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

The Story: Catwoman’s getting pretty tired of her lover’s guilt-trips.

The Review: Not to turn this review into a social commentary, but I think beyond just getting more women working on more titles in this business, we need to get more women working on big-name characters.  DC especially needs to work on this.  For example, I still find it amazing that Gail Simone hasn’t been given a crack at Batman just yet, because given her sensibilities, the world of the Dark Knight seems like a good place for her to be.

Still, at the end of the day, the most important thing is not to give writers work based on gender quotas or political correctness, but because the work suits them and they suit the work.  On that basis, I don’t think Nocenti will be handling Batman herself anytime soon either.  While she makes good use out of him in this issue, she shows that she doesn’t have the finest grasp on his voice or motivation, with his every line sounding just a little bit off.  Take his internal seething at Catwoman’s theft of the Gotham Museum paintings: “They weren’t yours.  They belonged [to] us.  To the people of Gotham.  I want them back.”

This obsession with making Catwoman return the paintings conceals a deeper grief, of course, though the fallout from Death of the Family gets more emphasis than Damian’s death.  The tenderness she and Batman share is touching and not too showy, but it’s preceded by a diatribe on her part about his control and bullying issues, which is…correct—and yet also fairly ridiculous in the context of him ordering her to give back the cultural treasures she stole.

I’m not sure I like the way things trail off after their moment of compassion, either.  Batman, apparently thinking a pages-long embrace is hardly a sign of commitment, makes it plain that he doesn’t think a relationship between his and her kind will work.  Yet later, we see him musing in a very As the World Turns kind of way, “I was rough on her.  I’ll have to fix that.  Or is it too late?”  I have to admit, though, there is a kind of interesting twist to seeing the Dark Knight reduced to a merely tangential romantic interest in someone else’s book.

The slight problems in character work aside, technical problems abound.  Now, I usually don’t make a big deal over these kinds of details because they are, well, technical, but I do take issue the more noticeable and distracting they are.  One major pet peeve of mine is when characters speak their thoughts aloud, alone, in word bubbles rather than captions, as Trip Winter does when he tracks Catwoman to Batman’s arms: “I was worried about her.  So I put a tracker on her bike.  Why did I bother?  I fed her two bad heist jobs, and she came back an emotional mess.  No way will she trust Trip Winter now.”  Let me remind you: he’s saying these things out loud, so it seems like he’s inexplicably talking to himself, like a sad, self-pitying crazy person.

But the one thing that’s really worn me down on this title is its total lack of direction.  With every issue, Nocenti seems to change the focus of her story to something else, often midway through the issue, so it leaves you unclear whether at any given point you’re reading the beginning, middle, or end of the story.  I don’t know about you, but by the end of the issue, I have no idea what is happening in this arc, especially once the demonic possession happens—yeah, it’s exactly as it sounds.

Sometimes I find it hard to tell whether the problems with the issue lie in the script or with the art, which in such cases feels like a chicken-and-egg question.  Is Nocenti’s writing so erratic that Sandoval can do little to give it more clarity?  Or is it that Sandoval doesn’t have the chops to make the most of Nocenti’s script?  Whatever the case, he usually does fine work, but like Nocenti, reveals these persistent, distracting, little flaws along the way: the impossibly tangled flow of Catwoman’s whip, panels where you can’t tell who’s doing what in which direction, etc.  It’s a shame; with Oback’s colors, this is one of the slickest looking titles around, until you pay a little more attention.

Conclusion: I stuck it out for as long as I could, but I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m not enjoying myself very much.  Whether it’s my failure to appreciate Nocenti’s work or a failing on her part, this title is Dropped either way.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Did anyone else cringe when Batman was staring in horror at the crazy-cat grin on Selina’s bike helmet?  Not very Batman-like.