Catwoman #54 features several interesting character dynamics that find themselves inelegantly utilized to set Selina on a new path forward. Tini Howard wisely wraps up Selina’s stint in prison, but bites off more than the narrative can chew. Team ups that should be satisfying feel rushed and Selina’s prison friends become largely relegated to background pieces with the exception of one, Marquise.
The narrative starts out engagingly, with Punchline’s minions quickly getting to the point and trying to track down Catwoman in prison. Luckily for Selina, no one has put the pieces together that Selina herself is Catwoman, partially aided by Eiko holding down the mantle in the meantime. Leon’s art does well in this sequence, where the Queen of Hearts, Regina Quintain, confronts Selina alone in the bathroom. Leon utilizes skewed panels and close ups to increase the tension as the duo nearly come to blows. Veronica Gandini’s colors make the drab setting aesthetically pleasing with the sickly green bathroom tiles broken up by a splash of color in the form of a yellow panel background. Gandini excels the entire issue, with subtle hues of gold and yellow making the outdoor scenes jarringly beautiful in contrast to the otherwise mundane prison setting. The art across the board is impressive thoughtful, resulting in striking images even in sequences that would otherwise be simplistic. Even Marquise simply opening a door to aid in the group’s escape looks dynamic. Her orange jumpsuit pops off the page and Leon’s composition places the reader atop a small staircase, looking down to her, which adds dimension to the image.
Howard’s narrative attempts to create a prison escape scenario while largely circumventing the building tension between Punchline’s crew and Selina. Instead of settling scores with Punchline inside the prison, Selina wants to escape during the incoming fight, as any escape attempt afterwards would be more difficult. On paper, this is a great concept as it allows Howard to end the prison arc, while still delivering on the promise of last month’s cliffhanger. Where the problems come is when alliances are formed with characters that don’t deserve it. A main point of contention with the arc was with Selina playing nice with villains who are a danger to society. The last few issues have done a good job of humanizing the plight of Selina’s cellmates, and I buy Selina’s belief in them to change their ways…or at least their motivations for thievery.
What doesn’t work is Selina teaming up with Punchline and her cronies. Selina and Punchline have a short fight, where Punchline taunts Catwoman about Valmont’s death and her relationship with Batman. On top of this, Punchline offers no remorse for her actions or any degree of humanity, which Selina’s cellmates have demonstrated. That’s why when Selina offers Punchline the opportunity for a partnership, I found myself questioning the believability of the entire scenario. Punchline herself even says “I’m gonna do whatever I want anyway” as they agree to stop fighting and have a meeting outside of prison. Her minions follow suit, promising Selina’s allies they will continue trying to kill each other outside of prison. It’s a somewhat amusing sequence, but the following page plays up the escape sequence as an inspiring moment where Selina displays her optimism for people to change and care about each other, even if they are criminals. This may work with Selina and her cell mates, but it does not at all convince me that Punchline and her cronies have the ability to change. What makes it worse is that Howard appears to be aware of this and keeps Punchline off-panel during the escape since the visual of them working together is too big a pill to swallow. The actual escape from the prison is contained all within this one page, which operates as a montage, and is in no way a satisfying conclusion.
That’s not to say there isn’t some solid character work within the issue. Marquise takes over the earlier parts of the issue, using her abilities to fake her own suicide and gain access to the unguarded morgue. None of Selina’s cellmates really stood out from each other, so Howard giving Marquise a time to shine gives the group a proto leader. Dario and Eiko’s out of prison work is also solid, though at this point seeing them clean up the streets of Alleytown has grown repetitive without a true wrinkle added into their relationship recently. As the issue closes, Selina regains her freedom and her mantle, allowing Eiko to clear any suspicion that she is Catwoman. There’s still hope for the book’s future as Howard resets the table after freeing Selina from prison and clearing her head from Valmont’s death. However, Howard continues to stretch narrative credibility in order to justify the more sentimental themes within the series.
- Punchline’s appearance piques your interest.
- Seeing Selina finally escape prison is what you want from the series.
- Selina working with criminals with dubious motives doesn’t bother you.
Catwoman #54 has a strong concept to wrap up Selina’s stay in prison while also addressing the growing tension between her and Punchline. Unfortunately, Howard’s narrative relies on too many contrivances, which denies the big moments of the issue of their emotional resonance. Nico Leon and Veronica Gandini make the book visually appealing, but the visual gloss can’t fully make up for the book’s inherent faults.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.