It’s a big day for Catwoman and DC Comics as Tini Howard makes her DCU debut in Catwoman #39. It’s also the start of a new story arc that puts Selina Kyle back in Gotham, introduces a new mysterious character, and offers up impressive art by Nico Leon and Jordie Bellaire. It’s also a story steeped in gangsters and Catwoman navigating a tricky world where the hierarchy has changed.
The second you open this book you’ll notice the strong voice Howard has given Catwoman, mainly through captions and the incredibly atmospheric world she navigates. There’s a noir element to the book as much of the story is set in darkly lit locations save for the shocking bright pink of a strip club where much of the conflict takes place. This book drips with mood and visual appeal.
It also does well to explain why Catwoman has left Alleytown and is back in Gotham. All the while, Gotham is being run by a new crew of head families which Howard expertly sets up. A lot of information is delivered in this issue right down to a woman named Eiko Hasigawa who is one of the clans running the show.
Hasigawa adds another level of intrigue outside of her power as we learn she also has a connection to Catwoman in the past. One can assume they were a couple or together in some way, adding another wrinkle to the already tricky situation Catwoman is navigating.
Something Howard gets very right with Catwoman’s characterization is how she’s very observant. She notices her surroundings, how others act, and reacts accordingly. In multiple instances, we can see she practically has a superpower in seeing the little details and understanding what they mean.
The captions are good, up until a point. They have a punchy feel thanks to Tom Napolitano’s letters which go above and beyond especially with each character’s splashy title treatment. They draw you into Catwoman’s point of view and capture her voice well. About midway through the book, however, the captions start to pile up on the page. There are so many it goes from comics storytelling to prose. It doesn’t help that the caption boxes are black and many scenes are set in shadowy scenes.
The art is gorgeous, be it the detailed environment or the cool fashion Catwoman wears when in street clothes. Catwoman’s costume is glossy and reminiscent of Batman Returns, giving her a sexy and shiny feel. The new mysterious masked man introduced here is also well designed and he feels like a young buck that could easily go toe to toe with Catwoman.
Catwoman #39 is an intriguing start to a new arc where Catwoman is a master of the finer things and finer details around her. The book is absolutely packed with content, maybe too much so in regards to captions, which can feel burdensome. That said, this is a Catwoman ride you’ll want to continue.
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