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WHttDCnU? – Catwoman: The Game

WHTTDCU-Titles-033

Years before I had ever heard of Wonder Woman, longer again before I encountered the Birds of Prey, and easily two decades before I even knew there was a Batwoman, Catwoman was the be all and end all of costumed females in my world, and she was stunning.

Not knowing who Catwoman is falls under the same heading as not knowing Batman: this is limited to those that unfortunately have little access to general media or willingly live in a culturally devoid cave. Sure, as a kid growing up with DC’s possibly best production ever, Batman The Animated Series, I idolized Salina Kyle AKA Catwoman as much as I was confused by her, because she flip flopped between being a criminal and an anti-hero without ever losing an iota of style. Notice how I didn’t say villain? In her original comic book and live action TV depictions Catwoman definitely sauntered closer to actual villainy, but her most common and more well known portrayal sees her as more of a solo act simply out for moi, no real evil, and isn’t interested in hurting people. In all presentations however, she has been the embodiment of dangerous sex appeal, completely in control of her own wants and desires and never said sorry for anything, not even taking your grandmother’s oldest heirloom. It was shiny, you see.

Back in Gotham as slinky as ever, Catwoman now is in the sights of a Keeper and Glau team up, will she give them the slip? Find out now, on:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

 – QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

keeper-rCatwoman dresses hurriedly, running down a mental checklist of the important things in her apartment before the door bursts open. As she throws herself out of the window, Men with half skull masks burst in, guns drawn. It seems that Catwoman has stolen something valuable enough for people to track down where she lives. Eight blocks away, she muses that they won’t find what they’re looking for in her apartment…

And then the apartment explodes.

With a need fo someplace to sleep, Catwoman links up with her fence, Lola. Lola gives here a tip about the penthouse of the Hotel Belle Monico and a job for some quick cash. Namely, bartending for (and intel gathering from) the Ivgene Clan, a Russian Mob in Gotham. It takes a while, but Catwoman gets good intel. It seems that the Russian mobs of the city are currently looking for fighting over a picture of a horse, completely worthless to anyone else. But since the Mob wants it, they’ll be willing to pay; and there won’t be repercussions for the theif, assuming the trade goes well.

As Catwoman hears this, she also catches a glimpse of someone from her past. Named Renald, he’s a scumbag who killed one of Catwoman’s friends . Catowman follows him to the bathroom, using her disguise to ambush him and take ut his right eye, before grabbing a costume she stashed in the bathroom and making her escape.

Later, in the Penthouse of the Belle Monico, she meets Batman, who’s heard that her apartment was firebombed. A series of questions quickly leads to them sleeping together, but when he attempts to make sure she’s okay, she deflects the questions, before leaving hin andthe Hotel.

After stealing the painting, Catwoman goes back to Lola’s apartment and sets up her plan, both for revenge on Renald and to sell the paining. She contacts both the Ivgene clan and their rivals, the Egorovs, offering the painting. She also makes sure that Renald is the Ivgene sent to do the exchange.

She plans for both of the clans to attend the Wayne Foundation Children’s Trust dinner, where she tells both clans to stash their payment in particular areas before telling them the location of the painting. While doing so, she meets and is prepositioned by Bruce Wayne himself, who obviously plans to have a very spirited night, hem hem.

Both of the clans are directed to the room with the painting, where tensions rise as the clans stare each other down. A single firecracker thrown by Catwoman starts a firefight, and she escapes with the money, pleased by a job well done.

Unfortunately, as she makes her way back to Lola’a apartment, she returns to find Lola, tied to a chair and murdered. The men in half-skull masks have found her again, and this time, she meets their boss, known as Bone. Bone is annoyed that his ‘things’ were stolen, as compared to drugs or money, whih he sees as ‘business’, and thus he has exacted revenge on those who stole from him, including Lola.

Left tied to a chair, Catwoman waits for Bone to leave before breaking herself out and interrogating the three members Bone left behind. Under torture, they tell her that Bone is at the Moffat building. In a fit of rage, she kidnaps him, takes him to the roof, and beats him with a baseball bat, but before she can throw him off, Batman arrives, stopping her from killing him. She then escapes, throwing Bone off the building to distract Batman.

Catwoman returns to Lola’s apartment, burning any connection to her and Lola, along with the evidence that Lola is a fence. Before she can complete the job, the police arrive, forcing Catwman to escape. While attending Lola’s funeral incognito, Catwoman runs into Gwen, an old friend who used to steal, but is now in the fencing business. Catwoman gets an offer to start working with Gwen, but declines0, determined to go it alone and keep others from paying for her mistakes.

