Ah, Catwoman. The winds of fate have been cruel to you, my friend. First, a passing reboot wiped out decades of character growth and made you a semi-dimwitted, petty thief once more. Winick (former writer of Batman, Batwing and Green Arrow and current writer and penciler of Hilo) grabbed your constant flirtatious relationship with Batman and took it to the Nth degree in the most crude way possible, but even the oversexualization of your early DCNU issues were nothing compared to your plight under the control of Ann Nocenti. (former writer for Daredevil and current writer for Catwoman and Katana) I truly feel sorry for you and all your fans who try to make do with the drivel that passes as writing. You deserve better, Selina. You really do.
In the wake of getting thrown in Arkham, discovering a big, giant...something under the insane asylum, and escaping, Catwoman is apparently going to steal something from Oswald Cobblepot because...I don't know. I don't know why anything happens in this title anymore.
Is Catwoman #20 surprisingly good or does it manage to disappoint my already low expectations?
In this issue, Catwoman steals from Cobblepot and notices she has a stalker.
Well, It Could Be Worse
This issue actually had some good concepts, but even the good parts are underdeveloped or developed in the wrong way.
A gang war is brewing and it appears Catwoman will become involved. This could be cool. Selina has long been a defender of the underdog and it appears as if she will end up siding against Cobblepot's forces. The problem is, very little exists to distinguish good and bad between the soon to be warring gangs. The Rat Tales might be the lesser of two evils, but that is hardly enough for me to feel motivated to root for them. Also, the Rat Tales characters are thus far one dimensional, so it is hard to imagine they will end up being any more than cannon fodder.
The other element which had a lot of potential and still might be pretty cool in more talented hands is the villain Escalate. Selina encountered the demon escalate in the Black Room as you probably will not recall because it was honestly rather forgettable. Basically, he was just generically demon like at the time, but here, he has bonded with a human, and he seems a bit more focused perhaps because of his half human mind. Escalate can escalate the emotions of any person, and it turns out this power has some pretty cool uses. He can even escalate nature though what exactly that means is rather unclear.
Sadly, the character still comes off as a mostly mindless goof. Seeing a character torn by two natures can be cool, but we've seen it quite a lot, and this adds nothing to the formula. Also, the human host becomes more and more demonic as he taps into his powers, and Escalate's demon form looks pretty stupid.
Finally, there is a bizarre attempt to link the human host for Escalate to a previous issue of Catwoman. Selina said she recognized the host from the Black Room, yet I went back and skimmed both issues, and I didn't see the guy unless he was one of the security guards for ARGUS in which case the question is, “Why did he then become a henchman for Penguin?” Unless I'm missing something obvious, the creative team just through this in hoping to create the impression of planning that did not actually exist.
The Usual Failings
All the problems that the series has struggled with are still present though not quite as pronounced as last issue.
The art is still sloppy with crazy vines growing every which away without apparent explanation or justification, people standing in crazy stances, and panels framed too close to the subject. When action heats up, it's very difficult to determine what's happening.
Selina continues to talk in words that make no sense or sound very unnatural. However, I will give Nocenti props on the monologue Selina gave on picking a complicated lock. It sounded like something a locksmith would actually say, and I googled some of the terms referenced, and they checked out. Fun fact: a gonzo hook was actually named after the nose of Gonzo the muppet.
Finally, Catwoman shows no real character development from her first arc. She is still endangering the life of her fence by taking foolish, unplanned, impulsive, reckless decisions.
1. Why does Penguin's long dead mother still have skin? Also, gross.
2. I'll give credit to Nocenti for knowing that holding a pistol “gangster” style does throw off your aim for several reasons. First, it makes it difficult to site the gun. Second, the recoil of a weapon causes it to bounce “up,” but if the top of the gun is pointed at the side, it will cause the gun to blow to the side. Normally, gravity brings the gun back down naturally helping the aim to get back on target, but that doesn't help when the gun is being blown sideways.
3. I have to take some more points off of my respect for the penciler, Rafa Sandoval (current artist for Catwoman) because the guy who instructs the others not to hold the gun gangster is in fact holding the gun gangster, and none of his students correct their posture. In fact, that looks like it was drawn by someone who never learned proper shooting habits. If they held a high caliber pistol as shown, they'd probably get hit in the face. Stupid kids! On the other hand, I don't really want gang bangers to know how to shoot, so keep it up kiddos! Good form! Make sure to look down the barrel to check if the gun is loaded.
4. (Spoilers) Catwoman supposedly slices Escalate's neck, but this is not shown. It took me a long time to figure out what happened. Again, what was the artist thinking?
It's better than last month's and that's something, but I still would not recommend this to anybody. If you love Selina, encourage DC to find a decent writer by saving your money.
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