jumping up into the ceiling. It pops off the page and Tom Napolitano’s lettered sound effects ingratiate smartly into the chaos. FCO Plascencia’s colors are also immensely moody as most of the compound is cast in the eerie red glow of back up emergency lights.
Snowflame’s big moment doesn’t really do more than give audiences a small chuckle. It’s a one joke caricature and while it is funny to see Snowflame tilt his head off panel to snort cocaine, this pay off is so heavily telegraphed by his mere presence that it feels obligatory rather than enthralling. The ensuing fight is stiff by Tormey’s previously established standards too, with each beat falling flat until Selina finally gets the upper hand. For an arc that features drugs so heavily, I thought the visuals would’ve been a little more heightened. The method by which Selina wins is clever and an example of good set up/pay off, but by this point the goodwill garnered by the first half of the book has evaporated faster than the cocaine up Snowflame’s nose. Ms. Quartz never justifies her existence in the arc leaving her and to a lesser extent, Angelica, feeling like set dressing rather than interesting side characters. The final moments with Selina as she ponders her own moral identity is solidly written, but the “list” that features so heavily into her moral quandary is so underdeveloped that the thematically driven narration feels hollow and out of synch with the otherwise boisterous arc.
- Snowflame going full 3rd act Scarface is something you’ve been waiting for.
- You want more backstory on Isla Nevada and its citizens.
- Focus on fun over depth is what you want right now.
Catwoman #24 is by no means a bad comic book, but there’s untapped potential within Northcott’s scripting. Northcott has a good eye for theatrics, but she can afford to take more time in the quieter scenes to make her over the top plot lines feel more grounded and fledged out. Tormey’s art isn’t quite up to par from the standard set last month, but there’s just enough energy in his pencils to carry the book through its stilted finale.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.