Meanwhile, we meet Detective Alvarez, of Gotham’s Major Crimes Robbery Division. He used to be a Homicide Detective, but uncovering corruption in Gotham is bad for your career. He’s working seventeen separate cases, all with the same M.O, and he thinks that one person is behind it.

Catwoman, on the other had, is busy stealing from drug dealers to get more cash. This particular theft is supposedly a milk run, but the presence of a metahuman named ‘Reach’, whose telekinetic abilities are bad enough to cause Catwoman some distress. However, Catwoman takes here down and takes the money, which is revealed to be around half a million dollars. She immediately checks into a hotel and pampers herself.

It turns out the money is dirty cop money, and it’s quickly flagged, with the hotel staff calling the police. After a quick chase, Catwoman is captured and throw into interrogation. This is all done off the books, and the dirty cops even get Reach in to brutalise Catwoman. Catwoman suckers Reach in close by feigning injury before Mike Tysoning her, but Reach quickly begins using her telekinetic powers to choke Catwoman to death.

She’s rescued by Detective Alvarez, who figured out that she’d been bought in off the books and lets her go after he knocks Reach unconscious. Disappearing into the night, Catwoman grabs the rest of the Dirty money before being stopped by Batman. With everything coming down around her, Catwoman lashes out at Batman and escapes, leaving the money. Se then contacts Gwen as her new fence.

The story concludes with Catwoman stealing expensive cars and handing them off. But a new player emerges from the shadows, intrigued by her. Meanwhile, Detective Alvarez has been warned to stop chasing Catwoman, and streetwalkers begin disappearing, being drugged and taken by someone unknown.

Catwoman gets a tip on a particular group of cars, but is warned off going in without intel by Gwen, As Catwoman scouts out the site ,she sees no real guards and decides to go ahead. It turns out to be a trap set by Detective Alvarez, but as she escapes she runs into the new player, who reveals himself to be called spark, and he wants to steal cars with her.

WHTTDCNU-art

glau-lGuillem March’s artwork would be best described as falling under the Liefeld school of comic artists. Whilst pretty at first glance, travel more than skin deep into Catwoman #1 and you find contorted body after contorted body. Selena seems to have less of a habit of flying through the air with her legs spread like an idiot (*cough* Nightwing and Batgirl *cough*), but she nonetheless strikes the same awkward and unrealistic poses. There are more than a few frames where Selena is moving or landing or whatever, and you just have to remind yourself that no, bodies don’t actually bend that way, and legs only look like that when your hips are broken (see issue #1). On top of that, whilst it’s a bit harder to see with the other characters, it’s painfully obvious that Batman’s abs have abs on abs on abs. He looks- to put it bluntly- ridiculous.

With all that being said, I didn’t mind March’s art. I didn’t really like it, but it’s not like it was actually bad. His faces were expressive, and his backgrounds nicely done. And okay, so there are lots of red noses (like everyone has a head cold), and oodles of cat imagery and wide shaped eyes with an impractical number of eyelashes going around, and in a number of places Selena’s face contorts with rage so much that she no longer looks human, but I still liked it. I think part of that had to do with how hot Selena and the metahuman Reach looked though.

Even so, I did have a few grievances. For one, Selena’s bras- whilst lovely- are completely impractical for her line of work. Now, I can probably give March a C on the fact that he’s a male and isn’t likely to understand the concept of proper support, but I still found it really annoying.

Another scene where it’s clear Catwoman is drawn by a man? Issue five, where a beautician is shaping Selena’s nails with a nail file… only it’s obvious March has never seen one being used before, because the girl is running the thing flat over the face of her nails. I laughed when I noticed it. A lot.

salon

(‘I’d score this place a 1 in service. Would not return.’)

 

keeper-r‘Is that cat licking up the blood?’

That’s the question that pushed this comic over the top, but I have digressed.

The art here is unusual, different from the more rigid tones of average comics. There’s a lack of detail on many of the characters, especially the female ones, which contrasts from some of the male characters having hard, angular lines. It has the effect of making the characters more rounded, creating less definition. It’s ambitious, but it works very well.

There are some form issues, namely Catwoman’s stance as she lands in the first apartment scene. Her left leg is simply too far in the foreground and too far away from her hip. But apart from that single instance in the comic, I can’t really fault the form. The layout isn’t anything special, but it follows well enough that there’s no real complaints.

