Shiny Shelf

Catwoman #25

By Eddie Robson on 28 November 2003

I have to say, I’m very sad to see the end of Cameron Stewart’s run on ‘Catwoman’. He picked up the soft, fluid style defined by Darwyn Cooke and Brad Rader and ran with it magnificently, in the process making a substantial contribution towards giving this title an identity of its own in a mass of Bat-books.

However, as writer Ed Brubaker acknowledges, there aren’t many people who could carry off that style, which is why ‘Catwoman’ has taken on an entirely different look following Stewart’s departure. Paul Gulacy, a long-time fan favourite from his work on ‘Master of Kung-Fu’, has arrived with issue #25 and brought his more defined, detailed approach. It’s a more traditional style and personally I preferred the old look – but this is purely a matter of personal taste and it would be a waste of time to criticise Gulacy for not being Cooke or Stewart. Gulacy’s work on his first issue is good stuff and will doubtless improve as he gets a handle on the character (he says it took him about fifteen pages to get her helmet right).

It will be all to the good if this new approach draws more readers to ‘Catwoman’. I remain resolutely baffled by the number of comic readers who simply won’t engage with a style they regard as ‘unrealistic’. ‘I didn’t like the art in the new “Catwoman”,’ commented one fan on the message boards in reference to the Cooke/Rader/
Stewart version, ‘it’s too cartoony for $2.50. It feels like cheating.’ What? I’m not an artist, but even I can see that kind of pared-down, impressionistic style isn’t easy – capturing a pose or an expression in a few lines requires a very sharp eye and a skilled hand. It is by no means a cheap short cut to producing the necessary 22 pages each month.

(Remarkably, that fan’s comment I just quoted was in reply to a post FROM DARWYN COOKE HIMSELF – so it basically amounts to personally telling Cooke that he doesn’t put enough effort in. Fair enough to tell him you don’t like his style, but that he’s lazy?)

But it’s those among you who disliked the old style of ‘Catwoman’ that I should be speaking to in this review, rather than preaching to the converted, so here goes. On its relaunch two years ago ‘Catwoman’ started off strongly and has steadily improved: it is now routinely hailed as one of the best DCU titles you can buy, and not without good reason. If the artwork put you off buying this title before, you absolutely must try ‘Catwoman’ again – I’m pretty confident that you’ll like it, and if you don’t then I feel deeply sorry for you.

A quick recap of why it’s so good: before the relaunch, ‘Catwoman’ didn’t seem to know what to do with itself. Not a hero but not entirely a villain either, the character didn’t lend herself well to ongoing plots, and she had a fairly stupid-looking costume. The revamp saw her repositioned within the struggles of Gotham City: she’s sort of reformed, fighting against crime but not averse to committing a few of her own if she feels it’s necessary. She has a shades-of-grey morality and this makes her more than just a female version of the utterly uncompromising, black-and-white Batman. She also has a cooler, more practical outfit and a really good haircut. On a comics scene that’s sorely lacking in decent female characters, Brubaker’s Selina Kyle sets the standard and sets it high.

It also happens that the book currently is on course for another big storyline, with Selina managing to tick off an East End criminal conglomerate by stealing half their drug profits and burning the other half out of sheer spite. The last few issues before this have seen Selina and her sidekick Holly take a road trip around DC Comics’ America, where they’ve had a few jolly adventures and met the likes of Wildcat, Hawkman and Captain Cold. All good fun but a tad inconsequential, especially if, like me, you aren’t really familiar with the lengthy history of DC’s numerous characters and just want to read a good superhero comic.

It’s been nice to have a break after the unspeakably harrowing (and superbly realised) events of issues #12-#19 but I’m ready for something big and brutal now. Let’s have it!

Order Brubaker’s first two ‘Catwoman’ trade paperbacks, ‘The Dark End of the Street’ and ‘Crooked Little Town’ from Amazon.

Line Break

By Eddie Robson

Comments are closed.