While the last two issues of Catwoman were a fun enough diversion, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the start to Ram V and Fernando Blanco’s run beginning with this week’s Catwoman #25. Is it unfortunate that the first issue of their ongoing run is a Joker War tie in? Sure, but V does a great job of giving the book its own identity despite the script’s obligation to keep things tied to Tynion IV’s current Batman run. Not all tie in issues are bad, which Catwoman #25 proves by being the fresh start that fans have been waiting for.
I want to start off with Fernando Blanco’s art who has been a solid mainstay on the series. While his work on Joelle Jones’ run was always good, he looks to have made a major upgrade in this issue. The painterly style of the opening few pages is absolutely gorgeous and makes for a fantastic first impression. FCO Plascencia’s colors add to the wow factor by casting the opening in a near monochromatic hue of golden brown, which gives an otherworldly atmosphere. It helps that V’s script puts Selina in a sort of dance-off against a tiger in front of an ominous crowd. V’s narration is also intriguing and doesn’t overstay its welcome in its attempt to create a sense of tension and foreshadowing. Selina attempts to calm herself by equating the showdown with the tiger as a type of dance. The scene screams “metaphor” at the reader, but I didn’t mind due to the high level of craft on display.
The bulk of the plot deals with Selina, Riddler, and Penguin teaming up to steal the money that the Joker stole from Bruce Wayne during Joker War. Even though this is a tie in issue, V smartly keeps the plot appropriate for a Catwoman book as it basically is another heist story at its core. I’m not the biggest fan of Joker War, but V delivers the goods here and interweaves his own stamp on Catwoman with what I presume to be a mandated tie-in book. The dialogue is sharp and for the most part very efficient. There always seems to be some sort of debate about whether or not comics should lean more into visual storytelling and keep dialogue bubbles short. The real answer is that if a comic is well written, you won’t even be thinking about whether or not there’s too many words on the page. V succeeds in that manner. Sometimes Penguin’s dialogue is saddled with an inch too much of exposition, but V has his voice down which makes the information overload go down smoothly. Most importantly, V makes Batman’s rogues fun to read and is unafraid to lean into embracing their quirks. Putting them together as a reluctant team gives V ample opportunity for fun banter, especially with the Riddler. The only hiccup on a structure and pacing level lies with the couple of times V cuts back to Selina’s dreamlike face-off with the tiger. I get what V is doing with that sequence, but I think it kills the momentum of the main story at hand.
If I have to nitpick some of Blanco’s work it’s one page’s layout doesn’t lead the reader’s eye appropriately with the action. It’s a page where Selina kicks through a door and wraps her whip around a guard’s leg. Since we read left to right, my eye personally went to a small panel with her whip first which technically happens after the kick. The overall effect is solid, however, and a later two page spread shows off that Blanco really knows what he’s doing when it comes to putting together a sense of space along with the action. Plascencia’s colors are exemplary throughout, between vibrant greens of the Riddler scenes to the darkly violent reds and purples that accompany Penguin. It’s a gorgeous book through and through.
Unfortunately, the main story ends on a bit of shrug as Selina finds herself with Detective Hadley and far away from the Joker War upheaval. I really don’t know how much this series will stay connected to the ongoing story in Tynion IV’s Batman, but if this is the extent of its connection then I’m fine with that. V wraps it all up with a return to the “dance-off” with the tiger which never really feels like it paid off in any deeply profound way. We also get another Selina has “nine lives” reference, which is something I can do without. Over the course of Selina’s history her “deaths” must number in the thousands.
If the main story ends without much impact, the follow up story written by V with art by John Paul Leon promises that the best is still yet to come. Leon is a master artist and Plascencia’s colors show their range as he completely changes up his style to fit Leon’s pencils. It’s another gorgeous story and while it lacks the high octane action of the main plot, the idea of Selina taking in runaways is ripe for some great stories in the future. While this is more of a set up story, Leon’s art makes it a must read with gorgeous compositions and nuanced character “acting”.
The third and last story is even slighter but features even more gorgeous art courtesy of Juan Ferreyra with Plascencia’s diverse colors once again. V’s script here is just having fun as we follow a cat who observes Selina from afar. It operates as a sort of character summary of Selina which shows that V understands her core characteristics. The standout here is Ferreyra’s fantastic art which is simultaneously gorgeous, cute, and funny. It’s not must read material, but as a third short story in an already solid book, it’s a great final note.
- You want to be on ground floor of a new Catwoman run.
- There’s a lot of value here with diverse stories and art even for the six dollar price tag.
- The art alone is worth the price of admission with three of the most talented artists under one roof.
Catwoman #25 marks the first time I’ve truly been excited for a run in a while. Writer Ram V has already established himself as a solid Catwoman writer with a few fill in issues, but I can’t wait to see how he handles a longer run with Selina. Main artist Fernando Blanco ups his game considerably, even beyond his normally great art, and V’s script keeps the pace light and fun without losing sight of Selina’s more complex inner self. With two equally entertaining short stories as a bonus, Catwoman #25 is a must read for any fan of the character.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.