The lineart is what gives this comic its brushed, airy feel, at least in the beginning, and the artist uses diffused instances of colour to good effect. What’s also interesting is his use of flat thick lines of colour for wrinkles and shading. When the object is a black leather catsuit, or something dark, the brighter colours can stand out, letting the object grab some definition or depth. On the other hand, using darker colours gives the impression of depth without changing the actual lines of the costume.

 Catwoman is also surprisingly colourful compared to the average dark comic. For a woman who wears mostly black, there’s enough contrast in others wear to differentiate. The rest of the comic, including backgrounds and objects, is muted like Deathstroke, in order to give that dark, worn, dirty ambience that let’s the reader know they’re reading a dark comic. It’s almost a sepia tone.

And yes, this is a dark comic. Or rather, it’s what DC wants a dark comic to be. It’s a specific problem I have with these ‘dark’ comic, a certain point where it goes from being at least vaguely grounded in its darkness to trying too hard. With Deathstroke it was the only death not caused by Deathstroke, and here, it’s a particular scene that gives me the question,  ‘Is that cat licking up the blood?’

Is it believable? Sure. Does it make situational sense? Yes, and usually it should be enough. But the simple truth is, we don’t need to see it, artists don’t need to draw it, and its a significant part of why these ‘dark’ comics fall flat for me. I don’t blame the artists: this isn’t sickening or inappropriate; it’s just a symptom of these first volumes that mars more than one book, and I’ll get into that.

WHTTDCNU-writing

glau-lCatwoman is overall a well written comic, but the general feeling I got coming out of it was largely disjointed. There’s about three sub-plots in this trade, and none of them are neatly connected to each other. Sure, there’s a time connection between the first two; in that Selena looks for quick money at a Russian mafia hang out after her flat is bombed by Bone’s men, but that’s as far as it goes. I mean, don’t get me wrong; episodical stories does not a bad comic make (and in fact they were handled better than they were in Nightwing) but it did stop the trade from being a cohesive introduction to the New 52 Catwoman.

And beyond that, there are things that happen- important things- that are just never addressed again. Renald’s appearance, for one; he’s a Russian gangster Selena’s had a brush with before, back when she was young and helpless. He turns up, Selena beats the crap out of him and later sets him up against an opposing gang and then we’re told he’s dead. Now, the scenario in which he ‘dies’ in makes me immediately suspicious. As all comic readers are intimately aware, a character isn’t dead until you actually see a body. And even then they might not be. And yet Renald is never mentioned again. Like I said; it’s suspicious.

On top of that is the character Bone. Now, for one he’s got this weird body mutation thing going on; he looks like The Thing from the Fantastic Four. But not once is his metahuman gig mentioned or utilised, and once he falls of the building he’s never heard of again. It’s all very confusing and dissatisfying.

And then we come to Selena falling from the sky. Now, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about a number of things here, but that scene? Just no. because falling from that high with only a whip? I’m sorry but NO, the whip never would have worked. And beyond that, even if, miracle upon miracles it had worked, falling from that height would have probably have given her enough velocity to tear her arm clean off. Especially considering she’s only a human. Selena should have been dead.

 

keeper-rThe real failure of this book can be found in the writing, and despite starting off on a bad foot, this isn’t poorly written. There’s no plot holes or contrivances that take more than a few seconds for me to come up with a plausible explanation. Catwoman’s actions and thoughts are laid out easily enough, and they almost always make sense. The problem is pacing and story arc.

Catwoman is unique amongst the books I’ve reviewed in that there’s no over arching plot, or at least, not an external one. The story is instead told in around three or so story arcs, only one of which is actually resolved fully. The death of Lola and Catwoman’s run-in with Bone. The Dirty Cops, and finally the mystery of Spark.  Each arc follows the same progression: Catwoman steals thing, thing turns out to be important enough for someone to be pissed at Catwoman, Catwoman is captured, Catwoman escapes with the loot/gets revenge. Spark’s plot is only in the first half of said progression, but it’s a more episodic take than the other comics.

So why is it so dark? Well, the short answer is that the overarching storyline is an internal issue rather than an external threat. Throughout the comic there’s an undercurrent of exploring  Catwoman’s emotions and how her behaviour and lack of care leads to consequences that affect more than just her.

