By: Ann Nocenti (story), Rafael Sandoval (art), Jordi Tarragona (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)
The Story: The only time you’ll ever see a security guard put in his place by a map maker.
The Review: Have you ever gone on a date with someone—scratch that; I’ve used the romantic entanglement metaphor way too often on these reviews. So instead, have you ever met anyone and quickly realized that any relationship—friendly, romantic, or otherwise—with them will be a fairly rocky one? It’s amazing how often we look back on the beginnings of such acquaintances and realize how obvious the red flags were, and how persistently we ignored them.
All the flags are waving that any investment with Nocenti’s Catwoman will be filled with highs and lows. Each time I read an issue, I see the elements that have made Nocenti respected in the business, but I also see how those same elements have a tendency to lead to erratic, bewildering storytelling. One moment, things are going great and you think it’ll all work out fine; then, all of a sudden, you have a moment that throws the entire relationship in doubt.
It’s very easy to get carried away with Nocenti’s interpretation of Selina, which is brash and confident, completely nonchalant about pretty much everything. The first few pages embody the particular appeal about Catwoman pretty perfectly. She rides up to a hotel on a brand new motorcycle she bought—not because she really needs it or it serves a purpose in her work in any way, just because she can. She and Gwen crash some socialite idiots’ party, ignoring the protests of the valet the entire way (“I’ll have to call security!” “Go for it. Call your mommy, too.”). I especially love that they slip by the vomiting swingers and straight into the bedroom for the shiny stuff. That’s a Catwoman I can get onboard with.
So Nocenti has the character down pat. Problem is, she doesn’t seem clear on what direction she wants to take her heroine. The issues we’ve seen thus far haven’t really shown Selina as having any real goal of her own. As a free spirit, she seems content to let others direct her talents. In many ways, she’s a tool in her own title, getting sent hither and yon to collect items for other people’s designs, whatever they happen to be.
If you pay attention to the scene where A.R.G.U.S. scientist Darwin lists off the prizes contained within the now infamous Black Room, you’ll get an idea of Nocenti’s strengths and weaknesses on this title. While Nocenti brings a superb imagination and spot-on characterization to the scene, Catwoman’s careless nature narrows her operating range and thus her story possibilities.
Darwin: “Well, there’s the Mogi-Antiky Thera. Celestial powers, potential for universal domination…”
“What do you take me for, a megalomaniac? I’m not looking for godhead.”
“The skulls on the Bone Chandelier can talk. You can hear the voice of Death itself.”
“Now I’m a schizophrenic? I don’t hear voices that aren’t there, dude? Do you?”*
Sandoval contributes a lot to Catwoman’s super-slick bravado simply by making her appear super-slick herself. With Tarragona’s glossy inks and Oback’s shimmering colors, the issue has that urban cool look that befits our thief’s street personality and general area of operations. At times, the action gets a little confusing to follow, but it doesn’t take too long to get back on track.
Conclusion: It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride, reading this title, but sometimes those are the ones most worth fostering.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * All that stuff Darwin describes sounds fantastic and makes me think Nocenti may be a very capable fill-in writer for Justice League Dark should Jeff Lemire ever want to take a break.