Catwoman: Lonely City #3 review

Found family was a major theme of the last issue. We were able to watch Selina slowly build up relationships with the people around her and accept them into her life. It was a highly character driven issue that used a series of minor heists to explore the character dynamics between these outcasts, these strays, and why they need each other to survive in the new Gotham. Now, with the team established, the story pivots to focusing on the main plot that was introduced in the first issue. The heist of the century is underway, but neither Catwoman nor those around her could be fully prepared for the consequences.

Starting out each issue with a short flashback that fills in more of what happened before the series began is a great way to handle that exposition. Each time, it ties in to the events of the issue in question that gives context to what’s going on in Selina’s head in the present. This time, we get to see what it was like for her while she spent her time in prison. It turns out that this isn’t the first time that she’s tried out reach out to others. She had befriended a woman named Yoona in prison and fought to protect her, but in the process only got her killed. The trauma caused her to retreat into isolation for eight years, visualized grimly by Chiang’s time-lapse of an unmoving Selina sitting in a cafeteria, alone. Seeing what she had to go through shows just how big of a deal opening up is for Selina at this point, and how fragile she must feel those relationships to be.

Selina’s desire to protect those around her causes her to see herself in a motherly role. The people around her look to her for guidance nd she deeply cares about their wellbeing. It’s a role that she notes Bruce never had, commenting during a conversation with Leslie Thompkins that “she could have been a mother to him, if he’d let her.” A lot of Selina’s desire for connection comes from what she lost with Bruce, and the impact that made on her psyche. Just before he died they talked about how they dreamed of being able to live together, happily ever after, even if they knew it could never be. It’s that lost promise of family that drives her actions with the others, at least initially.

Nowhere is that role more pronounced than with Selina’s relationship with Edie, The Riddler’s daughter that he’s been raising by himself. She’s been giving her the training that her dad never could, and the two have grown close even if Selina won’t openly admit it. She’s a lifeline for Selina to not shut herself off from the world again. This makes it all the more tragic when Selina becomes scared for Edie’s safety and sends her away. She even shouts that she’s not her mom when confronted about it. However, the way that she lashes out so emotionally and the fact that she won’t look anyone in the eyes afterwards shows that she knows that’s not completely true.

I didn’t really talk much about the heists themselves last issue, but they’re a great part of the series that keep the action moving while still giving us breaks in the larger plot with fun side adventures. Here, they need to steal some of Clayface’s clay out of Arkham without being detected. With the team finally all in one place, they start to act like a well-oiled machine. Last time I talked about how it felt like the part of the heist movie where they have to recruit all the different specialists. Well now it’s that third act where everyone has a role to play and it all fits together perfectly. Seeing them together is the emotional high point of the series so far. We’ve seen how life has just given Selina no breaks, but it finally starts to seem like a thing of the past.

But of course, you know that can’t last…

Spoiler

Croc is shot in the back while helping everyone else escape, causing him to be crushed by the wall he was holding up. It’s a gut punch of a scene that never gets easier when I reread it for this review. Croc was one of the best characters in a story with a phenomenal cast. His enthusiasm for making a name for themselves again was infectious and made you really root for everyone involved. Watching him slowly bleed out in a final act of bravery before begging Selina for a mercy killing is absolutely heartbreaking. RIP Croc, you truly were the king of Gotham.

To add insult to injury, we’re forced to watch Dent trot out his dead body as part of a crass political stunt. He manufactures a story about them staging a massive Arkham breakout as an excuse to increase police presence and clamp down hard on any sort of dissent. It’s easy to see this for the charade that it is, knowing what actually happened, and it makes you hate him all the more. Yet, at the same time, you do get the sense that on some level he buys into what he’s saying. He really believes that martial law is necessary and that anyone who gets in his way is a threat. There is a parallel there with how he struggles to reconcile his evil side and “lawful” good side. The city itself becomes a battleground for his constant, internal struggle.

In need of consolation, Selina turns to Eddie and the two end up sleeping together. It’s incredibly well handled and doesn’t just use it as an excuse for titillation or cheesecake. That should be in and of itself notable, but sadly in most comics it’s apparently a really high bar. It’s a mature, realistic scene of two adults turning to each other for comfort during a difficult time in their lives. It lets us learn more about the pain that both of them have been carrying for years in a way that’s genuinely touching.

And now I have to, for the first time in my reviews for this series, critique the book in a way that isn’t just glowing praise. After the aforementioned tragedy, the story starts to rely on contrivances to move the plot forward. Before now, everything logically followed from the events that were set up before, and it felt very narratively tight. However, the way the story moves to some of the plot points in the back half feels a bit sloppy. They get the idea to recruit Jason Blood (the demon Etrigan) because Eddie uses the phrase “scare the Hell out of,” they get him to work with them by stealing a secret helmet that no one else knows about but Eddie (which he never mentioned until just now), and the standoff between Barbara’s protestors turns violent because it just so happens to be right outside Blood’s house and the cops see Selina walking out of it. It’s tough to read these as having had sufficient set up as opposed to just coincidences necessary for the story’s progression.

The individual elements themselves are a bit of a mixed bag but still mostly good. The mini heist they pull to steal the helmet is a cute moment that adds some levity at a moment where the story could really use it, but it almost feels too easy and Selina is too quickly pulled out of her depression. The whole sequence would have really benefitted by being given more time to breathe. The conversation with Jason Blood itself is atmospheric, and the contrast in demeanor between him and Eddie is fun. The face to face confrontation between Harvey and Barbara is extremely tense, and up until the moment the cops start firing you don’t know what will happen. In isolation, all of these plot elements are good. It’s just the fact that it feels rushed to get from one to the next that it doesn’t have enough time to naturally develop as well as previously in the series. In most other series I don’t think I would notice, but Catwoman: Lonely City has set high expectations.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see more exploration into Catwoman’s relationship with other people
  • More heists to move us closer to the finale are something you like in the series
  • You’re emotionally prepared for anguish

Overall

For the most part, Catwoman: Lonely City #3 continues the excellence that the series has held up so far. It further explores Selina’s personal feelings towards her relationship with others, and how much she is willing to open herself up to that sort of vulnerability. The issue hits you with emotional despair that makes the stakes feel personal and real. However, the latter half of the story struggles a bit to find ways to get the plot where it needs to be. The way it moves from one story beat to the next can feel contrived at times. It’s an overall minor flaw, but stands out due to the otherwise excellent storytelling in this series. This issue has the unfortunate position of following up the first two.

Score: 8/10


DC Provided Batman News with a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.