Comic Reviews: CATWOMAN #1

With opinions on this issue ranging and raging across the internet with cries of both sexism and prudishness, writing a review without becoming embroiled in the debate is tricky...

Written by Judd Winick Art and Cover by Guillem March Published by DC Comics Price: $2.99 32 pages In stores now! With opinions on this issue ranging and raging across the internet with cries of both sexism and prudishness, writing a review without becoming embroiled in the debate is tricky. Bookended by controversial sequences, the core of this issue is a solid if largely unremarkable story about Selina Kyle suddenly finding herself in need of a new thievery gig after her home firebombed by some bad guys. How this inciting incident is played out is what has riled a lot of readers. There are a lot of good ideas here that instantly endear me to Selina as she quickly gathers her belongings for a quick exit, reacting to a home invasion like she was running late for work. She€™s used to danger and she€™s (kinda) ready for it. Great character stuff. The problem starts that these opening pages are primarily focussed on Selina scrambling round in her bright red underwear. We don€™t actually see Selina€™s face for several pages but we see virtually everything else. I can€™t say whether writer Judd Winick wrote into his script that certain panels focus on Selina€™s PVC-clad buttocks, whether this was artist Guillem March€™s choice or if an editorial note came down from on high to ensure that Catwoman Issue 1 belonged next to FHM on the Newsagents shelf. Either way, it€™s fair to say that the in-your- face nature of how Selina€™s physique is presented heavily distracts from what could be some good storytelling. Selina narrates that she€™ll pop back into her apartment when the coast is clear...only for her apartment to explode. That is when we get the first full shot of her (shocked) face. The cinematic device of delaying the reveal of a protagonist€™s features is a strong one €“ just think of the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark €“ but here, seeing Selina€™s stunned face, her narration silenced, is completely undermined by all the other parts of her we€™ve already seen a lot of in barely any pages. The concept of someone being caught in their underwear is fun and funny. But here it€™s played so gratuitously that even Michael Bay would roll his eyes. But then we get onto the plot. There€™s not a lot of it so far to be honest but then Catwoman is a cat-burglar so she€™s going to try and steal stuff and things will no doubt get more complicated. In all fairness, that€™s all I was hoping for. On top of that, Winick also provides a strong sense that Selina Kyle is crafty and brilliant, doing some fine detective work infiltrating a Russian mob party, but also lacks discipline, breaking cover to avenge a nicely-implied old wound and letting time run out on how long a chloroformed barmaid will stay unconscious. The notion that Catwoman constantly sabotages herself so that things are more perilous ergo exciting is strong and well conveyed. Stronger still is the idea that Selina, on some level, wishes that wasn€™t the case. That constantly running like a cat on a hot tin roof is taking its toll and she wants to feel safe. Something that Batman provides. But this brings us to the other bookend which you will probably have heard about by now but which I won€™t spoil. This is another beat that I don€™t mind in concept but which is, frankly, a lousy cliff-hanger to end the first issue of a new series. Overall, Winick€™s writing provides a strong voice for the book but which is sadly drowned out in places by the gratuitous posing and supposedly sensationalist moments. March€™s artwork is kinetic and, while the facial expressions don€™t add a lot of depth to the characters, they work well with Winick€™s dialogue and narration. In particular, Catwoman€™s violent escape from the Russian gangsters stands out as a set-piece, blending emotive violence and gleeful peril. This is not an un-enjoyable book. But nor is it great either, especially with so many strong first issues coming out this month. Catwoman seems to be trying to make a splash in all the wrong ways. You may not find the gratuitous body-shots offensive, but it is pretty tedious that this is primarily how female comic characters are presented and this taints the rest of the comic. Yes, this is Catwoman. She€™s meant to be sexy. I think we just all need to work on our definitions of what sexy actually means. Using your feminine wiles is not the same thing as flashing your boobs as you escape an explosion. This comic is definitely not the worst case of the over-sexualisation of female comic characters. It€™s just one of far too many examples of things I hoped would be left behind in DC€™s relaunch.

rating 2.5

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