Catwoman #42 delivers a satisfying conclusion for Tini Howard and Nico Leon’s first arc in the series. While Howard’s tendency to put theme first above logic rears its head, the emotional beats do their best to smooth over any narrative contrivances. Meanwhile, Leon’s work maintains its slick aesthetic even if some of the action choreography doesn’t flow as well as it should.
The issue’s first page is well-placed as it solidifies Selina’s main goal this entire arc; she wants to protect and take care of any “girl” who finds herself alone and abused in Gotham. Howard’s scripts have emphasized the war between Gotham’s underworld and the women they take advantage of in order to run their empire and this page is a good reminder of that. This is a very strong theme for the series, even if this goal overpowers some of the lighter fare that can be tapped into in a Catwoman book. Selina’s mischievous sense of fun tends not to fully gel with the life and death stakes the downtrodden women in Gotham face at the hands of powerful men. It’s also here where Leon gets to tackle an interior setting that isn’t a high end club or restaurant. Leon’s slick aesthetic doesn’t fully lend itself to capturing the grime of your below average Gotham apartment. However, he makes up for it by adding nice touches around the room with the surplus of cats (with a variety of personalities) along with shopping bags filled with presumably stolen goods.
Howard’s script then wisely picks up right from last issue’s cliffhanger with Eiko Hasigawa’s minions breaking into Selina’s apartment to presumably kill her and her newfound ally, Dario Tomasso. Right from the start, there is a lack of tension at hand due to some choices in the action beats. The odds appeared impossibly stacked against Selina and Dario last month, but having vicious killers get scared by an actual cat drains some of the tension. Is it funny to see Selina’s cat jump at an intruder who recoils in fright? Sure, but it also disempowers what should be Eiko’s most well-trained soldiers. Fortunately, this break-in ends up being more of a flashy meet and greet as the minions (one of whom Selina quickly figures out is Eiko herself) simply want to deliver a message to Selina. There is to be a vote by the Gotham Underworld on whether or not Selina is to be killed and Eiko tells Selina if she can convince two of the other crime bosses then she will also vote in favor of keeping Selina alive. This is a great set-up for an issue as it establishes clear stakes with a tangible ticking clock with the vote taking place soon.
From here Howard’s script manages to pull off some classic Catwoman heist moments as Selina infiltrates Black Mask’s office to figure out his schedule. This sequence is Howard at her best as she deftly creates a scenario where Selina gets to use her understanding of not just corrupt men, but also the hidden labor of the women who work for them. It’s a slightly comedic idea due to its simplicity, but the premise of supervillains having an innocent secretary setting up their oil changes, dental appointments, and other errands is clever. Additionally, Veronica Gandini’s colors shine in these sequences. As Selina explains her plan to Dario at an outdoor cafe, the sun bounces its light off the back of Selina’s blonde wig, which creates a halo effect around her. Beyond looking pleasant, it also casts Selina as a sort of avenging angel for the mistreated women of Gotham. If there’s a flaw in this scenario, it’s that Howard’s thematically driven storyline oftentimes makes certain emotional leaps that don’t necessarily feel earned. Selina tricks Black Mask’s assistant to gain access to his schedule, but also makes sure to cover her tracks so she doesn’t get in trouble since she “radiates good”. I find it to be a bit of a stretch to characterize a secretary off of one brief interaction, but it fits Howard’s overall point so it’s easy to let slide.
The big finale has its problems, but they lie mostly with Leon’s art. There’s one very striking page where Selina poses on a rooftop to enact her trap against Black Mask. The entire page is viewed through a sniper scope, which is aimed right at Selina whose pose implies she doesn’t seem to mind. The way Selina’s ultimate plan plays out is a little wooden unfortunately. She uses Black Mask’s vanity against him by stealing his mask and replacing it with a replica. It’s clever for Selina to use Black Mask’s eccentricities against him, but the actual action beats are muddy at best, especially once bullets start flying. Black Mask goes from down on his knees with two armed guards nearby him, to Selina pulling him up by his neck with her whip without much effort. Then more backup arrives off panel to help Selina, leaving the entire sequence weirdly inert as Black Mask arrives with at least eight armed guards that are taken out without much fanfare. Even as Black Mask’s goons realize they’re headed into a trap, their body language doesn’t seem too concerned that half of their numbers were taken out on the walk toward Selina’s hiding spot. The final page itself is also a head scratcher and serves as the best example of how Howard’s emphasis on theme sometimes betrays characterization.
- Black Mask is a favorite villain of yours and you want to see him finally take on Selina.
- It’s the final issue of the arc and you’ve been reading up til now.
- You’re on the same wavelength with Tini Howard’s themes.
Catwoman #42 is a good ending to a promising opening arc for Tini Howard and Nico Leon’s run. Veronica Gandini’s colors are also exquisite, leaving behind a great looking book. The overall narrative has its problems with questionable character motivations, but the stakes thankfully remain high the whole way through. With a solid foundation set, I have high hopes that Howard and Leon’s next arc will be even better.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.