Catwoman #31

Catwoman #31 brings the series back to a heist oriented storyline, but Ram V’s script delivers these familiar goods in a stylish package. Fernando Blanco is allowed to stretch his comedic muscles more than usual, whether it be through taking jabs at high society or the sly glances Selina exchanges with her allies right before things spin out of control. There’s never a dull moment in these pages, even if the script’s stylish structure relies too much on telling, rather than showing.

V’s script starts things off with a bang with an in media res opening action sequence where Selina takes out a few armed guards with ease. At this point, readers should fully trust Blanco’s instincts for action (even if this issue lacks his usual double page spreads), and this sequence lives up to the usual high standard. Of particular note are Jordie Bellaire’s colors, which really pop off the page. The first panel is filled with vibrant contrast between the orange glow of the guards in the doorway and the steely blues of Selina’s hiding spot behind an overturned table. There’s a great deal of depth here as well with bullets flying right at Selina, and the reader in turn, even if their size makes them look like mini rockets instead of bullets. The way Blanco’s layouts lead the reader’s eye across the page is also stunningly effective, even as he fills the page with smaller panels to highlight key beats, such as a bullet skimming Selina’s arm or her readying her whip. Overall, the opening sequence is fun, exciting, and oozes style – especially when the credits are staggered over an entire page.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

The first half of the book then takes the form of Selina speaking to her would be captor, Siddhart Roy, explaining to him how she pulled off stealing his Degas painting, as well as freeing Poison Ivy from his clutches. It’s a classic frame story that does a great job of pacing out the twists and turns, but there are a few plot points that suffer from the sheer amount of deviousness Selina and her crew pull off. There are not many surprises – once we see Roy about to show off his priceless Degas painting we know it’s already going to be gone, but the way V doles out the information exudes fun. Selina toys with Roy as she explains how she pulled off her heist, with a wagging finger and chic attitude. These moments of levity, courtesy of Blanco’s solid draftsmanship, lift the book up out of its familiar trappings. A great gag of having Poison Ivy wear Selina’s dress is a highlight, particularly when a guard notes that “Selina” looked green for a moment on a security camera.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

Slight disappointment arises in the more granular details of the heist. My complaints verge on nitpicking, but heist storylines thrive on the nitty gritty. For example, it’s revealed that Selina’s strays secretly replaced the catering staff before they ever reached the party. This is also the reason given as to how Selina and her crew stole the Degas painting in the first place, creating a distraction. Narration boxes relay this to the reader, but the visuals on the page don’t add much understanding as to how everything went down. I don’t necessarily need to see the “Strays” replace the caterers, but I’d like to have a better idea of how they stole the highly guarded painting that I’d imagine even a caterer wouldn’t have close access to. Nonetheless, most of the pieces fall into place cleanly, ultimately resulting in an ominous ending to the heist. There’s a panel where Selina looks back at the mansion house from afar, as cops and paramedics storm the scene, that is beautifully composed and colored in red and blue light. It’s a smart choice to end the fun hijinks on a more serious tone, as even Selina looks somber, her face cast in dark shadow and soft red light.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

The second half of the issue gets the job done, but I do question whether or not the heist itself could have benefitted from a few more pages. There’s a short scene with Simon Saint and the Wight Witch, where we get a better idea of their working relationship, which seems unhealthy at best. I’m intrigued by the Wight Witch, whose real name is Rhea, and her seemingly subservient relationship to Saint who has made her into the killing machine she is. The scene looks great; Bellaire’s color choices cast the entire scene in reds and oranges with pops of light blue from Saint’s holograms. And while I have reservations about “Future State” and its place in the DC universe, V’s take on this world and Saint himself are among the strongest. The final pages focus on Selina regrouping with her allies back at base, with a standard cliffhanger setting the stage for next month’s issue. I love the new home base Selina’s strays are staying at. An abandoned train terminal inherently has appeal and Blanco nails the atmosphere with sunlight pouring in through the exposed ceiling in contrast to the bright green of Poison Ivy’s influence. The stage seems set for the narrative to move forward in a more significant way, as most of the previous hanging plot threads have been cleaned up by this point.

Credit: Fernando Blanco, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

Recommended if…

  • Selina on a high stakes art heist is enough to get you on board.
  • You’ve been waiting for Poison Ivy’s role to take center stage.
  • Learning more about the Wight Witch intrigues you.

Overall

Catwoman #31 does a great job of balancing a heist plotline and the subsequent fallout, with only a few hiccups along the way. Fernando Blanco doesn’t get to flex with a double page spread this month, but his work remains excellent as ever and is only further enhanced by Jordie Bellaire’s tremendous colors. Along with V’s consistent scripts, this is a creative team that has clearly hit its stride and I see no warning signs of that changing any time soon.

Score: 8.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.