‘Catwoman’ takes the international mission of the cat burglar and turns it into a rescue mission blocked by family drama and a masked criminal with a score to settle. Such a gorgeous, emotional, sexy, and fun series that keeps building upon what has come before as it takes the title character further and further while keeping her in the spotlight she deserves to be living within.
Even when a master thief like Selina Kyle is the one forming a plan, there are going to be unforeseen moments or consequences. With her new ally or ward or friend Dario in danger, Catwoman has to return to her roots.
A ticking clock situation instantly adds drama to any sort of story when done well and the stakes are high or very personal. Honestly, with Selina on the other side of the world, I wasn’t sure how Dario’s danger state could be drawn out for a rescue without it stretching any reality bounds. Tini Howard deals with that easily though, because while Noah betrayed his former friend and love, he’s betrayed by Black Mask who has plans that are benefitted by Dario remaining alive for the time being.
Setting this against Selina and Valmont’s growing tension, of the sexual variety, as they deal with Dario’s unhelpful family really kept things flowing and moving. There is no concern in the family about Dario, as they do not approve of him or his sexuality, and we see more and more that Selina cares far more than she’ll usually let on until she reaches a breaking point and takes things in a more threatening level to get what she needs/wants.
Truly there is a ton going on here with the Dario and family Tomasso drama, to Black Mask, to a car chase, a fight on a plane as the League of Assassins comes for Valmont, oh, and the cannibalistic flashy assassin Flamingo drops in for a small appearance. One can’t forget the crashing plane & leaping out with parachutes that leads to Catwoman and Valmont giving in to their passions. All of this wrapped up smoothly and energetically in the length of a regular issue.
Howard does this quite often, packing issues tight with story and moments in a way that makes you feel like each issue could be two or three. Best kind of writing right there.
It’s good to see Nico Leon back on the book, it’s been a bit since those wonderful opening issues of this run. Once more he’s paired with Veronica Gandini, their work complementing each other quite well.
Leon has such a slick sexy smooth art style that is detailed but also has a ton of actual depth to it, bringing out the beauty in every place or situation. Whether it’s Gotham City or Tuscany or elsewhere, all the spaces just have a life and power to them that radiates off the pages. On top of that, the facial expressions and emotional power of the artwork do not miss, making sure that we know instantly how people are feeling at any given moment. With this story revolving around the crime families and danger, the inherent noir-like quality of Leon’s work is beyond fitting.
Pairing all this with Gardini’s colors creates some magic. While a lot of the coloring is bold and bright, there is a lighter sort of toned-down quality that allows much of the colors to feel natural to the world which lets the more outlandish moments of color usage stand out even more (the superhero sort of elements/moments). We get a lot of shadow/darkness work here but it’s multi-dimensional. What I mean by that is the shadowy moments all feel different, as they always do in reality, with some of them being warmer with lighting or others being various levels of cold in nature.
Cannot forget to mention that the paneling choices are just top-notch, as they slide over one another or have a variety of shapes and some even allow Catwoman or others to break right out of the frame. It adds to the noir and fast-paced nature of the story/series.
After working alongside Tom Napolitano in the previous issue, Josh Reed takes over the full lettering work in this issue. Each letterer has their own style and their way to differentiate types of speech within the dialogue portions of a story. I like how Reed goes about it here, choosing a baseline font for normal conversation and then really blowing up the bold stylings to indicate when things get loud or shrinking it down to minor levels for quieter/whispering. Keeping to the idea that Black Mask’s speech bubbles are very broken around his whispery muffled voice.
Oh and the SFX here, big chef’s kiss. They’re so bright and loud and in the moment making sure that we definitely can hear what is happening on the page. Some of them are so big they take up a good chunk of a panel, showing just how loud things are, and I love it.
I also got a kick out of the idea that was put into place here with Dario and Selina’s text exchanges, the attention to detail that Dario has far more typos (including a cleverly used one to hide a curse word) because of his captivity and the moving car and his panic as he writes them.
Catwoman #48 is now available from DC Comics.