Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Cameron Stewart(p), Matt Hollingsworth(c)
Mr. Brubaker once more strengthens character and creates characterization in Catwoman. Maggie was last seen nowhere. Granted, Mr. Brubaker is suggesting that Catwoman has a sister and that perhaps there was a grain of truth in the original Catwoman post-Crisis mini-series. Anybody remember who was responsible for that one? Neither do I. I don't even remember what I thought about it. I never liked the idea that Catwoman was a prostitute. That I remember. Fortunately, like Maggie's history--I think but I'm not absolutely certain--that there was some lame-brained notion that she was once Catwoman during the interim between the Jo Duffy revamp and this series. Who knows? Because of Ed Brubaker's writing, who cares?
Let me explain the impact. While it's true I hate what DC calls continuity, I'm even more suspicious when they hire people to fix things. "All the King's horses cannot fix" DC's hodge-podge universe while still keeping the broken pieces. Brubaker doesn't try. He instead keeps to his own book, writes his own continuity--Holly alive, Maggie as Catwoman's sister, Bruce Wayne a former suitor--and keeps his readers entertained.
Turning to page seven, we find a Bruce Wayne who could have walked out of the animated series or the Bronze Age. This is not a dolt of an identity. More Batman seeps in--especially when greeting Slam Bradley. He compliments Selina, seems sane and enjoys being with her. Furthermore, he acts as a respected representative of Gotham City not the dopey playboy he has become. Can we give Mr. Brubaker all the credit for this one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn around? Yes. We can. This Bruce Wayne differs from every other Bruce Wayne we've seen after the Crisis, and even differs subtly from the animated and Michael Keaton Bruce Wayne.
Separating Catwoman from Batman was always a mistake, and Mr. Brubaker now shows how Batman being in the book does not threaten Catwoman's independence. Someone does however threaten Catwoman's well being, and while Mr. Brubaker has foreshadowed enough to clue in the reader, we still wish to find out what will happen next. That's an author's job description. Another part of the author's job is to remain hidden, and Mr. Brubaker is practically invisible. He cloaks himself in distinctive characterization. He keeps unseen through fluid, natural sounding dialogue that isn't only confined to the hardboiled banter of the pulps.
While I miss Darwyn Cooke, Cameron Stewart's style is welcome. Mr. Stewart while still declaring visually a Harvey Kurtzman/Will Eisner inspiration also just ever so slightly inches Catwoman away from the animated model of Bruce Timm. This is not to say that the book looks like a traditional comic book from the pre-Crisis or sports an unfathomable underground look. Instead, there are nuances from an art school neighboring the Dark Deco Animation School. There are simplifications to form that make the characters move much more smoothly when the panels take advantage of the persistence of vision. At the same time, one can see more detail though not the overabundance commonly associated with comic books.
Most people still think of comic books as kid's stuff or the kid's stuff from which better more mature entertainment comes: Batman and Batman Returns for instance. Animation--largely due to Batman the Animated Series--has shaken off the shackles of being solely for kids. Laypeople realize that animation isn't necessarily for kids and can be enjoyed by adults. Comic books still have that miasma of immaturity. If more people bought or just saw Catwoman that could change. The story deals with real emotion as well as crime. The brief nudity seen is presented as matter of fact like a good cable drama. None of the characters fit a stereotype, and Holly is an interesting, gay woman without an emphasis on titillation. Catwoman seems more like a carefully crafted movie or television series rather than a humble kid's stuff comic book, and the nods to Hichcock--the presence of a catalyst blonde and the scene without word balloons where there is only Maggie and Holly hugging--merely emphasize the quality and intelligence behind its direction.
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