Catwoman #29 is another strong outing for Ram V and Fernando Blanco that manages to expand the scope of the series without falling under the weight of its ambition. There are aspects of the narrative that feel a little sudden, but the added characters spice up the series and gently nudge the book into a more heightened realm from its neo-noir beginnings.
The opening scene lets readers know that things are changing fast after Selina brought her rival crime lords down a notch. Not only is one of them assassinated, but they’re killed by a new high-tech looking villain named the “Wight Witch”. First impressions are solid, as Blanco’s dynamic pencils make her look swift in her movements as she takes down a major player with her dual set of blades. Her costume is also striking, with an effortless blend of a street wear aesthetic due to her hood alongside the high tech armor that carries an eerie vibe due to its near trypophobia inducing pattern. We don’t get much personality out of the Wight Witch this issue, but her mere presence is intimidating on a visual level.
After the opening, the script takes on a more expository role as V sets up various plot threads that are sure to crossover as the arc progresses. Luckily, V’s dialogue is always fun to read, particularly a poolside back and forth between Hadley and Selina. Blanco does a great two page spread with Selina floating in the pool, her body crossing over both pages at the top. It’s a vibrant sequence and Jordie Bellaire’s colors beautifully render the scene in soft blues and robust skin tones, which allows Hadley and Selina’s darker clothes to deliver nice contrast. Blanco’s action prowess is hard to deny, but he excels in these lower key scenes too, since he very rarely resorts to a series of static, talking heads. Also worthy of being noted is how Blanco’s art doesn’t shy away from Selina’s sex appeal and does so without coming off as exploitative. It’s a fine line that separates an alluring portrayal from an exploitative one, but Blanco never trips over it, primarily since his compositions keep things light and classy. It’s also great to see Maggie talking again and hopefully V has something in store for her beyond just hanging out in Selina’s various hideouts.
The only troubling sequence in the entire issue comes in the form of some evil scientists who have captured Poison Ivy and are using her to create a new strain of drug. Simon Saint, creator of Future State’s Magistrate, appears to be in charge, which ties this series to DC’s mainline continuity. So far, this series has largely remained in its own world (Joker War aside), so hopefully the narrative doesn’t find itself too obligated to a larger, outside picture. There’s a lot thrown at the reader in this scene. New characters, new plot points, and a little glimpse at who the Wight Witch exactly is. V’s first arc benefitted from a very clearly laid out plan. There were two rival crime lords and a corrupt cop to take down. This simplicity made the arc grounded, slick and stylish at the same time. Now we have two assassins in the form of Wight Witch and Father Valley, who still lingers in the shadows, alongside Saint and his other minions. V’s plotting has never crumbled under a lot of moving pieces before, but I hope the narrative justifies both Valley and Wight Witch’s presence. Otherwise, the book does stand to suffer from having too many villains to keep track of.
The highlight of the book for many will be a short, yet effective showdown between Selina and Wight Witch, as they both find the Riddler in hiding. There’s a great moment when Selina questions why exactly she’s trying to help Hadley track down the source of the mysterious new drug. Selina acknowledges it could be Batman’s influence on her, or maybe just her own curiosity, but either way the reluctant hero is always fun to delve into. A little less clear is how or why Nygma has become addicted to this new drug. I don’t need everything plainly laid out at the beginning of the arc, but there is a certain abruptness to this new take on Nygma that isn’t really explained beyond Selina narrating that she was aware he was “using” on their job together. Nonetheless, the fight scene between Selina and Wight Witch is wonderfully rendered by Blanco. The action isn’t quite as smooth and sequential as normal, but it makes sense given Wight Witch’s ability to turn non-corporeal, which enhances her quickness and catches Selina off guard. I love V and Blanco’s tendency to do these classic stand off panels too. Both characters, in a wide shot, stand facing toward each other right before the true fight begins. Not only is it simply cool, but establishes a sense of place for the reader. The final few pages do a good job at bringing the narrative’s several pieces together into one scene too, which creates a sense of cohesion the issue needed. It’s hard to make Selina’s scrappy Alleytown strays, Hadley’s corrupt cop adventures, high tech Magistrate beginnings, and Valley’s over the top characterization all gel into one piece – but if anyone can pull it off it’s this creative team.
- Seeing Selina rub shoulders with her fellow Gotham City rogues appeals to you.
- You liked Future State and want to see the whole picture of the Magistrate’s beginnings.
- Now is a good time to hop onto the series if you weren’t around from the beginning.
Catwoman #29 adds a lot more moving pieces to the carefully constructed world Ram V and Fernando Blanco have created over the past four issues. Blanco’s pencils and Jordie Bellaire’s colors effortlessly transition between sunny poolside conversations to grimy criminal hideouts and V’s script keeps a tight pace between set pieces. However, there’s a lingering feeling that the book is taking a bit of a hard turn away from its simpler crime story beginnings, but only time will tell what form the book takes over the next few months.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.