Catwoman #36 suffers from a slight mismatch between art and script, but Ram V, Nina Vakueva, and Laura Braga’s efforts result in a strong tie-in issue to Fear State that doesn’t lose sight of the series’ strengths.

First off, Vakueva’s work is much more appropriate for the book than Braga’s. This isn’t a slight against Braga as an artist, but their work simply doesn’t fit the tone and atmosphere of the current plotline. Alleytown is on fire, Selina’s back is against the wall, and she finds her options limited against the Magistrate’s overwhelming force that has formed with the sole purpose of capturing Poison Ivy. While other tie-in issues tend to have their narratives cluttered between creating their own story and adhering to the larger event, V’s script keeps objectives clear and precise, which allows him to focus on his character work. With V’s tenure on the series coming to an end soon, it’s hard to not read more into certain character interactions, particularly between Selina and Shoes (aka Cheshire Cat). It’s a shame their partnership will end before they really get to work together, but I would be happy to see Shoes appear in other books as V has given her a solid foundation to build upon. Their short scene together captures one of the many strengths of V’s run, wherein characters bond upon a rooftop with chaos brewing below. Jordie Bellaire’s colors once again impress, creating an end times atmosphere with Alleytown’s orange skies cluttered with wisps of smoke and tiny black silhouettes of helicopters.

Credit: Nina Vakueva, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

Perhaps less engaging are the sequences that deal with Selina’s newfound team of villains fighting on her side. While it’s fun to see Clayface, Killer Croc and others take the fight to the Magistrate, their inclusion never fully gelled with the tone of the series nor did their characterization ever justify their temporary turn to the good side. However, their action sequences are fun to watch unfold as Vakueva puts out some stylish compositions that are also very clear and easy to follow. A particular highlight lies with a few slender, horizontal panels that depict Chesire’s sai blowing up an incoming Magistrate rocket. Less effective is the arrival of Harley Quinn and “The Gardener” who come to aid Alleytown and its ragtag group of rebels. This is where the encroachment of Fear State is at its highest since neither of these characters have had any major impact on the series before. The Gardener’s pet plant dogs are not very well rendered, lacking detail that makes them look more alien than plant based, and the Gardener’s own skill set remains largely undefined. However, their arrival does introduce a nice pop of color courtesy of their bright outfits wonderfully put together by Bellaire’s work.

Credit: Nina Vakueva, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

V’s script pulls together yet another heist style plotline, which is perfect for the series. However, the ultimate “con” is fairly simple and ends up being not much more than to create a distraction so Ivy can escape. There’s some fun details in the mix. I love that Riddler’s emails even to his fellow rogues are still in the form of riddles despite him delivering vital information. Harley Quinn pointing to her bat which is labeled “Plan B” as Selina explains her own plan is funny. Even a brief hug between Selina and Ivy before the plan unfolds is a nice touch that makes this large cast of characters feel closer to each other than perhaps the narrative has earned. Nonetheless, once the action starts in earnest, Vakueva and Braga mostly deliver the goods on a visceral level.

Credit: Laura Braga, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano

However, V’s script stumbles on the initial reveal of the “con”. For all the talk and planning Selina lays out, the first “reveal” is that Selina has Harley and The Gardener by her side when she takes on the Wight Witch face-to-face. Not exactly a twist laden opening. Additionally, the shift to Braga’s art in this sequence is jarring to say the least. Braga’s work is much more comedic and lighthearted and it doesn’t really match the stakes at play here. Selina and The Gardener taking on the Wight Witch should be an intense and monumental moment given Wight Witch’s previously established abilities. Her ability to phase through attacks is never utilized here and having Harley Quinn jump up and click her heels in the background feels out of place, even for her sensibilities. The panel layouts are clean and the sense of space is mostly coherent, but the actual fight choreography doesn’t do much to ramp up the intensity. The biggest twist comes in the form of Selina having several identical vans escape her hideout in order to confuse the Magistrate. An effective plan, yet somewhat underwhelming. The final page reveal is intriguing, but there’s an abruptness to the ending, as if its climax is only half done and that the next issue will deliver on more complex scenarios. As it stands, the character dynamics throughout are sound, but the actual narrative stumbles a bit as the issue ends.

Recommended if…

  • Wight Witch’s first appearance left you wanting more from her.
  • Harley Quinn’s inclusion (along with The Gardener) piques your interest.
  • Ram V’s run has been at the top of your pull list and you want to see his final issues.

Overall

Catwoman #36 is a well done tie-in issue that doesn’t lose sight of its characters and the core themes of the series itself. While the actual narrative doesn’t ramp up the tension as much as I would have wanted, the character interactions are delightful as always and the book leaves the reader feeling optimistic for Selina and Alleytown’s future. This issue feels lighter than the grimness that came before, but fans of the series or those interested in Fear State will find much to enjoy here.

Score: 7.5/10


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