Catwoman takes Selina out of Gotham proper for a compelling, fun, and dangerous road trip that allows for great action but also all the same deep emotional character development and fun that makes this book a delight month after month. The addition of Harley Quinn is perfect and brings a different look and life to the book with Bengal stepping on board for this leg of the trip.
After returning to Gotham proper and taking on numerous crime families as well as striking a powerful blow against the sadistic Black Mask, what’s a cat burglar vigilante to do in the aftermath? Head out on a road trip with one of her best gals, that’s what.
One thing that can be said for the vast swath of books that take place in Gotham or are about Bat-related characters is that they have found the perfect balance between the serious/grim/big events and the more fun down to Earth character-based moments. Yet each of them remains unique in how they achieve that balance and in how they approach their various cast of characters.
Tini Howard, Nico Leon, Jordie Bellaire, and Veronica Gandini leapt on board to join letterer Tom Napolitano on Catwoman following the departure of writer Ram V and a variety of awesome artists and colorists. That run was known for how fun and sexy and gorgeous it was and for how it dove deeply into the character and her world, and this new run grabbed that baton and kept on running even further. If people are not reading this book, that needs to change (even if they aren’t normally Catwoman fans).
Selina and Harley on a road trip is such a fun premise, and they bounce off one another so well. Howard writes both perfectly, and as usual packs the issue to the brim so that it feels like two issues in one in the sense of how much actually happens in these pages. Both are powerful but going through their own things, needing time away, able to comfort and support one another while kicking ass of anyone that gets in their way. Definitely made me wish we had a new Gotham Sirens style book with the two of them and Poison Ivy or others going around being awesome.
After getting Onyx and Holly previously, we’re now getting Red Claw of Batman: The Animated Series fame which is just great. I love how Tini is digging into the Bat toybox and finding all the toys that haven’t been played with for a while that fit alongside Selina and is bringing them into play.
We get Bellaire back on colors after a few issues off, doing what she does best, with Bengal stepping in as the artist for this story. Their styles mesh great, as Bellaire continuingly shows why she’s one of the best colorists around by being able to keep the same sort of energy to her work while making the colors shift to fit whoever might be doing the artwork on any given project. There are things that instantly tell you that these are her colors but also enough to make it stand out from any other examples of her work. Here the usual very bright almost neon-like colors that can be found are there but also filtered and toned down in a sense, while not losing any of that bright pop.
Bengal’s artwork has the right amount of serious depth and whimsical fun energy mixed together to fit this type of story, shifting to fit the various locales and situations they find themselves within. The whole first arc was very much a noir city story, and this one is more fun but also chaotic in the best ways possible which Bengal captures perfectly. What is also really great is all the facial expressions/emotion that are on display that makes sure all the beats hit right, and the action beats are so kinetic and rapid yet detailed and distinct.
With this issue Napolitano also returns after an issue off, to do all that awesome lettering stuff that he does so well. As usual, the dialogue just flows so smoothly and perfectly through the pages, never feeling overwhelming no matter how much a character says, full of so many little quirks and changes to let personality and tone/volume ring out clearly. I will always hammer home how important that last part is, how Napolitano is one of those that make sure that whispering and yelling and normal volume levels are very clearly distinctive. Sure we the reader could likely tell it by other telltale signs, but it being so distinctly clear just makes everything work so much smoother as a reading experience.
Another element to that is the integration of SFX. It’s important for SFX to be impactful and the more colorful and varied they are the more fun it can all be. Even better is when they are so integrated into the artwork that where the action begins and the sound ends feels like one seamless transition. For example on the page above, the SFX that accompanies the cars is right there on or alongside the cars making sure that it’s attached and part of the element that is making the sound. Just like how in real life the sounds that things make are going to be coming right from the actual thing making the sound.
It’s a ‘small’ thing to many, but it’s a pretty huge and great touch in my book.
Catwoman #43 is now available.