Catwoman #46 is an emotionally resonant, if not haphazardly plotted chapter that prioritizes Selina’s understanding of herself, particularly in regards to her romantic relationships. The core narrative is underwhelming at this point as it features villains without an ounce of true intimidation. Nonetheless, Tini Howard’s angle on Selina is compelling and Sami Basri’s pencils deliver a nice looking book with few hiccups.
The opening action sequence between Amygdala and Selina is an early highlight even if it’s relatively short lived. Valmont doesn’t do much beyond messing with Ibanescu and Don Tomasso, which allows Selina to be the star of the show and take on Amygdala. The layouts are simple, but Basri’s figure work is evocative enough to deliver the necessary sense of momentum as Selina leaps through a tiny window to safety. The artistic choice that stands out most of all is how Jordie Bellaire colors Selina as she hides inside a small trailer. Since she’s in darkness, Bellaire renders Selina as transparent, giving the impression of her being hidden while still being able to see her. It only lasts for a couple panels, but it’s a clever way to depict someone hiding in the shadows. Is it a little too easy for Selina to knock Amygdala out with three swift kicks to the head? Sure, but a simplistic villain sometimes deserves a simplistic send off.
The scenes with Black Mask yucking it up with his male counterparts are tiring at this point. The battle of the sexes undercurrent is already well established and repetition sets in every time the series returns to Black Mask unifying the Gotham Underground via his sexist rhetoric. Amygdala’s presence also adds a degree of comedy to these sequences as he sits, slack jawed, as he awaits his next order of destruction. Ultimately, Basri’s compositions have these villains either sitting at a table, or standing in a straight line in rather uninteresting poses. In Howard’s first arc, these men were ruthless and scary as they chewed up both scenery and the “disposable” women in their lives. Now, they come off as a joke, which in many ways hinders the larger theme of Howard’s run so far. Don Tomasso is arguably the only one with any degree of interest as his fractured relationship with his son, Dario, is now known to everyone. There’s genuine drama to be mined from that relationship, but the series seems content keeping most of the villains as mere lackeys for Black Mask – who is as one note as ever.
Fortunately, Howard excels at mining out the nuances of Selina’s relationship to Bruce and Eiko. An opening flashback sequence efficiently captures the ups and downs of the Bat/Cat dynamic, as Selina grows angry at Bruce’s judgement toward her stealing (even if it is to help those in need). Bruce wants to solve all of Selina’s problems with a quick check courtesy of Wayne Enterprises, completely misunderstanding why Selina steals in the first place. Despite this inherent tension, Selina claims she misses having “someone who you love enough to fight with”. While this interpretation nearly teeters into a toxic viewing of the Bat/Cat relationship, Howard quickly reiterates Selina’s love for also “knowing there was someone reliable who had [her] back”. It’s smart writing that does a great job of delivering an easy to digest examination of what Selina wants out of a relationship. I also enjoy the dig at Valmont as Selina speaks about Bruce having her back while Valmont is nowhere to be seen as she fights Amygdala.
The other heartbreak at hand is the dissolution of Selina’s relationship with Eiko. While this run relies heavily on prior knowledge of their dynamic, Howard’s dialogue between the two is well done and painful (in a good way) to read. If there’s a misstep, it’s in how Selina blushes when Eiko mentions Valmont’s name. My feelings toward Valmont are clear by now, but I simply don’t think Selina would give herself away like that, especially about such a new character. There’s a great moment where Eiko explains their incapability is due to Selina existing in the “liminal” whereas Eiko lives within a world of titles and vows. The solution Selina proposes to allow Eiko back into the good graces of the Gotham Underworld is a great way to blend action and drama. Eiko must publicly disavow Selina in front of everyone, meaning she must commit an act of violence against her. This is a great dilemma for the two to be in, as they must betray their true feelings toward each other for the benefit of the male dominant gangs. The final page tease is intriguing, but I am excited to see Selina seemingly move on from her war on Black Mask for the time being.
- Valmont’s inclusion doesn’t turn you away.
- You are a fan of Eiko and Selina’s relationship.
- Howard’s interpretation of the Bat/Cat dynamic works for you.
Catwoman #46 is a thoughtful, yet somewhat dry reading experience as its emphasis on characterization comes at the cost of a thrilling plot. The action sequences within get the job done, but Howard wisely seems to be shifting focus away from Black Mask and his male gangster counterparts. Sami Basri’s pencils are effective, but outside of Selina’s big scene with Eiko, there’s very little here that’s truly gripping due to its simplistic villains and lack of narrative momentum.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.