Catwoman #47 attempts to lighten the atmosphere of the series as Tini Howard sends Selina and Valmont on an international heist in a Swiss ski chalet. The series has struggled to maintain a consistent tone with this issue being a prime example. Caitlin Yarsky’s pencils are very expressive and fun to look at, which puts it at odds with the script’s sudden swerves into the series’ darker underpinnings.
The opening moments feature Selina and Valmont flying first class as the pair both flirt with the stewardess. To be blunt, I hate this pairing and find Howard’s characterization of Selina to be frustratingly inconsistent. Selina is stubborn, but I don’t think I’ve seen her written so haphazardly in terms of romantic pairings in a long time. Having her flirt, then threaten to stab Valmont within a couple panels feels manufactured to a degree of self-parody. Keep in mind, this is the follow up issue to her tearful goodbye to Eiko, which was a relationship handled with a modicum of grace and complexity. From Selina’s point of view, Valmont has ranged from a handsome nuisance, homicidal maniac, fair weather ally, to now….flirtatious travel partner? Howard’s take on Selina’s place within the DC Universe has been bold. She’s been molded into an avenging angel for the mistreated women of Gotham, primarily its criminal underworld. However, her actual characterization is dubious at best. One moment she’s flirting with Valmont, then threatening him, then complaining about cold weather, to finally purring (literally) over hot chocolate. The more this series progresses Selina feels increasingly childish than strong-willed.
Yarsky’s work took a few pages to settle into itself, but I love their facial work and expressive character designs. As Selina spies from afar, we get a look at the issue’s three main targets. Declan Finbar, a brute of a man, has a wonderful side profile that is equal parts intimidating yet goofy, while his wife, Abigail (the brains of the duo), sits with a dignified air as she sips wine. Lastly there’s the mysterious Eskander Tadesse, whose presence implies danger on the horizon. Yarsky gives each character a different drink as well, which hints at their personalities. Abigail’s wine glass displays her sophistication, Declan’s beer his brutish nature, and Eskander’s liquor as an in between. This is thoughtful art that adds not just a sense of realism to the world, but subtle layers of characterization.
Less convincing is Howard’s dialogue, especially with Dario who video calls the duo from Gotham. Howard, for some reason, now has Dario speak with a heavy Italian accent that is one “bada bing” away from being an audition tape for The Sopranos. I enjoyed Dario’s inclusion in the previous issues as a gay man caught in between his loyalties to family and love, but now he comes off much more as comedic relief in a way he wasn’t before. I don’t quite get the sudden shift in personality and Howard’s tone toward his plight. There’s a few strange shifts in tone throughout the issue (and within the series itself), that makes it unclear as to what exactly Howard is trying to accomplish. Selina and Valmont find themselves in a vault to bring an end to Ibanescu’s trafficking business. Valmont tells Selina he knows about this incriminating evidence from a contact to which Selina gets angry asking him “how long did you know about it?” There’s a small, oddly drawn panel where Selina screams at Valmont, her eyes completely white with no pupils, calling him out for not doing something sooner. To me, this doesn’t make any sense as Valmont is literally in the process of bringing Ibanescu down, and Selina is later humbled by the revelation that Valmont’s contact was an Interpol agent. For whatever reason, Howard continues to write Selina as being unable to think through any situation before leaping to accusations. This is particularly frustrating to read as Selina herself has always existed in a place somewhere in between good and evil. I’m a fan of Catwoman because of her intense drive to help those in need, but there’s a line that Howard crosses far too many times that makes her look incompetent and bull-headed.
What does work within the issue is the sense of playfulness in the action sequences that range from snowmobile chases to wonderfully drawn fights inside the bank vault. I love how Yarsky draws the fight in the vault, with the majority of the background an empty beige that makes the crisp figures pop off the page. I would’ve liked the choreography to be more sequential, but the snapshots of action still get the job done with the figure work lending a nice sense of movement. The issue’s cliffhanger is solid, but if Howard doesn’t create a sense of consistency with her characterizations and tone, then the series will find itself in a hole impossible to climb out of.
- Caitlin Yarsky is a new name for you and her work is appealing
- Valmont’s increasing importance to the series and Selina doesn’t turn you away.
- You don’t mind the series’ inconsistent tone.
Catwoman #47 has a lot of good pieces that don’t quite add up for a compelling read. Tini Howard’s characterization of Selina is increasingly frustrating due her tendencies of self righteousness that don’t always fit the scenes they’re in. I’ve been supportive of Howard’s overarching theme of Selina’s quest to redeem the mistreated women of Gotham’s underworld, but the bluntness of the plotting has become a problem. Caitlin Yarsky is now on a list of artists to look out for with fantastic character designs and thoughtful world building, but a nice looking book cannot fully save a series with an identity crisis.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.