Ram V and Fernando Blanco turn in another fiercely paced, well constructed chapter with Catwoman #28. While there are very minor flaws in a few beats, V’s script manages to turn what could’ve been a generic mob war plotline into a fun, heist oriented showdown that’s equal parts Home Alone and Heat. V’s script sets Blanco up with a variety of action sequences where he can easily ramp up the fun factor, while not losing sight at the very real stakes at play for Selina and those close to her. There’s something for everyone here and Selina Kyle fans appear to be in good hands.
It’s clear right from the start that V trusts Blanco to set the appropriate sense of space and atmosphere. The first page is beautifully rendered as we get to see Alleytown in all its ragged glory with a few panels at the bottom lending small details and texture to the environment. The next couple of pages focuses on Selina’s “strays” as they prepare for battle against the Khadym mob. While seeing a group of young teenagers take on armed mob enforcers feels outlandish, Blanco delivers this sequence with such panache it’s hard not to buy into the premise. The repetition of page layouts for both the Khadym mob and strays readying their troops works wonders in creating a sense of tension and juxtaposition between the mob’s brute force and the stray’s scrappy resourcefulness. Blanco even tucks in some fun references with the strays’ masks which range from a Jason Voorhees inspired hockey mask to a play on Grifter’s iconic red face covering.
Before we get into the main plot which is split between Selina’s assault on Rollins’ deal at the docks and the mob versus strays battle, I want to focus on the subplot with Detective Hadley. Previously, Hadley’s scenes were a little toothless and served more as a recap of the book’s events. Here, V’s script gives him a more engaging battle against his fellow officers’ corruption, even as he starts to integrate among them. No longer is Hadley reacting to whatever Selina does and he’s more proactive in the plot. Hadley’s push and pull with the corrupt Kollak is ripe for tension and I have little doubt V will pay this subplot off. Blanco does well in these quieter scenes too. His layouts rely more on a grid structure which gives him ample opportunity to change up his angles and focus more on the character “acting” and body language shifts. It’s just as impressive as his spectacular action sequences.
The real surprise in this issue is how V’s script manages to make the mob’s assault on Alleytown feel like a heist sequence rather than just a straightforward gun fight. Much like last issue’s heist, V structures the assault very neatly and makes the sense of space clear alongside Blanco’s slick layouts. One group does a frontal assault, one goes around back, and one goes through the roof. It makes the stakes clear and allows the reader to focus on each individual route as the strays defend their home one path at a time. In a previous review, I mentioned that Selina employing what amounts to child soldiers felt a little weird and I questioned how exactly V would utilize them in the action. Luckily, V’s script keeps the onscreen carnage tame, with the strays setting up various traps to take down the mob enforces instead of just resorting to wanton violence. Not only does it keep the book light despite its high stakes, but it makes the sequence more fun as the reader anticipates exactly what each trap will be. Additionally, V addresses the somewhat murky ethics of this entire “stray” enterprise by having Selina say that she’s merely teaching them to fight back, rather than explicitly putting them in danger. Perhaps a little convenient, but nonetheless I’m glad the script itself addresses it.
More straightforward is Selina’s assault on Rollins’ dockside shipment, but it’s no less compelling. I sound like a broken record but Blanco is the current king of stylish action sequences and two-page spreads. One page shows Selina as she takes down goons one by one. This page isn’t so much sequential, but each panel is filled with dynamic poses and great lettered sound effects that give each beat appropriate weight. However, just as if Blanco knows readers are expecting his more fluid sequential two page spreads, he puts out another stunner on the page turn. Anyone who’s been current on this series knows Blanco’s two page spreads are to die for, and here he injects a few panels which depict close ups on each of Selina’s strikes. It’s a great technique that allows his composition to pull itself back for a wider shot without losing any impact to its action beats. Both the Alleytown assault and Selina’s attack on the docs are equally as engaging and use different styles to keep the issue from feeling repetitive. FCO Plascencia’s colors are also equally as terrific as he gives the shipyard a distinct atmosphere by imbuing the shipping containers with a variety of colors that gives a little pop to what could be a dull environment. Even more subtle touches, like giving even minor characters vibrantly colored clothes helps punch up every scene. Is it a coincidence that Rollins’ sports car and Kollak’s shirt are both purple? Maybe, but given this creative team’s sense of detail I wouldn’t doubt it being intentional.
However, there’s a couple beats that don’t quite land and include some minor spoilers. One deals with Selina’s first close encounter with Valley. The dialogue between them is well done as Valley does a classic evil rant about how he’ll strike Selina down when she’s at her happiest and even help her along the way at times. Their relationship is interesting and seems primed to go down routes more atypical than your average hitman stalks its prey tale. However, the lead up to this scene just has them walk toward each other and once they pass, they turn and grab one another, Valley’s knife to Selina’s throat and her claws at his in return. I don’t really buy Selina casually walking past someone as distinct as Valley so their first face to face encounter comes off a little contrived. Less worrying, but still notable is a part where Maggie apparently yells to warn someone from being shot but there’s no dialogue or lettered sound effect to show it and the subsequent gunfight occurs off panel. There’s so many moving parts in this sequence that it comes off more like running out of page space rather than a purposeful stylistic choice. Nonetheless, these minor quibbles do little to negate the otherwise stunning action sequences.
- A mixture of heist plots and clever Home Alone style traps is your idea of fun.
- Fernando Blanco’s sense of style and two page spreads make it an instant purchase.
- It’s not too late to hop aboard what could be one of the best Catwoman runs in recent history.
Catwoman #28 is another home run for this creative team. V’s script manages to make high stakes drug dealing feel like a fun romp, without losing any bit of its edge. Fernando Blanco’s art doesn’t miss a beat either, making each action sequence truly stunning while also giving the quieter scenes a great level of detail and texture. I’m eager to see how V moves the series forward and he’s given himself multiple avenues to go down, all of which feel equally exciting.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.