Selina Kyle has claimed her inheritance. Daughter of crime boss Rex ‘Leo’ Calabrese, she’s abandoned her costumed ways to rebuild a battered Gotham by uniting the city’s crime families.
How that works, I don’t know. And we’re not told in this first issue of a new direction. We’re just informed that Selina’s new ‘business interests’ are so benefiting Gotham that she’s getting invites to respectable parties and the police department is looking the other way.
Writer Genevieve Valentine does give us the new set-up; Selina’s right-hands are previously unmentioned cousins Nick and Antonia Calabrese, the city’s other mobs are willing to meet with her and the snake in the garden is longtime family member Ward. The respect granted by the other families seems to be more about her surname than her own reputation, with no one mentioning her Catwoman past, which surely is a matter of public record.
The lack of kitties is a headscratcher. OK, this revamped run sees Selina trying to play well with others rather than be the solo act, but I didn’t spot a single cat until the final page (I’m not counting that scabby monstrosity that looks like a mini Man-Bat on Jae Lee’s cover). Of course, it doesn’t help her new role if she’s seen as a crazy cat-lady, surrounded by moggies, but the odd puss to stroke sinisterly never did Blofeld any harm. At the very least, random cats in the background of street scenes would be a visual nod to who this book is meant to be about.
Right now, it’s about the politics of crime and that’s not very interesting to me. Valentine almost lost me for good by opening with an obscure, opaque quote from Elizabeth I – it’s a big enough ask to accept that a jewel-thieving adventurer is, overnight, obsessed with civic matters, without having her suddenly be a pretentious history buff too. It seemed to be the novelist-turned-comic-writer trying to lend weight to a less respectable literary form with grand words. This notion may be doing Valentine a disservice, it could be that the Virgin Queen’s words simply seemed the best way to lay down her theme that a dangerous balancing act for the good of the kingdom is worth attempting. But witty and smart as this Selina Kyle is – and I do like the internal monologue in general – the Elizabethan ‘art of war’ bit simply doesn’t fit.
A good point is that Selina remains unwilling to kill, though her relaxation when it comes to gun-running makes her a hypocrite.
Several times I found myself distracted as I waded through this issue, looking out the window, or at the steam rising from my cup of tea. The instalment is exceedingly talky, with no engine pummelling us towards the end. The story comes alive, briefly, when the shadow of the Bat falls on Selina, but otherwise it’s meetings and subtexts and not much fun at all.
Well, it may be fun for Sopranos fans, or West Wing walk and talk devotees. And there’s certainly skill in the script – bar Catwoman’s odd assumption that someone saying a complicated tattoo isn’t finished means they won’t be going back for more work – with dialogue exchanges convincing. But, well … Catwoman. I don’t doubt that by the end of this sequence Selina will be leaping from rooftop to rooftop once more, baubles in her hands, cats by her side, but meanwhile, is there an audience for this approach?
Garry Brown’s art is worth a look, despite the surprisingly drab choices of colourist Leigh Loughridge. There’s inevitably a lot of scowling, gangsters being what they are, but Brown gives good scowl and similarly impresses with sidelong looks (don’t tell me Yakuza princess Eiko isn’t out to stroke Selina’s … nah, too obvious). He does an excellent Batman, and hopefully he’ll get to draw the costumed Catwoman too. For now, his Selina is sublime – strong, determined, intelligent. Brown’s cityscapes look good too, as do the posh interiors. Mind, when a script calls for a ‘beautiful tattoo’ it’d be wise to draw it, rather than a blob that may be a big Japanese wave, but is more likely to be a tiger.
He does conjure up a great Black Mask. I don’t know who the other guy in the scene with the fallen gang leader is, though – the script hints at Nick, but he’s been drawn and coloured differently. I can’t see myself rushing back to find out who this is – a comic with Catwoman not being Catwoman, in which the big stakes are the civic pride of Gotham and the question of which gang leader runs the show, just isn’t for me. Elizabeth I would perhaps like it.