Current Reviews


Catwoman: Secret Files #1

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writers: Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns
Pencils: Michael Avon Oeming, Cameron Stewart, Eric Shanower, Michael Lark & Cliff Chiang (p)
Inks: Mike Manley, Cameron Stewart, Eric Shanower, Michael Lark & Cliff Chiang

Publisher: DC

The opening story offers up a trio of criminals as they gather together for a weekly meeting, and we see that one of them has just had an encounter with Catwoman. This starts the group to talking about Catwoman, and we see that all three have a story to tell about her, as one of them discussed how he saw her & Batman having a lover's quarrel on a rooftop, while another discusses how his brother was once a member of her gang. We then see that Catwoman shows up at this meeting, and she leaves them with another story to tell. The second story in this book follows Slam Bradley, as the private detective teams up with Selina to locate a young man who is starting his decent into a life of crime, and Slam's been hired by the boy's father to get the message across that the life of a career criminal is a wasted life. The final story introduced the reader to a vicious criminal who goes by the name “the Black Mask”, and we see this disfigured crime boss is looking to gain control over Gotham City's East End, and since Catwoman has set herself up as the East End's guardian, the Black Mask is very interested in setting up a meeting with her. We also see the steps he's taken to set up this meeting are decidedly unpleasant.

Now this opening line going to start losing its impact if I keep picking these Secret Files up, but I don't really care much for these Secret Files books, as their price far too high, when one considers what you're getting. Still, I do think that DC's got the right idea with these books, as newly relaunched books like Hawkman & Catwoman are sure to have gotten new readers (like myself), and as such using these books to bring everyone up to speed on continuity from the book's previous incarnations is always welcome. With all this said the question then becomes does this one-shot perform this service, and my answer would have to be both yes & no. On the yes side this one-shot does a solid job of simplifying the continuity of this book, as it clearly defines the trouble areas such as Holly's return from the dead & Catwoman's relationship with Batman, and it makes it clear that these elements are part of the new, more streamlined continuity. On the other hand this issue does skim over key elements of Selina's back-story, like what drove her to adopt her Catwoman identity, and how she came to know key information like Bruce Wayne is Batman.

I guess I should actually use this second column to actually review the issue itself, and so here we go. The first story is a fairly entertaining outsider looking in point of view tale as we see a trio of thugs discuss their various encounters with Catwoman, and along the way we get some fun insights, like what the criminal element thinks of Batman's odd behavior when it comes to his dealings with Catwoman. The second story is easily my favorite section of the issue, as it's a short eight page feature starring Slam Bradley, as we see him work to rescue a young man from a life of crime, and this in turn offers up a sad little bit of information about the man himself that I hope will be followed up in the monthly title. We also get a rather cute two page feature, where Holly & Catwoman discuss the return of comic book character from the dead, and I'm sure I'd have recognized myself in these comments, if I had actually known Holly was suppose to be dead before it was brought up in the letter page of the monthly title. The final story is a fairly chilling preview of the Black Mask who looks like a decidedly creepy villain, and he should make for an interesting opponent.

Well if nothing else this issue showed me that the unique visual look that Darwyn Cook initially brought to the book, and Brad Rader has since continued, is nowhere near as unusual as I had thought it was, as this one-shot feature three other artists who deliver a fairly similar looking style. Now Michael Avon Oeming's work brings a far more animated look to the table on the opening story, but it does have the same sense of energy, and it does an equally impressive job when it comes to it's ability to clearly convey the action, with the final encounter in the warehouse being particularly impressive. We also have Eric Shanower's two page feature which is a goofy look a parade of outlandish outfits that Catwoman could've been saddled with. However, the sections that earned my closest scrutiny were the pair of stories that featured art by the upcoming artist on this title, Cameron Stewart, and I must say that I was fairly impressed. The Slam Bradley shows he can deliver the hard-boiled atmosphere this book has established for itself, while the Black Mask story delivered a wonderful sense of impending danger, while nicely avoiding the more gruesome aspects that it could've drawn upon.

Final Word:
I still say that these Secret Files one-shots are sporting a price tag that's too high, but with that said if you do have some money burning a hole in your pocket, and you're enjoying the monthly title, then you should give this book a look. The opening story is a fun examination of Catwoman and while there's no stunning revelations made, it's still well crafted exercise. This issue also has itself a great Slam Bradley story, as we see him show why he's one of the more exciting supporting players currently running around in the DCU. There's also a cute poke at the continuity happy fans who are demanding an explanation for Holly's resurrection, and the closing story in this book does a great job of setting up the Black Mask as one creepy villain. This one-shot also gives us a pretty good sample of Cameron Stewart's art, and given he's set to be the book's new artist, this preview was rather welcome. The profile pages also made for a fun read, even if they don't tell much about the character's histories before the book was relaunched.

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