Catwoman #56 features high stakes action and a clearer sense of purpose than the series has had in recent memory. Marcus To and Marco Santucci split art duties this time around, and while both are competent, the switch up in style for the finale of this arc is a bit of a shame.
The first few pages set the stage for three separate plot threads. Dario gets ready for his showdown with Noah, Selina learns that Eiko plans to take down Ibanescu, and Eiko herself readies her troops for war. Tini Howard’s script does a good job of establishing all these different threads early on so that the chaos that erupts is never confusing to watch unfold. Selina also brings Marquise into her inner circle, which is a welcome addition to make Selina’s prison arc feel more essential. Selina’s plan is simple; she calls in plumbing and power outage problems at key locations to ensure all of Black Mask’s “girls” return home to The Trixie building so she can better protect them. The plan works in the sense that Black Mask immediately fires rockets at the building, leading to Selina rescuing someone from an explosion before using her whip to divert any subsequent rockets. The entire set up is a little contrived since it’s a bit silly that Selina was able to just call in a plumbing problem and power outage unless she herself created them. If that’s the case, the three panels that explain the plan should’ve shown her sabotaging these locations instead of just showing people living peacefully at the Trixie. There’s a lot of telling, not showing, especially when Selina waves away returning to the Trixie since the girls will “take care of each other.” The situation at the Trixie is never fully clear, making it feel less like Selina is protecting a building full of defenseless civilians and more like she’s fighting on a random street.
The two artists have different styles, leading to a few moments of whiplash as To’s simpler, more cartoony pencils do not mix well with Santucci’s more detailed figures, particularly with his longer torsos. Having said that, in a vacuum, both artists do well with their scenes but To’s pages do stand out as the simpler aesthetic and less cumbersome page layouts let his pencils breathe. Santucci does a good job with Dario’s knife fight with Noah at the basketball court they met at. The fight does feel a little unsubstantial at two pages, particularly given the amount of set up it was given, but the ultimate result is satisfying if not entirely unsurprising. This leads us to the main problem of the issue; it’s all a little boring. There’s a good amount of action on the page, but there’s no genuine twists or turns at hand. It’s not so much what happens that interests me, but how it happens, and the lack of any twist in a Catwoman plan feels like a missed opportunity. Eiko’s showdown with Ibanescu has an intriguing moment where Eiko murders his goons and threatens to kill him too, but the scene ends before a resolution is found.
Thankfully, Selina’s big fight with Black Mask is the highlight of the book delivering a solid action sequence with both To’s and Santucci’s art being featured. While Selina could defeat Black Mask in any other situation, Selina wants to offer him a deal and finds herself caught off guard and strangled by him as a result. Santucci’s style works with this more visceral fight as Selina and Black Mask both get in painful looking strikes, with Black Mask elbowing and later whacking Selina in the face with a pipe. Marquise’s heroic arrival atop a motorcycle then transitions to To’s art, giving the reveal a sense of energy as Gandini’s colors shift to being more vibrant with his pages.
Selina’s offer to Black Mask is a little off-putting as he’s the one villain who comes off as irredeemably evil and not worthy of being tolerated. Nonetheless, Selina offers Black Mask a peace offering by giving his mask back as long as he only makes money off Gotham’s rich people and stays “bloodless.” Nothing about it really feels earned as even Selina bringing the prison inmates into her team required an entire arc to feel genuine. Selina’s mission to shift the power and wealth dynamic in Gotham is a cool idea, but it’s starting to feel like way too many concessions are being given to the villains. Black Mask is a sadist with a history with Selina and him being punished feels more persuasive to bring everyone in line than giving him another chance to betray everyone.
- Seeing Selina and Black Mask fight face-to-face has been something you’ve been waiting for.
- A healthy dose of action appeals to you.
- Dario’s character arc with Noah is something you want to see concluded.
Catwoman #56 is an exciting ending to an arc with some troubling implications. Selina’s goal to shift the power balance in Gotham is intriguing, but playing nice with the likes of Black Mask is a big pill to swallow. The switch to two new artists is a shame for consistency’s sake, but both Marcus To and Marco Santucci turn in solid art, aided greatly by Veronica Gandini’s colors. Tini Howard’s script leaves a good amount of dangling plot threads, but Selina’s mission is clear and the sense of self-loathing over Valmont appears to finally be dissipating.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.