There’s something special about the way rain is drawn in comics. Chris Ware’s raindrops look like jagged petals. Jack Kirby simply drew long, straight black lines—similar to the approach Joelle Jones and Laura Allred take on the cover of this issue.
Fernando Blanco, whose work on Catwoman is among the best art being published by DC right now, draws raindrops as slanting bolts of light. Paired with Jordie Bellaire, one of the most talented colorists in the industry, Blanco takes a scene of Catwoman leaping onto a car and turns it into something that Michael Mann might have directed.
The scene is positioned near the end of this comic, a relatively tame one compared to the bloodshed and macabre fights of last issue. Catwoman implies as much herself, noting at one point, “This isn’t my world — Ivy drugs and shady corporations and flickering assassins. It’s his world and it keeps bleeding into mine.”
He, of course, is Batman. One of writer Ram V’s many skills is a sense of when to not overplay the moment. Batman is central to Catwoman’s life, especially in this era where their love story has become a major storyline.
Those stories still matter, but they are not the stories V is telling. His take on Selina Kyle is straight out of one of Mann’s crime thrillers or a knotty neo-noir like Chinatown.
Father Valley, the mysterious assassin who lurks at the fringes of V’s plot, is someone I previously compared to Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men, but in this issue, he seems more like Brother Mouzone from The Wire.
Whatever motivates Valley is not money, power, or prestige. It’s something more transcendent and every delicious line of dialogue V gives him only hints at an indecipherable quality to his character. “I am not a weapon you point at another. I am no instrument of war,” he tells Penguin at one point. “No, no, no. I am the ender of wars. I am the last bloodshed. The final recourse.”
Who is this guy — and what on Earth is Selina going to do to stop him? It’s a fascinating question that V is smart enough to not answer right away. The business ahead of Selina is more pressing — and more personal — than anything to do with Valley yet.
Someone is using Poison Ivy to develop a dangerously addictive drug — which Riddler was unfortunate enough to discover — and now Selina has her eyes on the culprit. Lucky for her, he happens to be an art collector and Selina loves nothing like a good art heist.
If you’re somebody even remotely interested in these characters (or the genre references V is playing with), you’re going to love this comic. But the thing I most remember about each issue is the same thing I started this review with: Blanco and Bellaire’s art.
Whether it’s a sequence of several panels in the rain — which V and letterer Tom Napolitano leave entirely blank, so as to not distract from the art — or a brilliant double-page spread of Riddler’s memories that Bellaire bathes in green light, this comic is a visual feast.
The attention to detail is what really makes their art memorable, beginning with the first page. As Selina approaches some drab, industrial building where Riddler is being kept, Blanco has graffiti cover the exterior walls while kids in yellow jackets and hats bike around the entrance. The Gotham of Catwoman feels like a real city, which makes Selina Kyle the grounded, impactful hero she should be.
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