Despite being a tie-in for the Fear State event, fans of the series should definitely still pick Catwoman #35 up. Ram V’s script does an excellent job of melding its obligations of being a tie-in issue, while still developing several plot threads and character motivations from the main series. There’s a great sense of continuity in the book despite these interruptions, even down to Nina Vakueva’s art capturing a very similar atmosphere to series regular Fernando Blanco.

Right from the start, Jordie Bellaire’s colors establish a comforting sense of familiarity as the overall aesthetic remains largely the same. Alleytown is on fire, the skies are orange and red, and there are heavy shades of black throughout the modest Alleytown skyline. In fact, at first glance, Vakueva’s style is pretty similar to Blanco’s, relying largely on bold shadows to frame faces, relying on implication of mood rather than outright depiction. Selina’s first panel has half her face covered in shadow, her eyes also obscured as she arrives at the spot where Hadley was shot last issue. This type of storytelling works well in a Catwoman series, where most characters keep their emotions in check in order to protect themselves and the ones they care about. If there’s any big difference it’s that Vakueva’s faces make some characters look younger than before, particularly Maggie who looks like a teenager in this issue. Nonetheless, Vakueva’s work here is more than capable with solid page layouts and dynamic compositions. No page is ever left flat, panels are shifted askew, and characters spill over panel borders on a consistent basis.

Credit: Nina Vakueva, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

The first half of the issue is the strongest as the Fear State obligations are largely kept out of the way until later. The fallout of last month’s issue is handled well, efficiently recapping for the benefit of long time readers and any new additions who are here to collect every Fear State tie-in. I’m a fan of the flashback panels showing exactly how Karl Valley managed to avoid detection by donning a fireman’s disguise. The entire flashback is rendered in heavy shades of red and orange, except for the bright yellow caution tape that Valley lifts over his head as he escapes undetected, with a sly smirk on his face. Valley is fun to read since he’s having fun doing what he’s doing. Selina herself is moody and fatalistic enough so having Valley looking like he’s having a ball blowing up buildings and assassinating those in his way is a nice contrast.

Credit: Nina Vakueva, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

If there’s a strongest moment, it’s when Maggie parts ways with Selina due to her near death experience at the hands of Valley. While it’s disappointing for Maggie to leave the series, it makes sense with the story. However, I do feel as though this run (including both Jones and V’s issues) never quite justified bringing her back. Hopefully Maggie returns after these tie-in issues, but I anticipate a lengthy departure. There is a great moment where Maggie tells Selina that most people can’t get close to her “without burning up”, which is then followed up with a few panels of Bruce and Selina together. Once again, these brief snippets of Selina and Bruce’s past are cast in various shades of red, which signifies the time period, but also adds a little fire to their tender moments together. V’s script has a great handle on the “Bat/Cat” dynamic, showing why they are always drawn together despite outside forces constantly drawing them apart.

Credit: Nina Vakueva, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

While these subtler character moments are as strong as ever, the overarching story definitely feels a bit muddled due to the issue’s obligation as a Fear State tie-in. A broadcast, supposedly from “Oracle” announces that Batman is dead, which sends Selina away from Alleytown and back to Gotham. As readers already know if they’ve kept up even a little bit with the new status quo of Fear/Future State, Batman is indeed not dead so this whole twist comes off as an inelegant way to get Selina away from Alleytown.

The ensuing action scene which pits Selina against several “Peacekeepers” is well rendered. I especially love a moment where Selina brakes her motorcycle inches before running over tire spikes. The sense of movement of palpable with giant wisps of smoke and debris flying around Selina as she skids to a stop. Even Tom Napolitano’s letters have fun with this moment with a bold “VVRRRRMMM” suddenly shifting into a thinner “SKREEE” as Selina comes to a halt. Things wrap up largely unsatisfactorily, with the “reveal” that Batman isn’t dead and with a few new characters entering the fray. As it stands right now, it’s hard to really say what happened this issue. There’s no real forward momentum, there’s no twists, and the cliffhanger is fairly weak. Selina spends most of the issue ruminating and running around without a clear objective other than “help Gotham” and it shows by the end of the issue. It’s hard to criticize V’s script for adhering to editorial mandates, but the lack of a clear objective hinders the second half of the issue. Nonetheless, V’s decision to interweave the Magistrate and other Future State characters into the narrative before the official crossover makes this shift less jarring.

Recommended if…

  • Losing Fernando Blanco on art duties doesn’t deter you
  • You want to see the fallout of last month’s issue.
  • Fear State and all its tie-ins are must reads for you.

Overall

Catwoman #35 is a perfectly adequate tie-in issue that mostly manages to balance its obligations to Fear State, while still wrapping up some character arcs of the main series. The pieces are all here, the art is solid, the script keeps a fast pace, but by the end the hindrances of Fear State creep into view. I have no doubt the series will fall right back into place once this event comes to a close, but the conundrum some face is that there’s just enough here to keep the issue relevant to longtime readers.

Score: 7/10


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