The battle for Alleytown has come to an end, and Catwoman stands triumphant in the conclusion of the book’s final story arc leading into this creative team’s big final issue. All the emotional and character depth as well as the fun that has resonated through every fiber of this run is on full display here as a reminder of just how great this book has been.
There is nowhere that the entirely of ‘Fear State‘ has felt direr and more important than the streets of Alleytown, within the pages of Catwoman. In other books, we’re seeing the effect of Simon Saint and Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow’s handiwork as it affects Batman and his family, Mayor Nakano, and Gotham’s overarching systems.
Here in this series, we see how it affects the people on the streets of Gotham. The mostly marginalized groups of people whose entire world is under siege, and the self-proclaimed Queen of Alleytown and her myriad of allies are their last and only hope.
This current run on the series, which only has one final issue after this, has been a perfect example of how to really tackle both character development and world-building. While the notorious East End of Gotham has been seen before, it is where Crime Alley is located and is where Catwoman operated before, Alleytown is a newer addition to the area as well as to Selina Kyle’s history as a whole. Yet, it’s a fully formed world with its own cast of characters that have garnered a lot of fans in the short time that we’ve known them.
A large portion of this life comes from the deft skills of Ram V who has brought such life to a variety of characters and realms in recent years, even in the shortest number of issues. Characters and their worlds are the biggest things that keep so many of us coming back to these long-running universes, and those that are the best at handling characters make those connections stronger. There is little doubt that he is one of the best character, and overall, writers in comics right now hands down.
There are often, very legitimate, criticisms about Batman and how the character is always fifty steps ahead of everyone because it often feels a bit anticlimactic and cliché. Here though it feels completely right that Selina Kyle is several steps ahead of the game because you can’t pull a con on a master thief. Just like us the reader, she long suspected that Edward Nygma/Riddler would turn on her for a past double cross (during ‘Joker War‘) and was prepared for the whole matter.
Seeing Selina not only take down Nygma and Penguin but successfully save Alleytown and her allies (with a late-minute assist from Batman’s ally/rival Ghostmaker) was satisfying to see after all that they have faced and lost in recent months. Overall, this arc also served as a great picture of how a book can be a tie-in to a bigger event without losing itself and its storylines in the process. While main events are large and often might feel incomplete in some ways (because of the overall nature of events and tie-ins), this felt like not just a complete piece of Fear State but a complete story that caps off the majority of this run with room left for the final piece.
Another reason that this world is so fleshed out and full feeling is the great artistic teams that have filled the pages of these issues. As noted before, Nina Vakueva and Jordie Bellaire keep the very noir-like vibes that have filled this book, just like when Bellaire and Fernando Blanco were tackling the book previously. It’s very detailed and emotional, shadowed and gritty, with a ‘rough’ style to Vakueva’s pencils.
There are fewer personalized color palettes to be found here compared to the last issue or previous ones, but there are a lot of the same bright colors that are stretching across these pages. Overall, there had been an orange glow to the background with how Alleytown has been on fire, and that continues here, but it also starts to fade as things get brighter overall with the rise in hope through the story. There still are the shadows and bits of darkness around the edges, because this is still a story that is heavy with those elements from the characters and their lives/world.
That rise in hope actually builds well with Laura Braga picking up art pages again in this issue because she has a smoother style that leads to even brighter colorwork from Bellaire. Here we see a lot of the triumphant moments, including a reunion of Harley and Ivy, brought to vivid flowing life. These two art styles just work together even with the smooth vs rough changes, because they both capture the same vibe and show such care with paneling and overall aesthetics.
We also get some really intriguing overall run flashback and montage pages from Geraldo Bonges paired with some green filters from Bellaire, leaning into the flashback/montage nature. They perfectly capture some of the major moments of this run, showing just how much Selina has been through and what she has lost and gained in this time.
Wrapping it all up is the still great lettering work from Tom Napolitano found through these many issues. From the caption boxes with the perfect font and color that just screams Selina to the various little quirks given to various characters’ dialogue, it just heightens everything and keeps to the overall personality of this book. There are a bit less this time but we still get a lot of varied and fun SFX that allow us to ‘hear’ some of the big scenes here.
Overall, this book has been heavy with content and emotional depth but at its heart it hasn’t forgotten how fun comics and their worlds can be, as everyone involved brings that to life in their own unique perfect ways.
Catwoman #37 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.