Catwoman #30 is a set up issue, but Ram V’s script makes sure to dole out the necessary exposition with ample style. While this month’s issue lacks the sheer amount of action and stakes of the previous chapter, artist Fernando Blanco takes full advantage of the exciting moments he’s afforded and supplies more than enough atmosphere in the quieter scenes.
Right from the start, V and Blanco’s partnership is on full display in how they make even the most rugged and industrial of settings a visual treat – without sanitizing the atmosphere. Bellaire’s colors are steely, with a little bit of pop courtesy of Selina’s strays and their graffiti. This opening scene between Selina and Riddler is largely a recap of things we’ve learned that our heroes haven’t, but it’s nice to get a refresher of the many threads V’s scripts have been setting up. There’s a two page spread, Blanco’s apparent speciality, that delivers most of this information in a visually interesting way. While I think the appearance looks cool, I don’t know if I necessarily understand Tom Napolitano’s decision to letter the entire spread with the caption boxes set at an angle. The concept of setting the panels to look like a giant question mark is novel, but the canted angle feels more like Blanco and Napolitano realizing the question mark idea wouldn’t quite fit across two pages if it were upright. Lastly, Bellaire coloring every panel in shades of green of course fits the Riddler, but I wish there was more contrast between the panels where Riddler is withdrawing on drugs and the panel where he’s recovering in Selina’s makeshift hospital bed. As it stands, the visuals distract more so than serve the dialogue. Nonetheless, it’s better than a series of talking heads rattling off paragraphs of information.
Most of these problems immediately vanish from my memory once Father Valley gets a chance to show off his skill set. I’ve liked Valley, but have been wishing he’d do something more than stalk from afar and give the occasional creepy monologue. Blanco and V once again set up a really great looking “stand off” page, where we get a nice establishing shot, then two side by side panels showing Valley and Penguin face-to-face. It oozes style, but is also a great way to establish a sense of place, which makes the action easier to follow. If I have a nitpick, it’s that Blanco’s Penguin looks a little too disempowered and feeble, which V’s script also backs up by having him apologize to Valley. It’s a brief moment, apparently to display how intimidating Valley is in person, but it still made me second guess the scene. Nonetheless, the sequence climaxes in a two page spread where V and Blanco really show off what Valley is capable of. Beyond Blanco’s composition, which is excellent, I love the square panels that litter the spread and show key action beats. Bellaire’s choice to color these boxes a pale red also lets them pop off the page in a great use of contrast. Napolitano’s letters also get in on the fun with a few inspired font choices and sound effect positions. I’m particularly fond of a tiny, pale blue “TCHK” that accompanies a blade inside a henchmen’s forehead.
While there are very minor quibbles with the first half of the issue, the second half better exemplifies the strength of V and Blanco’s run so far. V has Selina’s inherent characteristics down. A subtle mix of self-loathing, loneliness, and sense of justice drives Selina ever forward, in addition to the sheer thrill of it all. Without giving too much of the plot away, the second half deals with Selina and her strays trying to track down Poison Ivy, who is held captive by a mysterious organization that Riddler helped identify earlier. There’s great action, great art, and great writing in the form of Selina’s extended narration over the entire sequence. This is the type of scene that perfectly blends character, plot, and theme. Many other books tend to separate these three things.
As the book wraps up, it does become apparent that V has larger things in store for next month. The cliffhanger does render much of the previous action as filler but when it’s this fun to read it doesn’t really matter. And by filler I mean a series of action that doesn’t push the plot forward since Poison Ivy’s location is just given to Selina by a mysterious new character, and not gained by her own acts. There is a bit of a jerkiness to the plotting in these moments, but when you tease a high fashion heist for the next issue, it’s hard to stay mad.
- You’ve been waiting to see Father Valley’s skill set with no pulled punches.
- Seeing Riddler and Selina interact is something that interests you.
- You want to jump in on one of the best books DC is currently publishing.
Catwoman #30 shows that even set up issues can be fantastic reads when in the hands of a great creative team. To be blunt, not much happens in this issue. Most of the information given was known by the reader already and even Father Valley’s scene with Penguin doesn’t do much to really change the stakes of the narrative. However, V’s sharp scripting and Blanco’s immaculate art ensures most readers will be far too distracted by the level of craft on display to even notice the plot spinning its wheels ever so slightly. Armed with an intriguing cliffhanger, Catwoman #30’s high quality only promises even better things to come.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.