The penultimate issue of Tini Howard and Nico Leon’s first Catwoman story arc “Dangerous Liasons” is out this week in comic book shops. Can it top the excellent Catwoman #40, which mixed great action, mobster drama, and sexual tension? It’s a tall order!
Catwoman #41 has a lot of great pieces, but suffers a bit as it tries to do way too much with them. We left off with Catwoman finding out the mysterious masked vigilante Valmont killed a bunch of crime boss goons and this issue shows the boss is not happy. Valmont murdering a bunch of goons makes things a lot more dangerous for them as well as complicates Catwoman’s relationship. She’s not a killer, but she also doesn’t disagree they deserved to die.
Before the narrative can explore the complicated relationships of these characters, Onyx enters the story. As the cover shows, this issue also brings in Onyx, another Gotham vigilante who has the respect of Batman. Onyx acts as a sort of angel on Catwoman’s shoulder who is not happy about what Valmont did and how Catwoman is tied to him at all.
This leads to a conversation between Onyx and Catwoman discussing the issue of murder and this mysterious Valmont. This scene plays out in a weird way, with Catwoman not articulating herself very well about Valmont, and Onyx acting cagey. Just as they seem to be getting to a point where conflict may occur Catwoman asks Onyx to shadow her to prove she’s no killer. It’s a weird turn in the story that feels jarring.
This leads to another character in the narrative, Dario Tomasso, joining into the story as they catch him trying to blow up a building. At this point, you need to let go of all these starts and stops and go with it, because the plot is highly erratic. Much like the characters, it reads like they are figuring things out as they go along. That includes a scene with Black Mask and other gangsters which end sup disrupting the flow of the Catwoman scenes.
There is a touching scene with Dario that ends the book. Howard makes a point that Dario is acting even more reckless and self-sacrificial because he knows being gay won’t be accepted by his dad. Catwoman is very good at taking in strays and one can imagine she’s doing so here because she cares.
The art by Leon is fantastic with some interesting digital-looking effects and renderings. In the opening, it appears there’s a 3D render of a hawk object on the desk. In the scene with Tomasso rigging some bombs a lot of the objects look like renders rather than penciled art. The blending of hand-drawn and digital art makes for a surreal sort of experience at times. In some cases, it works wonderfully, as the night sky and city in the background, but it can pull you out of the story a bit when things don’t quite match up.
Catwoman #41 has good pieces, but the puzzle doesn’t quite come together. The problem starts with the frenetic start/stop scenes, the lack of closure in conversations, and the somewhat jarring digital art mixing in with more conventional-looking pieces.
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