Catwoman #50 is an energetic, but also unwieldy finale that seeks to wrap up as many plot threads as possible by its final pages. I appreciate Tini Howard’s script letting loose and giving readers a good dose of action, however its most important character beats largely fall flat. It doesn’t help having three different artists with vastly different styles attempt to bring any sense of emotional consistency to what is already a questionable series of events.
Selina and her crew’s assault on Ace Chemicals, currently controlled by Punchline, now acts as the setting for a big showdown where almost every character comes together. It’s a little odd to have Punchline essentially come out of nowhere to be a main antagonist, especially since the series has otherwise focused on Black Mask and various other Gotham mafiosos. If you’re bought into Howard’s Punchline series, this is probably good fun, but for those who have stuck with only Catwoman it feels rushed. Frankly, Punchline has done nothing for me as a character, coming off more as a low-rent Harley Quinn with a vastly worse design and unbearable henchmen. Her two leading allies, The King and Queen of Hearts are somehow more grating with each line of theirs a double entendre, though their visual designs are appropriately schlocky. To sum up, I have absolutely zero investment in Punchline’s schemes and her importance in this monumental issue is troublesome.
What also doesn’t work is Howard’s attempt to fashion Catwoman’s assault on Ace Chemicals into a heist like scenario. There’s pieces the script attempts to move around to give the appearance of an intricate assault, but what follows is a rather haphazard sequence of events that come off as nothing more than a bunch of people attacking a location. It’s overwritten right from the very first page, which bombards readers with a surplus of dialogue to explain a rather simple scenario. Thankfully, Nico Leon’s art here is polished and gives a sense of drama to what is otherwise a dry scene. The plans for the assault are on the table, where Leon places small cat figurines like pieces on a chessboard, adding a sense of flair. Compositions are dynamic, but not overpowering, and the quality of the figure-work is sound. Veronica Gandini’s colors are also pleasant to the eye, giving this entire opening a subtle, purple hue that is strikingly replaced by pure white backgrounds once Batman and Selina get a scene alone. The art is more thoughtful than the dialogue, which is largely expository, particularly when Batman summarizes a recent issue of Punchline for Selina’s (and the reader’s) benefit. Selina is also strangely understanding of Bruce intervening and almost getting Eiko killed in her “off-series” fight with Punchline. Howard’s Selina has been hot tempered as of late, so this revelation is surprisingly handled without much drama. I don’t think this is the wrong choice, but it does feel…inconsistent.
Now onto the action. It’s okay. Leon’s figure work is good and the choreography of each individual action beat works, but the sense of space is incoherent. Howard’s script doesn’t help in that the overall plan doesn’t seem to really make much of an impact, but Leon eschews backgrounds in many panels making the positioning of Selina’s strays unclear. Dario makes a heroic appearance as a new vigilante named “Tomcat”, which is…fine. I liked Dario just being a relatively normal guy who is in over his head in trying to help Selina and nothing about his design is iconic enough to make a lasting impact. The real drama comes in the form of Selina’s fight against Punchline, which has a fiery backdrop and slick figure work from Leon that makes each punch or kick hit hard. Gandini’s colors also shine here, giving a great deal of intensity to the burning Ace Chemicals building. What works less is Valmont’s gambit to free Amygdala in hopes he will aid in their fight against Punchline who imprisoned him. There’s a lot left to talk about from here, but it heads into spoiler territory.
There is then a sixteen page epilogue drawn by two different artists, which makes it feel even longer than it really is. Inaki Miranda is up first and turns in solid art for a story that deals with Dario and Eiko teaming up to run Gotham/Alleytown. The art is crisp and precise, but I don’t think there needed to be six pages to set up this new dynamic. The more involving plot line comes alongside a switch to Juan Ferreyra’s art, which in no way suits the series. I love Ferreyra’s art in general, but this type of scene is not where his art’s strength lies. Selina and Bruce have a heart to heart in prison, where Selina now finds herself. Selina’s main contention is her worry that Bruce seeing her murder someone, even to save him, would change the way he looks at her. It’s an old dynamic, but it works well enough.
What works less is Selina’s prison cafeteria fight, which adds action where it isn’t necessary. The mood and atmosphere of the previous scene imbued these final pages with a true sense of somber responsibility. Adding a fight cheapens it. There also remains a nagging question at mind for me. People escape every day from prison in Gotham, so much in fact that I’m perplexed that the issue treats Selina’s imprisonment as long term. She’ll be out before we know it, so Selina’s “woe is me” attitude toward the situation doesn’t feel remotely realistic for the world she lives in. All that remains is her struggle with murdering Valmont, but that feels inauthentic given how his death scene landed with a thud. The entire second part of the issue sucks the air out of the room, leaving readers on a down note for what could’ve been a much more engaging wrap up.
- Seeing Batman and Valmont confront each other is something you’ve been waiting for.
- The return of the Strays piques your interest.
- You crave a change up in the series and don’t mind the supporting cast taking a more important role.
Catwoman #50 aims high, but its ambition stands in the way of nailing the most important beats. The assault on Ace Chemicals has far too many moving parts when more pages dedicated to Batman and Valmont’s showdown could have made the emotional climax more convincing. As it stands, Howard’s script gave itself too many plates to spin, losing sight at the strengths of her run, leaving an extended epilogue to pick up the pieces. While some developments in the story are welcome, Catwoman #50 often frustrates in its attempt to wring drama from a love triangle that never felt genuine.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.