Catwoman #49 is the best issue in the series to come out in a while with its solid balance of well executed action sequences and a more nuanced depiction of Selina’s current love life. While the overarching narrative continues to be muddy at best, Tini Howard’s script gives Selina her clearest sense of purpose in months by wisely returning to Alleytown. Nico Leon’s art is well suited to the action on display, allowing the book to turn in some of its strongest visuals.
Howard’s script wastes no time and by page two we’re already in the thick of it with Selina taking charge in rescuing Dario. Lately, some of Leon’s work has been a bit muddled with page layouts that are too overbearing and compositions that only add to the claustrophobia. Ironically, this sequence where Selina fights goons inside the car Dario is captured in is some of Leon’s most clear work. Most of these pages are made up of six horizontal panels, which Leon uses well to convey the sense of space without making these interior driven sequences hard to decipher. Most of Selina’s maneuvers have her fight someone in the driver’s seat or passenger’s seat, which the horizontal panel is well suited for. These panels also allow Selina the room to leap from car to car very clearly. Leon’s slick aesthetic is also a perfect fit for a high speed freeway car chase and the blurred backgrounds and luxury cars shine brightly, heightened greatly by Veronica Gandini’s colors. It’s a great car chase sequence and Howard’s script also gives Selina a few clever action beats, particularly when she slams her fists on a car’s dashboard to cause the airbags to deploy. There’s also more humor than normal as the goons talk back to Selina, giving a sense of familiarity between Selina and her enemies that makes the world feel more lived in. Additionally, there’s a great moment where Selina drives the car chase away from traffic in order to protect lives. Selina has been a little fast and loose in her “no killing” policy, so it’s good to see Howard portray a concentrated effort to save lives.
The next action sequence isn’t quite as thrilling and the mention of Punchline being involved is enough for me to worry. Punchline herself doesn’t make an appearance, but a character from Ram V’s run does in the form of Billy, one of the Alleytown “strays” Selina took under her wing. It gives a greater sense of cohesion between Howard’s run and the previous writers, making the series feel more coherent than ever. Howard gets a little dialogue heavy as Billy explains exactly why he’s working for the Royal Flush gang, and the subsequent reveal that Punchline is using a Hasigawa protected dockside building to cook drugs isn’t really worth the over explanation. Nonetheless, Selina’s subsequent dialogue with Dario is a high point for the series. I really like Dario as a character and Howard seems to have found a solid middle ground for his dialogue that doesn’t veer into an over the top Italian stereotype quite as much.
The real highlight is Selina explaining her relationship with Batman (without naming him) and how she doesn’t see him as an ex, but as her future. A major point of contention in the series has been Selina’s relationship with Valmont, which is now framed more as a “friends with benefits” situation rather than her next true love. By now, it’s incredibly clear that Selina’s relationship with Batman is far more interesting and dramatic than her lustful endeavors with the rather one-note Valmont. Does an action comic need such a nuanced take on modern love affairs? That’s a matter of taste, but I don’t really buy Selina wishing Bruce is also “out meeting people too” while they’re on a break.
After a cute, but rather fluffy exchange with Eiko Hasigawa (currently posing as Catwoman when Selina is away), the book concludes with a truly great scene between Selina and Batman. Beforehand though, Selina finds herself sleeping with Valmont again on a rooftop. It’s here where Howard gives the briefest glimpse of Valmont’s inner self as he describes his true joy is in “wanting”. There’s a clever back and forth about how the love of wanting coincides with Selina’s love of stealing valuables. Unfortunately, nothing here really frames Valmont as anything more than a lustful mercenary type that increasingly feels like he’s hitting the limit of how interesting he can really be.
The book concludes with a classic back and forth with Selina and Bruce as she stalks him from afar and eventually reveals herself by posing right in front of his binoculars. Right away, it’s clear why this dynamic works and only exposes how less dynamic of a character Valmont is. Selina asks Bruce to give her space to work in Alleytown so she can take down Punchline on her own. It’s the type of ask that makes sense for Selina, and Howard writes the exchange with a tenderness and understanding between the pair that the series has desperately needed. Instead of shock value romantic pairings, Howard excels when utilizing the core tenets of a Catwoman book. I can only hope the series realizes it can draw further strength from the character’s roots.
- You’ve been wanting more clarity on the current status of Bruce and Selina’s relationship.
- Well drawn high speed car chases are up your alley.
- The emerging presence of Punchline doesn’t turn you away.
Catwoman #49 manages to rectify some lingering problems in the series by digging into the character’s roots rather than trying to upend them. Nico Leon’s pencils are back to their high quality, with a truly great opening car chase. Meanwhile, Howard delivers some of the best dialogue of the run as she tracks Selina’s thoughts about Bruce and love in general across several scenes. The overarching narrative is still the weak link, but Howard demonstrates a good understanding of what makes Selina an appealing character and gives Bat/Cat fans some hope for their future.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.