Catwoman #32 takes a slight detour from the main narrative to examine Selina Kyle’s influence on those who have come in contact with her. While it’s risky to essentially slip a one-shot in the middle of a story arc, Ram V’s breakdown of Selina is captivating and guest artist Evan Cagle’s pencils are stunning.
Any worries I had about regular artist Fernando Blanco being absent this month were immediately wiped away by Cagle’s first double page spread. Cagle’s line work is scratchier, looser, and generally more delicate than what we’ve seen in the series until now. The composition of the first double page spread is also immaculate, with several men in the foreground on the left side, while Selina leans up against a balcony far away, dominating the entire page with her presence. The way Cagle draws Selina’s dress flowing in the wind mixed with colorist Jordie Bellaire’s choice of red for the outfit demands the reader’s attention in all the best ways.
Before I return to several examples of Cagle and Bellaire’s stunning work, it’s important to note that V’s script spends most of its time in the past, as several characters recount their own experiences with Selina as well as stories passed down about her. The first flashback introduced comes from Leo Carreras, who Father Valley interrogates for information on Selina. Carreras recounts the job he pulled with her in Sicily that quickly went wrong before it got started. A second double page spread depicts the chaos that ensued, with smart color choices from Bellaire as she colors the outdoor villa in soft blues and purples but the inside of their getaway car in heavy reds. Cagle’s figure work is also exemplary, as even nondescript goons in the background carry their weight realistically as they fire off shotguns and assault rifles. It’s also hard to not feel a little empathy for Selina as she cries out once she realizes her current lover has been shot in the chaos. Every page that deals with a past job in Sicily is absolutely stunning in its mix of romance, Euro-crime, and characterization for Selina.
Other side stories include Shoes (aka Lian Harper) telling the crooked Lieutenant Kollak a story of Selina’s past with Mama Fortuna. The opening pages, which show Kollak and other officers raid Alleytown, are absolutely breathtaking. The environment’s drained color palette stands in great contrast with the bright clothes of the key characters, such as Kollak’s colorful shirt, and Shoes’ blue hair and purple hoodie. One panel in particular is impressive in how it bounces the light from the police cars and helicopter searchlights as Kollak kneels over Shoes in an act of disrespect. The subsequent story Shoes tells Kollak about Selina’s past is equally as gripping and displays her smarts and bravery from even a young age. Once again, it’s a perfect blend between aesthetic beauty and characterization.
The last side story of note comes courtesy of Maggie as she relates her own past (notably from Ed Brubaker, Cameron Stewart, and Darwyn Cooke’s run) to detective Hadley. While this segment is less intricate and relies heavily on some reader familiarity with past runs for its full impact, it does touch upon the destruction Selina unwittingly brings down upon those close to her. The art isn’t able to show off quite as much here since the sequences are scripted more as summaries of key moments, but Cagle pulls off some impressive panels nonetheless. One page hits on a deep emotional level as it has a panel of a somber Selina standing in the rain placed above several other panels of those she’s hurt along the way. Tom Napolitano’s lettering across all these sequences is extremely consistent in quality despite the various narrators and time periods taking place. The Sicily scenes have white fonts against a purple caption box, Shoes’ caption boxes are rougher, as if they are torn notes from a diary, while Maggies’ are orange with a black font. Smart choices all around.
If there’s any complaint to be had it’s that the narrative does take a momentary breather. Even then, V’s script does have these flashbacks tied to minor narrative progression; both with Valley’s interrogation of Carrera and the raid on Alleytown being their frame stories. However, these flashbacks do a great job of further developing Selina in a way that ups the stakes for every character, even if the cliffhanger is largely redundant of last month’s issue. It’s hard to find any fault in what’s on the page, and this type of narrative digression is perfectly suited to the comics medium as longer runs have the time to flesh out their characters as such.
- Evan Cagle’s art serves as a great way for the series to diversify its aesthetics.
- You don’t mind the main narrative taking a momentary breather for some great short stories.
- Selina Kyle’s multilayered characterization is why you’re reading the book in the first place.
Catwoman #32 is a bold chapter in the series as it slows down the narrative pacing in favor of developing Selina and its supporting cast. Evan Cagle’s art is more than welcome in the series, (which is no slight against the also extraordinarily talented Fernando Blanco) and pairs extremely well with Jordie Bellaire’s diverse color choices. There’s nothing I didn’t like in Catwoman #32 and any complaint about the structure or lack of forward progress lies more so with reader taste than with execution from the creative team.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.