By: Ann Noncenti (story), Rafa Sandoval (art), Jordi Tarragona (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)

The Story: Who says chess can’t be a rough sport?

The Review: I’ve heard great things about Darwyn Cooke’s Catwoman (which surprises not one bit, having read his amazing DC: The New Frontier), but I never actually read the series.  It’s one of those things I tell myself I’ll get around to, but never do, like downloading those photos from my camera or vacuuming my closet.  So I don’t know exactly what made it so good, but I know this: at least he kept his heroine zipped up.

I always found it troubling that the first thing Judd Winick did when he took over the title was emphasize its sex, violence, and addiction aspects.  Even though I never once opened an issue of the new Catwoman while he wrote it, I, like much of the internet, was also treated to the provocative image of her and Batman in the foreplay of doing it.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that inherently—you can’t be too prudish if you read about robots having sex—but it did indicate that Winick perhaps came at the writing from the wrong angle.

Maybe it’s sexist even to suggest it, but I figured Noncenti would have a more tasteful approach to the world’s most famous cat thief (sorry, Felicia fans—but come on).  And so it goes.  Having no familiarity with Noncenti, the first thing I notice right off the bat is her love of dialogue.  She has a very lively, fun way of making conversations flow, albeit in that sitcomy, snappy way where characters always manage to get in a smart remark.

Catwoman:  “I hate cute, Lola.  You know I hate cute things…”

Lola: “Well, then, brat, I won’t give it to you.  I’ll keep it for myself.  As you know, I love cute.”

Catwoman: “But the world is divided between those that love cute and those that hate cute.  A gulf so wide, how do we cross it?”

Noncenti also spends a good deal of time boosting Catwoman’s skills as a thief.  This issue makes it very clear that this woman is extremely good at what she does and lives a pretty exciting life for it.  You wouldn’t think watching someone with a pathological need for shiny things would be entertaining month in and month out, but if she keeps getting interesting jobs (like “stealing” someone’s move on a city-scale chess game), it’ll be good times.

Compounding the problems of Catwoman’s storytelling choices was Guillem March’s oversexualized art.  Granted, most every artist in the comics biz is guilty of cheesecake to some degree, but March made his characters (read: the women) almost aggressively sultry on a constant basis, often without context.  In that regard, Sandoval is a big improvement.  In costume, Selina keeps herself zipped up; out of costume, she tends to strip down—often literally—but her body language is casual, not sexual.  With Tarragona’s shiny inks, Sandoval’s work often looks more like the slick, Marvel house style of art.  At times, however, his storytelling is a little unclear.  For example, I had no idea what was going on with that robot at the beginning until Catwoman’s narration flat-out told me it was projecting a cat in the sky.  I also have no idea how Catwoman can be right on top of an explosion and not get blown to smithereens.

Conclusion: Some snafus in the art make an otherwise intriguing issue less effective than it would be.  I actually would like to see more of this felon’s exploits.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It doesn’t reflect well on Selina’s intelligence that she doesn’t realize Joker’s behind all the twisted jokes just from the poster of the cat with the green face and enlarged, creepy grin.