Catwoman has steadily and slowly been building a number of plotlines that all collide in this powerful and well-crafted issue that continues this series’ run as truly one of the best books on the stands. The reunited regular art team pulls out all the stops as their neo-norish style changes ever so slightly to really hit home how brutal and dangerous this story arc truly is for Selina Kyle and every one of her allies. This is the series that Catwoman and Catwoman fans truly deserve.
With the question of who Selina Kyle is and the origin of Father Valley having been answered in the previous two issues, it’s time to dive headfirst into the Magistrate and GCPD siege of Alleytown.
There has been a concentrated effort across most of the Gotham/Batline books when it comes to ramp things up in regard to Simon Saint and the Magistrate program. As things are manipulated by Saint and others, such as Father Valley making things worse in Alleytown by blowing up a church, the mayor and others become more frantic and paranoid to crack down on anyone seen as a dissident or protestor or criminal.
Tying any type of story into current events of the real world can often be hard, especially when it’s the fantastical realms of superheroes where the story is being told. Ram V though makes it look quite easy as the situation within Alleytown with the people there perfectly mirrors and incorporates much of the fights that marginalized groups are currently fighting in regard to law enforcement and the world. Not once does the setting take away from the messages or dull what is being attempted with this story.
As mentioned above the last few issues set up a lot of things for this story and this issue drops a whole bunch of revelations and stunning accelerations of the story. The revelation of who the hulking shadowy ally from previous issues was such a great one as it calls back to the recent fan favorite James Tynion IV-led Detective Comics run, by following up on a dangling beloved character from the run.
One great aspect that makes the aforementioned real-world event analog work is the first few pages of news-like content that beautifully utilizes white space. Fernando Blanco, Jordie Bellaire, and Tom Napolitano are fully back together for a complete issue and they just make this stuff work on so many levels. With the stakes being raised in this story arc the neonesque neo-noir look from the lead-up issues has been shelved for a slightly more ‘regular’ noir look that delivers on every count. There are still pops of full bright reds here or there for backgrounds that keep a signature connection to the previous issues.
Later in the issue, there are some really great ‘travel’ panels that are such a cool concept with the layout and colors and then the action scenes begin. Truly the entire issue is just a delight to look at but the final handful of action and action aftermath pages are just a sight to behold.
We’ve been waiting for many issues for the collision of Catwoman and Father Valley and it doesn’t disappoint. Now that Valley has done his homework (Catwoman #32) he pulls out all the stops and the action is so booming and brutal and gorgeous.
There is a panel with an explosion and a giant SFX and flying bodies that are just so brutal and gorgeous at the same time. Having Valley dropping biblical quotes as he walks through fire and overtakes Catwoman is terrifyingly perfect. This is a villain that has been slowly built to be truly terrifying and it shows. That slow build paid off.
There is a ton of dialogue here as there is a lot to set up and explain as the world turns upside down in Alleytown, but Napolitano makes it work as usual. It’s not overcrowded and doesn’t take away from anything, it flows naturally and rapidly just like you would expect if this was dialogue being spoken in a fast-paced dangerous set noir film or TV show episode. Then there are those big SFX mentioned above that just dominate and drive home just how bad things are in many cases, while others add just the right flair of ‘sound’ to the panels.
Truly, Catwoman is one of the best series on the shelves and this issue continues to showcase the reasons why. Everyone should be checking this book out.
Catwoman #33 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.