Review: Catwoman #5

Catwoman #5, Cover by Guillem March

Catwoman #1 was not an easy book to support.  The cheesecake was excessive, the sex was gratuitous, and the take on Selina seemed, at first, to be incredibly reductive and simplistic.  But I enjoyed it anyway.  The pacing was propulsive, the action was non-stop, and there was a wit, a sense of fun, that many books in the New 52 lacked.  Those were the qualities that kept me interested in the book, and I’m glad I stuck by it: though Winick and March’s Catwoman is still fairly flawed, it’s also a ceaselessly exciting read, a hyper-active take on a classic character that magnifies all her best and worst traits to a cartoonish degree and then sets her loose to wreak havoc in DC’s grimmest city.

We last left our heroine falling from the sky, having been flung a quarter mile into the air and then left flailing for help.  Thanks to some quick thinking, Catwoman manages to survive the fall and, toughing out her injuries, beat down a minor supervillain.  Her reward?  A bag full of money – a lot of money.  Selina, a cocky girl with minor impulse control issues, immediately takes that money and starts living large.  Unbeknownst to her, however, the cash isn’t stolen from drug lords, but from corrupt Gotham City cops… and now the entire force is coming after her!

It’s a simple story, but an interesting one.  Corruption in Gotham City is nothing new, of course – it’s the backbone for about a billion Batman stories, after all – but I like the scope of Winick’s story, which has Catwoman on the run from virtually the entire police force, and I hope he dedicates a few issues at least to keeping up the level of intensity this one concludes with.  There are a few problematic aspects – Alvarez is spectacularly boring, and seems positioned to be a love interest for Catwoman, and the way the cops speak very specifically about the crimes they committed while still in the police station is an incredibly clumsy device to relay exposition – but whenever Catwoman is on the page, the story turns electric.

I have two minor complaints about the issue on the whole.  The first is this: March returned to the cheesecake here, and in a pretty big way.  After a few issues of relative restraint, this has more than one gratuitous shot of Catwoman’s breasts veritably bursting free of restraint.  It makes sense when she’s getting a massage; it’s less likely that her costume would just magically unzip that far every time she put the damn thing on.

The second is a slightly more pressing concern, but also one I’m of two minds on.  After the death of Lola, Selina seemed determined to turn a corner, to begin making some changes in her life.  But here, she even acknowledges how impossibly reckless she’s being, spending the money in Gotham so soon after stealing it.  And while I love the book’s breakneck pace – which her recklessness here maintains – I do think it breaks faith with the character, at least a little bit.

But… I still have to say, Catwoman is worth checking out.  Winick is building a solid plot, and he’s moving in interesting, unexpected directions with it.  March’s mastery of posture and facial expression make Selina’s mercurial reactions a joy to observe.  And the book combines somewhat gritty action with cartoonish intensity better than just about any other book out right now.  Though this isn’t the best issue for new readers to jump in on, people who have been following along should find a lot to like with the issue’s contribution to the book’s ongoing narrative.

Cal C.

read/RANT

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2 thoughts on “Review: Catwoman #5

  1. People DO blink when TV or film sell sex, if they do it as blatantly as this does. The scene where she was getting a massage? Totally cool by me. The fact that her outfit, in one panel, was zipped at the top and bottom, but was bursting at the seams to show some cleavage? Preposterous. Or the body-bending roundhouse kick Selina delivers – the one that looks like it would break her own back? On a personal level, these take me out of the action, because it’s a leering teenage fantasy in the midst of exciting crime drama. Hilariously, I don’t think it’s sexy ENOUGH to qualify as an erotic thriller or anything like that – but it’s such a solid action book that the juvenile sexuality just throws me off a little every time it pops up. (it’s not all juvenile – I have little to no problem with her and Batman hooking up in the first issue – but the bulk of it is)

    And I didn’t mean to seem too down on the book. I really am enjoying it. I think there’s a legitimately excellent action thriller buried under a pretty awesome guilty pleasure comic. Obviously, I’d prefer that the book make that leap from ‘good’ to ‘great’, but I’d prefer it if EVERY book made that leap.

    You’re right, actually – new readers probably could jump right on here. The first few pages are filled with a ‘How did we get here?’ summary that would honestly probably bring new readers up to date, but which seem like kind of clumsy exposition within the issue. I do think next issue will probably be a better jumping on point, though – this one opens mid-action scene from last month’s issue.

    • Sexism is a problem in all pop culture, to a degree, but comics are famous for it to a degree other media isn’t (as unfair as that may be). The reason I harp so much on March is because I think he’s a legitimately great artist. His forms, his facial expressions, the energy he’s able to put on the panel – these are all rare gifts in comics art. He’s a big part of the reason I like CATWOMAN so much. But I think his art could be better if he relaxed the hyper-sexuality a bit, so when he gets excessive about it, I’m going to mention it.

      I realize I probably come off as a prude. I don’t really intend to. I have nothing against full-on nudity in mainstream comics if the story demands it, I’m just sick of the juvenile view of sex, sexuality and gender relations that is the standard in comics culture. Not every book has to have some maturity or balance in it, but so few do it frustrates me.

      And of course Transformers is terrible. It’s a terrible way to look at gender, race, film-making, writing, acting and effects work. That’s just a downright unfair comparison.

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