It’s not inherently a bad storyline; It’s played rather well, and isn’t shoved into your face. But beginning as it did with a murder, and when attempting to do so with Catwoman of all people,t he result is significantly less than the sum of its parts.

And, while Catwoman could believably have survived her impromptu flight, the writer’s need to work on scale. Either that or Reach doesn’t understand distance, because half a mile is around 800 metres, and that’s a skyscraper in height. Looks more like around 80-100 metres, since the building she saves herself with is around 12 stories tall.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

glau-lFor all Catwoman’s disconnectedness, I did enjoy the characters. Selena is a bamf, though it would appear that she’s a lot of an idiot too. It’s a bit of a shock, seeing how entrenched in thievery she is at this point, but that’s mostly because the last time I saw here was in Gotham City Sirens, where she was more of an antihero than an out and out thief. And there’s no denying that’s what she is. Maybe we’ll see her more heroic side come out later, but in Catwoman #1, nothing Selena does is for anything more than personal gain or revenge.

I thought it was interesting seeing the angst and self-flagellation over Lola’s death in there. And yet for all that- for all that Selena blames herself- she appears to learn nothing from it and makes the same mistakes all over again. And then we have Batman, who says he won’t forgive Catwoman for throwing Bone of the building, but it almost appears that later her sins have been forgiven…. Yeah, I was confused by that bit.

The villain Bone was suitably sinister- thought his stone like appearance was never utilised. Of course, I was impressed by him right up to the point where Selena comes back for revenge and he does a total back-flip in demeanour. Now, whilst at first I found his 180 jarring, thinking back on it, it makes sense. Yeah, he’s a criminal, but he’s a smart one. He knows when to pick his fights and when to back down. And an enraged Catwoman with a baseball bat? Probably a fight you’d best get out of.

 

keeper-rThievery is one of the most interesting crimes, since it’s probably the easiest to moralise: steal from a rich person who can afford it, and there’s almost no victim. In literature, a thief is a cocky grin, a funny accent or a little sex appeal from walking away with the silverware in their pockets.

Catwoman has two out of three of those, and her most beloved incarnation is the sassy, cocky cat thief throwing double entendres and sexual innuendo Batman’s way as she runs away over the rooftops.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

“Why, Dark Knight, how hard do you want it to get?”

(shamelessly stolen from the rather good fanfiction series, ‘CatTales’. I recommend them.)

This is the same Catwoman we’re introduced to at the beginning of the book, but by the end we have a ‘strong, female character’ who’s been through hell and back, through emotional turmoil and torture. To explain, I’m not deriding the idea. I question why Catwoman is the chosen target.

To start with a sassy, sexy cat thief who steals flashy diamonds and pilfers from the rich, and throw her into this morbid, dark tale of consequences and death is simply not utilising the strengths of the character to their fullest, and the result is discordant, with Catwoman vaguely bantering with people from a position of weakness, before ripping the ear off a person, and turning into a stone-cold killer. It’s just not handled or written well enough to work, especially given the start point.

A light-hearted, ‘steal the silver’ type caper comic makes more sense with this incarnation of the character. Barring the first issue, which had some understandably criticised panels, there really isn’t a lot of cheesecake.  Instead, its blood, gore, and tortured inner monolgues of a character with PTSD.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

glau-lSo, push comes to shove, I did enjoy Catwoman #1.

The artwork is no masterpiece, but it’s nice, and even though the story was pretty jarring, the characters were fairly good and Selena is bonifide hottie. Is this something I’d want to buy more issues of? Possibly, but I think the story- what was really the main letdown- would need to massively improve for that to be the case.

All in all, I’d give Catwoman a 6.5 out of 10 crazy cat ladies.

 

 

keeper-rI have trouble recommending this to anyone. Not because it’s bad. It’s certainly not Deathstroke. But because it’s so bizzarely less than the sum of its parts. The art’s competent; the writing decent. The characterisations have no gaping flaws in them. There’s nothing entirely objectionable to any of their choices.

But it doesn’t work. The writing needed someone other than Catwoman to serve as their main character. Catwoman needed something lighter, a fun affair with implausible thefts an less grounded characters.

Who do I recommend this to? The crowd who want cheesecake? The ‘dark’ comics brigade? Those who really like Catwoman? There’s something objectionable for all of them, and nothing noteworthy.

It’s like a song being played by a band here every instrument is in a different key. They’re all played competently, there’s no objectionable mistakes in any single facet. But the whole is simply not that good.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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GASP!