Where does Catwoman stand? That might as well be the question driving her life because it’s the one she’ll always have to answer to. Last issue, she rejected Batman’s assertion that she’s too good for the Calabrese family business; here, she realizes she’s not bad enough to carry certain parts of the business out. In exchange for the use of his docks, Hasigawa demands Selina distribute one of his incoming shipments of heroin. Her internal response is unequivocal (“Never.”), but not one she can voice freely. Unable to expose her true stance to any one side, she’s forced to stand alone.

That’s a lonely position for her to be in, but that’s the price she pays for committing to this moral gray area she’s chosen to exploit. And it’ll only get lonelier if she continues to drive away her few allies, which she can ill afford to do when she needs them to keep her personal code intact. Yet she can’t afford to trust them either, not when their lives run on a combustion engine of secrets, lies, and betrayal. The fact that Nick leaks the heroin shipment to Alvarez proves that Selina can’t depend on total loyalty even from her inner circle, though ironically, he’s doing exactly what she wants.

The only way for her to get what she wants done, then, is to play everyone else. There’s a reason Valentine keeps quoting from Rodrigo Borgia’s orders to his officials, demanding that they obey his daughter Lucretia out of respect and fear for him (and only incidentally out of appreciation for her own skills). At this early stage of her new career, she’s still pushing the other families around with the weight of her father’s reputation, a dangerous and inevitably short-lived strategy. They’ll follow for as long as it suits their interests, but to get them to follow for as long as it suits hers will require more subtle tactics.

We see some of that during a debriefing with all the families, where Selina takes advantage of the disruption caused by Aiden Mason and Ascolat Industries (a front for Black Mask) to pressure Falcone into line and rile up the Rileys. This diffuses some of the scrutiny on her, but she’s still very aware that as mastermind of this operation, she needs to put up a strong front against the newcomers from the start. But blocking Ascolat’s reconstruction efforts reveals with painful clarity that saving Gotham is only a secondary priority in this business, and all of Selina’s well-intentioned goals may very well get lost as she works harder to maintain her leadership.

As a result, she comes across as only partly credible when she tells Eiko Hasigawa that she’s doing more good in her new position than as Catwoman. It’s true that at the end of the day, you’d rather have Selina heading the Calabreses than, say, Ward, whose moral calculations allow for flooding whole neighborhoods with drugs so long as the profits takes a family or two off the streets. Yet she can’t deny that Catwoman, despite her methods, was a more determined force of good for Gotham, of which the city’s in short supply. There’s a definite conflict between her claim that “Catwoman’s not some noble venture,” and the way she bristles at Eiko trying to replace her. She refers to the position as “the Cat” in the same way others refer to Batman as the Bat, indicating that even in her mind, the Catwoman title carries some weight.

Brown does good work for the title, although action sequences look a bit stiff and you might wish for a little more consistency in the characters’ features—especially the eyes, which have a tendency to run lazily in certain panels. Still, not every artist can communicate so much through body language and composition. The moment Selina hears of the heroin deal, her back is turned to Ward, yet a small glimpse almost involuntarily escapes the corners of her eyes, revealing that she’s aware of how carefully she must maneuver around him. Loughridge’s soft, flat colors ease some of the weight from Brown’s heavy, dark lines, but on the flipside, the gravity of those lines prevent any color from fully escaping the shadow of the city.

Some Musings:

– It’s nice to see that Keyes is only corrupt enough to be tempted to turn Alvarez in for doing actual detective work—during his smoke breaks, no less.

– Where are the McKillens? Did they get completely disbanded after Erin went back to prison?

Grade

A-

Conclusion

A true gangster story set in the world of Batman. It's an idea too good not to work, even if there are one or two things wanting.