It’s Catwoman’s 80th anniversary, and DC has put together a stunning oversized collection of stories to celebrate! Let’s take a look at each of them.
First up, we have “Skin the Cat,” which plays out as a fun little action set piece. It also feels like it would have fit perfectly within Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics. There’s an emphasis placed on Selina thinking several steps ahead of her prey. The story is a bit slight, but the twist at the end is very fun. It’s also always intriguing to see a bit more of Selina’s “eye for an eye” sense of justice, which definitely shines through in this story. Also, the art team of Emanuela Lupacchino, Mick Gray, and Laura Allred deliver a dimly-lit stalking sequence that still manages to pop off the page.
Next is “Now You See Me,” which may be my least favorite story of the bunch. The ending feels rather nonsensical and the motivations of all of the characters are rather unclear. The part of this story that worked the best for me was seeing the Batman Returns Catwoman design in action once again. The art team of Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, and Alejandro Sánchez make the story look like a nice throwback to the kinds of prestige format movie adaptations DC used to release.
Unfortunately, Ann Nocenti’s script feels a bit undercooked. There are some subtle hints that this story may somehow fit into the Burton films continuity, but all that did was make me wish that Kate Leth and Joe Quinones’ rejected Batman ’89 series had been picked up. As a whole, “Now You See Me” feels like a longer story that has had about 60% of its page count excised.
“Helena” works as a lovely tie-in to Tom King’s recently-completed Batman run and feels like a nice setup for Selina’s headspace going into King’s Batman/Catwoman series. Like all of Tom King’s Bat/Cat stories, it’s very wordy, so your mileage may vary here. Some of the banter is a bit on the cutesy side, but most of it worked well for the type of story being told here. I personally found this to be a sweet little tale, although I’m sure it’d be a little harder to follow if you’re not up to date on King’s run.
“Catwoman of Earth” is a goofy short that brings back Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case’s stellar Batman ’66 sensibilities for a brief, shining moment. The dialogue in this one is a highlight, with Catwoman showing that she has next to no patience for anybody’s B.S. The action is a lot of fun and decidedly non-lethal, just like most Batman ’66 battles, and the conclusion to the story is a fun “grrrrl power” moment that put a big smile on my face.
“A Cat of Nine Tails” is possibly the shortest story in the collection, but its dark sense of humor makes it one of the most memorable of the bunch. Liam Sharp and Wes Abbot show us different sides to Catwoman’s personality — some of which are purposefully more over-the-top than normal — and that in turn gives us some playful insight into the beleaguered security guard character’s overactive imagination. This was easily one of the highlights of the anthology.
“Little Bird” is a look at the softer side of Selina and takes place earlier in her career (or at least, in a version of Selina’s origin story). Some of the ins and outs of the story can be slightly harder to follow, but that’s also by design. It’s meant to show how much Selina’s life has been informed by the people she’s come across and how often she struggles with her worse instincts. Mindy Newell’s script is lovely and heartfelt, while Lee Garbett brings to life some trippy visuals during a dream sequence late in the story.
“Born to Kiln” scratches one hell of a ’90s nostalgic itch by featuring a script from Chuck Dixon and artwork by Kelley Jones. The story itself is a pretty simple dust-up between Selina and Clayface, but it’s fun to see this version of Catwoman using her smarts and kicking ass once again. The narration over the piece is sarcastic and very fun. Despite being lighter on plot, this one still leaves an impression because it’s just so entertaining.
“Conventional Wisdom” delivers the most meta story of the collection. The gags are smart and play off the many versions of Catwoman throughout the years. It feels like exactly the kind of meta story that belongs in a collection celebrating the history of the character, but it also pokes fun at the fandom without punching down. Pia Guerra and John Kalisz deliver a colorful menagerie of different takes on Catwoman, Bruce Wayne, and Gotham’s rogues on a bizarre convention floor.
“Addicted to Trouble” sees Selina and her sister Maggie on the run following Selina’s decision to call off her wedding to Bruce. There’s a fun neo-noir ’80s vibe to this story, particularly thanks to Gabriela Downie’s lettering and colors by FCO Plascencia. Fernando Blanco draws one hell of an action sequence in the middle of the story. Ram V’s script strikes a nice balance: the story has a sweet tone to it, even as Selina’s narration comes across as terribly conflicted in light of her recent decisions. It fits nicely into the early issues of Catwoman’s ongoing series, but also gives readers a nice lead-in to Selina’s next story arc.
“The Art of Picking A Lock” is another one of the highlights of the collection, bringing together Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart for a quick tale that brings back some of the major players from Brubaker’s legendary run. The narration is wonderful, and there’s an insane sense of movement and momentum in the artwork, particularly during the brief train sequence. This story is essentially a race against the clock and it’s a thrill. The only drawback is that, like many of the other stories in this collection, it feels like a small portion of a larger story.
The special also includes some lovely pin-up pages showcasing Catwoman’s many looks throughout the years. All in all, this collection is a blast. There’s really only one story that I didn’t particularly like, but even the somewhat weaker ones in the bunch simply fall short because of the lower page count. Some of the stories just bit off a bit more than they could chew. Otherwise, this collection is a lovely celebration of Catwoman’s history.