By: Gail Simone (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Nei Ruffino (colorist)

The Story: When Catman threatens to throw a man off a building, don’t take it too seriously— it’s just foreplay.

The Review: Simone has pretty much made a career in comics crafting characters that always get personally invested in their vendettas.  Unlike the vast canon of DC heroes who do good because it’s the right thing to do, Simone’s characters do things exclusively because it feels right to do it.  She just loves to tread that sticky gray area of ethics.

Even so, she makes it clear there are still shades of gray, with her Secret Six definitely in the darker area and the Birds of Prey often (but not always) in the light.  Huntress and Catman are among the few characters that truly toe the line directly at the center, which perhaps explains their undeniable attraction to each other.  The former is counted as a hero and the latter a villain—technically—but their actions bring them to the opposite sides of the tracks frequently.

Lately Catman’s been moving steadily toward the darker end, and whether or not he’ll wind up staying gets brought up this issue.  The fact Simone can play with such a pivotal development for him in a title he’s not even featured in shows the luxury she has in writing these characters almost exclusively.  In a way, Catman can only be at his most vulnerable in this title, with the woman who understands his inner conflict the most (his teammates certainly don’t; Deadshot’s response to Catman’s soul-baring:  “Okay.  Let’s stop talking before we get into a weird area.”)

Aside from the more personal drama happening beneath the surface, Huntress and Catman’s chemistry is off the hook.  These are two highly volatile personalities being put into explosive situations in close proximity—you do the math.  And then you have to remember Simone can make the slightest interactions enjoyable.  Black Canary: “I brought chili.”  Oracle: “Wait. Your chili?”  “Cleans your sinuses right out.”  “Dinah, your chili cleans everything out.”

Simone’s also got a hand at writing great action alongside terrific dialogue.  Huntress’ opening chase of a jewel thief gets steadily more tense with each beat (kudos to Simone for making the guy resist to the end—so many of these comics thugs buckle at the mere sight of danger, so it’s good see one showing some spunk), and her narration is smartly interwoven to give you some exposition while your heart’s pumping at the same time.

Speaking of which, the ending is indeed a heartbreaker, despite the complete lack of your usual sighs-and-tears sentimentality.  The disappointment simmering beneath Huntress’ rage at Catman is palpable, and his regret over the way he feels things have to turn out is no less so.  Spoiler alert—it looks finished for them, but I’d like to point out: he still has her cross.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I’m still shipping for these crazy kids.

Pere Perez delivers some fine art, but nothing really remarkable.  He does some energetic action paneling, but the drama doesn’t seem quite as potent as it could be with his rather plain character expressions.  I have to say I rather miss Ed Benes, oversexualized figures and all.

Conclusion: Self-contained, but with significant developments for two very interesting characters—antiheroes have never been dissected this well.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I don’t know many writers who’d have the guy just plant a big wet one on the girl as she’s railing on his sadism.

– That is one magnificent cover from Stanley “Artgerm” Lau.  Who says you can’t put a splashy movie lip-lock right there, for the whole world to see?