Catwoman #41 eliminates most misgivings I’ve had toward Tini Howard’s and Nico Leon’s run to this point. While at times the narrative feels like it bites off more than it can chew, Howard’s script is well-paced, offers thoughtful introspection to less than savory characters, and features slick action sequences to keep the endeavor exciting. I’m on board with Howard’s run at this point and eagerly await next month’s finale for this opening arc.
The opening two pages do a great job at solidifying Dario Tomasso’s torn allegiances as both his father and his lover turn their backs on him. We’ve only gotten a cliff notes version of Dario’s struggle via Selina’s observations, so getting an actual scene with him provides a lot more sympathy. Dario puts himself on the line as he admonishes Kristi’s death and his father’s reaction is typical of someone who knows he’s lost his grip on a situation. As Dario storms out the room he asks Noah (Dario’s secret lover) to come with him, only for Don Tomasso to hand him a drink as Dario slams the door behind him. It’s a great opening sequence as it establishes the emotional stakes for possibly the most endearing side character in recent memory.
The next sequence is just a tad sloppy as Selina addresses the fallout from Valmont killing Kristi’s murderers. I’m warming up to Valmont as a character now as there’s just the slightest hint at his outward confidence being a facade for something darker and vulnerable inside. Unfortunately there’s a few decisions in the sequence that are downright odd. Valmont hiring the cannibalistic Flamingo to “dispose” of dead bodies is strangely gruesome, but then after Selina and Valmont fight, Flamingo just disappears from the scene with his purpose being rather vague. It wouldn’t bother me so much if a page didn’t dedicate half of itself to his arrival with a splashy panel. This layout is especially irksome as Selina’s rejection of Valmont’s help is depicted in silhouette at the bottom, which is a major dramatic moment that would’ve played out better if rendered closer up. Leon’s figure work is extremely good, but sometimes his compositions don’t always make the right decisions on what to focus on.
The main selling point of this issue is Selina’s team up with Onyx Adams, a former member of the League of Assassins who now patrols Gotham as a vigilante. Their appearance is a little jarring, considering the large supporting cast already at play, but the back and forth between her and Selina is well written. Onyx has little patience for Selina and her wish-washy feelings toward the murderous Valmont, which adds just the right amount of tension between these two allies. Selina has a great moment when she whips down some scaffolding to grab Onyx’s attention after she accuses Selina of being a killer. Their relationship feels dynamic and largely free of general platitudes since Howard’s script keeps things from getting stale. Even more engaging is Selina and Onyx teaming up with Dario, who they interrupt from blowing up an entire hotel with his father inside. This trio of characters is the exact type of team that should exist in a Catwoman book. They are from different walks of life and come together due to a shared goal of taking down Gotham mobsters, even if they share little in common otherwise.
The subsequent action scenes that follow are well written on a script level, but also strikingly rendered by Leon’s art. His action compositions are clear, even when his page layouts skew panels at angles and have characters spill out over the panel gutters. If there’s one moment in the action that has me raise an eyebrow, it’s when Selina grabs a giant boxer’s fist with her own hand without much of a struggle. Selina is of course no slouch in the fighting department, but usually her agility takes precedence over raw strength. Nonetheless, the fight choreography is a step above most, with Onyx using a large weight to break a henchman’s hands and Dario using pepper spray to incapacitate his own set of goons.
If there’s any flaw to Howard and Leon’s run so far is that the five mob bosses don’t have much to set them apart from one another. Yes, each one has a unique background between the Irish Finbar Sullivan who runs fixed boxing matches and Eiko Hasigawa herself who runs the yakuza, but we’ve mostly seen them sit around a table and complain. Veronica Gandini’s colors do what they can to spice up these sequences, but more aggressive shadow work might benefit these dialogue driven scenes. Howard has given herself a lot of plates to spin with her group of antagonists with Federico Tomasso being the most interesting so far as he plays second fiddle to Black Mask, while having to manage his own traitorous son. While Selina’s ragtag team puts a dent into Sullivan’s rigged boxing operation, the cliffhanger serves to balance the scale, offering the opportunity for a tragic start for next month’s issue.
- You enjoy a team up between Selina and a former mafia member.
- Onyx Adams’ appearance gets your attention.
- You trust Tini Howard’s next script to bring the arc to a good conclusion.
Catwoman #41 solidifies my hope for Tini Howard’s and Nico Leon’s run on the character. While their first issue together had some growing pains, Howard has a unique voice for Selina that feels true to the character, while managing a growing cast of supporting characters to great effect. The storyline doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from other runs, but Selina’s unrelenting nature to protect those in need gives the book an emotional core to drive the story through. For those still around, next month’s issue is poised to bring this opening arc to a strong conclusion.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.