The Cat’s Back In Town: Reviewing ‘Catwoman’ #39
by Scott Redmond
A whole new era begins for Selina Kyle that picks up where the last one left off, keeping the same character-heavy fun noirish energy while adding a whole new cast and setting for the master thief to play with. A stylish and gorgeous book that is just crackling with energy, kicking off what should be a pretty awesome new run.
In this modern era of relaunches and reboots and shiny new number ones that come about quite often, it’s rare to see a title continue when one creative team leaves for another to pick up the baton. That’s what we’ve gotten with Catwoman though, as the thirty-ninth issue of this series brings a whole new creative team and a new storyline. Yet, it doesn’t forget what has come before.
This wasn’t a case of a full creative shift though, as while writer Ram V departed (artists that worked alongside him like Fernando Blanco and Nina Vakueva had departed previously) colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Tom Napolitano are still on board to help bring the adventures of one Selina Kyle to life. With this new start, they are joined by writer Tini Howard and artist Nico Leon, who are both getting their first ongoing series at DC Comics after years of work at Marvel Comics.
In the review for the last issue, there was a section where I noted that Ram V left the book in a place where the stories he told still mattered, but the next team was free to take Selina in any direction they might want to take her. The proverbial putting the toys back in the toybox situation but adding new toys that went back into the box with them. While the new run does take Selina back to Gotham proper, out of the Alleytown section on the outskirts of the city, Howard makes sure that the time in Alleytown is not forgotten.
Truly this is the type of creative change that I’m the happiest with, where a team does something new or different while paying respect to what came before. That time in Alleytown still is reflected here and is mentioned as part of the motivations connected to Selina’s current mission taking her up against crime lords that played monetary parts in the woes that befell Alleytown.
One of the things that made the last run a heavy favorite for me and many others was the depth of character work being done that just made Selina and those around her shine and feel like they had an impact and weight in this world. Howard easily picks up that baton and this Selina feels just like the one we’ve been reading about but just in a different setting and with a bit of the weight of being the queen of Alleytown lifted from her shoulders. A Selina that can return to her roots some while having a bit of fun along the way.
There are a ton of caption boxes in this issue, and Napolitano does his usual amazing work on the lettering and giving it all the right bits of personality, but it’s not overwhelming because it gives us such an insight into Selina. Including all her bits of snark and humor. Allowing us to hear things from her perspective as tons of information is shared helps avoid the massive info dump ‘talking head’ sort of scenes that can sometimes take readers out of the story. This is Selina’s story, and she’s the one telling it to us in a sense.
This is a gorgeous book, period. Leon just has such a distinctive and visually pleasing style that when mixed with Bellaire’s extraordinary coloring work is on a whole other level. Like the previous run, the noir aspects remain but this is also slick and sexy and fun and energetic. Even just the shots of Gotham itself are stunning, continuing a great trend across the various Bat-books to just bring tremendous stylish life to Gotham (and Blüdhaven for Nightwing).
Leon’s paneling style has planned chaotic energy to it in many cases that I love, as it breaks things up especially in frantic fight scenes. Adding to this is how Bellaire shifts the color palettes across pages and panels alike to achieve such different looks. We get splashes of pink over everything in the club scenes, actually dark-looking night scenes, cool blues covering things when Selina is alone, and very effective giant white space usage that just makes things pop even more.
I mentioned the caption boxes and the flairs that Napolitano adds there, but there are other great bits of lettering work that stand out. It’s always a plus when letters will shrink or grow font to actually depict whispering or yelling compared to normal conversations, alongside other great emphasizers like bolds. A superhero-like comic book isn’t complete without at least a few perfect SFX, and we get a whole ton of fun vivid, and personality-filled ones here. I’ve mentioned it many times in reviews, especially with the Bat-books, but I am a 100% fan of dropping characters’ names in logo form in conversation and will love it forever.
Not a single step is lost with this new era for the title, as it continues what has been done with the character and spins it in its own fun and engaging direction.
Catwoman #39 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.