Look What The Cat Dragged In: Reviewing ‘Catwoman’ #41
by Scott Redmond
An old friend returns after a long time away, as Selina Kyle’s world continues to get deadlier when Black Mask and the crime families make their next move. Catwoman’s new creative team continues to create one of the most beautiful, fun, and unique books around keeping the series at the top as one of the best books DC Comics is publishing.
There are a number of great things that have come since the ending of Dark Nights: Death Metal and the beginning of the Infinite Frontier era, but one of the major ones was the re-establishing of many forgotten or obscure characters and the wealth of character relationships that had been built over decades prior to the reboot brought on by the New 52 era over a decade ago.
Catwoman joined the party of bringing back old friends in the latest gorgeous awesome issue.
Gorgeous doesn’t even feel like a fully accurate or big enough word to describe what Nico Leon is doing artistically in this series so far. Everything is just so smooth and detailed and strikingly noir-like but also popping with personality and sexiness. While also capturing the darkness and beauty of Gotham City and those that call it home. All of the emotional beats hit because the facial and body language work is top-notch, allowing us to fully feel everything that the characters are in the moment.
Black Mask is a brutal awful villain who has a history of doing the worst things to so many, but truly this might be the first time just visually the man is utterly terrifying. The use of shadows to obscure most of him, with the addition of the bright glowing eyes and mouth of his mask ramp up the terror factor to new levels.
With superhero adjacent comics the action is often what many crave and are drawn in to see. Here that action is so well done, full of kinetic energy and great paneling choices, but that energy and focus carry over even to the scenes with folks talking or engaging. It’s a series that grabs your attention on page one and does not let go till the last page, leaving you wishing the next month would hurry up and arrive.
Color-wise these pages are just a perfect blend of brighter neon-like colors, more subtle but still bright colors, and lots of actually dark feeling shadows. On the first read-through, I assumed that Jordie Bellaire was doing the work as usual, and it took a look at the credits to realize that this issue has Veronica Gandini on colors. A second look helped to differentiate them some, but the energy that Bellaire has brought to this book was expertly picked up on and matched by Gandini. Switching any part of the art team can often bring a vibe change because of how naturally different people’s styles will be, but this was a great match and Gandini brings magic to this book in their own way.
I will forever stand up and declare how much more readers, reviewers, and even the industry needs to give far more attention to colorists and letterers on books. Gandini is someone that I hope to see more of either here or on other work because their style is great. Someone else that I love seeing more of all the time is letterer Tom Napolitano.
There are numerous reasons for that. Dialogue is always something that flows along the pages beautifully, allowing everything the space to breathe but also creating a natural path for the eyes to move when reading it all. Then there are the caption boxes and the name tags/location markers which all have all the same amounts of personality as the other visuals, with the caption boxes dripping with Selina’s personality captured perfectly. Another aspect is that Napolitano does one of my favorite things with lettering, going for the more realistic sense where font changes size and style in order to accurately portray volume or tone (yelling vs whispering vs talking).
Anyone that reads my reviews knows that SFX are something that I love about comics, and love to talk about in reviews. This is another area where Napolitano is among my favorite letterers, as not only are the SFX colorful and impactful, they feel naturally integrated into the world. A scream looks like it’s floating from the area of a mouth, the hiss of pepper spray is right there at the nozzle, a whip crack is at the whip, even the click of a light switch is right with the action and part of the scene. It adds so much to the world and makes them a deep part of this world. The aforementioned whip krak that shifts from black to white because it’s part on the white space of the panel and part on Catwoman’s black jacket is probably one of my favorites, but it’s hard to pick.
Tini Howard is on her third issue of this series, and it already feels like it’s an area with characters that we’ve been playing in for years rather than months. Truly Howard knows how to pack an issue because each of these issues is so full of stuff that they feel like they are all double-sized rather than standard-sized. Everything is given space to breathe, and the overall plotline with the crime bosses feels like is moving at the right pace, as things keep progressing and aren’t stagnant in any way. One of the things that is done here is bringing in that returning character mentioned all the way back at the start of this review (full circle).
Onyx Adams is a character with a long but also rather short history at DC Comics. While she debuted in 1985, she has only appeared a handful of times with the biggest moment being in the early 2000s where she was part of the Bat-family, especially during the War Games event, before mostly disappearing and not being seen again till now (though she did appear in other media adaptations). She’s such an intriguing character that deserves far more development space and bouncing her off Selina was a great choice. Bringing back characters like this and r-establishing character relationships is one of the things I like a lot from current DC Comics because those relationships were something they forgot or actively ignored for far too long.
If they announced an Onyx mini-series from a creative team, preferably with a black non-male writer and or art team, that would be awesome, and I’d be picking that up right away.
Catwoman #41 is now on sale in print or digitally from DC Comics.