Catwoman #32 achieves the perfect fusion of a stand-alone/new reader-friendly type issue that also is firmly entrenched within and furthers the ongoing plot of this stellar must-read series. Not a single artistic beat is missed with a guest artist as the neo-noirish style continues and presents the reader with a variety of similar but very differently depicted vignettes set to answer the overall question posed by the issue’s very title. Selina Kyle is a force of nature and this series continues to rocket her to the levels she deserves to be at within the echelon of DC Comics characters.
Just who is Selina Kyle? That’s the question the latest issue of Catwoman sets out to answer this month as those closest to her past and present tell everything they know about Selina Kyle.
Stories within a story using flashbacks and cutaways can be one of the coolest storytelling devices around, and it certainly fits the bill with this issue. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is no stranger to being very well known at this point through pop culture as she’s been in almost every single type of adaptation of Batman/Gotham stories in some way. Her origins have changed, depending on the era or medium, but the gist of who and what she is hasn’t changed all that much no matter which side of the law she might be on at the time.
In this case, though it’s not her origins that are explored in explaining who she is. No, Ram V takes a chance to explore more about who she is as not just as a person but as almost a force of nature. Those around her, even those in her new group she hasn’t known for long, believe firmly in Selina and their stories speak to her convictions and tenacity and just what a mistake it is to mess with/cross her.
Stories like this often can feel like a detour to the overall ongoing narrative, but in this case, it’s anything but that. The issue has a framing wherein the present-day those that know Selina (Leo, the Strays, and her sister) are answering the question of who she is to a variety of interested parties (Father Valley, the police, and Detective Hadley) who all play a part in the ongoing story. Not only does it give more of the cast a semi spotlight but it keeps Selina also in the focus and just showcases how truly well Ram V knows the character and where he plans to go with her.
These vignettes are not only interesting from a character standpoint but they and the whole issue are just beautiful to look at. Guest artist Evan Cagle teams up spectacularly with regular colorist Jordie Bellaire to present these various stories that all manage to be cohesive but have their own little flares that set them apart while still keeping them together. It’s clearly not an easy feat to do just that but they make it look that way. At the same time, not an ounce of the neo-noir look that sets this book apart is lost with this issue.
There are some truly brutal moments in the issue, there are both current day and past torture scenes surrounding some of Selina’s associates, and they feel exactly as brutal as they are meant to thanks not only to the artistic depictions but the coloring flourishes from Bellaire. The uses of reds in some of the direst circumstances elevate them to a whole new threatening level, while the bright almost neon greens add their own sense of urgency and almost slight whimsical nature when surrounding someone like the enigmatic Father Valley.
At the same time, the scenes with the Strays do an interesting almost opposite take, where the backgrounds are bright and almost drained of color. This makes the colorful aspects of the characters within it, from Lieutenant Kollak’s bright shirt to Shoes (Lian Harpers) blue hair, stand out more. Even the vignette flashback in this section mirrors this use of light and color.
Adding to the distinctiveness of each section is the lettering of Tom Napolitano which shifts and changes styles depending on who is talking and the style of the story they are telling. It’s a bit more formal in the section with Leo talking about one of Selina’s first scores and with Father Valley, before taking a bit more youthful and relaxed style for Shoe’s story about young Selina. It might come off as a small thing, but it’s just as important as the other aspects in helping set these stories and the overall issue apart. Every piece of this makes it memorable which is a high mark.
One last note about the vignettes, the casual and not overbearing reincorporation of some previous Catwoman continuity moments really works here. Dark Nights: Death Metal opened the door to all stories having happened in some way and some books are casually using that opening and others are overdoing it, but this one is more of the former as it finds a way to do it without needing to call attention to this fact.
Catwoman #32 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.