Current Reviews


Catwoman #21

Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Cameron Stewart

Publisher: DC

The book opens with Selina & Holly arriving in Keystone City, on the trail of a young man, and by random chance the apartment where the kid had once lived is downstairs from Lenny Snart (aka. Captain Cold), and Lenny knows where the kid moved to, as he forwarded his mail to him after he left. However, like most good villains Captain Cold isn't about to give away this information and as such Catwoman finds herself pressed into service to help Captain Cold steal a prized object from the Keystone Time Capsule Memorial, though Selina isn't exactly convinced the object has any real value beyond the simple bragging rights that a member of the Rogues would possess if they were able to steal this mystery object. We then follow Captain Cold & Catwoman as they make their way through the rather elaborate security system that has been set up to guard this object, but Catwoman looks to be having little trouble, as the system is geared more with the Rogues in mind, none of whom are famous for their ability to slink past the various security features. Catwoman then discovers that bringing Captain Cold on this job was probably a mistake, as he manages to set off the security system, and the two have to pull of a rather dramatic bit of action to secure the object and evade the arriving police. We then see that after the trade is made, Selina gets a message to Jay Garrick regarding where he can locate his stolen helmet.

Over in the pages of the "Flash", Geoff Johns has made Captain Cold into one of my favorite villains, as he's given the character a sense of reality, and a down-to-earth quality that really worked quite well for the character. Now his use in this issue was a little conventional, in that he joins Catwoman on a job that manages to go off the rails rather quickly, but there were enough little moments that I have to say that I felt Ed Brubaker managed to capture the vibe that Geoff Johns had tapped into. From his awkwardness as he attempts to carry out the job in the sneaky, set off no alarms, manner that is Catwoman's regular method of operation, to the revelation in the final pages of why he wanted the object that Selina helped him steal, this issue does seem to realize that Captain Cold is essentially a working class super-villain. Captain Cold is a villain who has come to recognize his own limitations and has found great comfort in the idea that he's essentially found his little role in the DCU. I mean there's almost a sense of pride in his dialogue when he's describing the security system to Catwoman, as the designer of the system had the Rogues in mind when he created it. There's also a nice casual sense of acceptance when it looks like the job has gone bad, as it's a nice character moment when he's conceded defeated long before Catwoman was prepared to.

There's also the simple fact that the job itself is a highly entertaining bit of action, as it's a bit like watching Indiana Jones in the opening sequence of the Raiders of the Lost Arc, except this time out our daring hero is joined by a rather clumsy sidekick, who he has to constantly keep tabs on, as Captain Cold may be able to give the Flash a moderately tough fight, he's woefully ill-suited to the high energy, high agility action that Catwoman regularly engages in. I also rather enjoyed the almost casual acceptance that Captain Cold displays when he's discussing how things work in Keystone City, as it's rather amusing to see the Rogues have actually timed out how long they have until a Flash normally shows up to stop them. As for the subplot material that follows Holly's adventures in Keystone City it's rather refreshing to see that she had a relatively ordinary time of it, as she visits the various tourist sites, and in a nice bit of cross-continuity gets to express a sense of disappointment upon learning that the Flash Museum was destroyed. Most of all though I'm simply enjoying the general sense of fun that has been brought back to these pages in the wake of what had to be one of the grimmest story arcs I've come across in comics. I like the inconsequential nature of these standalone issues, and that they are getting this book's cast back to the way they were previously.

Cameron Stewart is a very welcome presence on this title as I don't think there's a better artist working today when it comes to telling the material in a visually exciting manner. Oh there's artists who deliver the action with a more in your face quality (Bryan Hitch, John Romita Jr.), and there are several whose work packs more visual punch (Andy Kubert, Jim Lee), but for straight out storytelling I'd hold up Cameron Stewart's work as the shining example of how I wish most artists would tell a story. The action flows from one panel to the next with an ease that one can't help but be impressed by not only how clearly the issue reads, but also from the sense of pacing that is conveyed in the work. Take the scene where Catwoman & Captain Cold take off after the object they're looking to steal after the security system sends it on its merry way, as this four page sequence is a masterful display of action, where we get a wealth of nail biting moments, as well as a big dramatic finish where the art even manages to incorporate a sense of impending danger as the boiler on the train car reaches its critical point. There's also some delightful little visuals, such as the postcard where Holly is posing on the Flash statue, and we see the upset police officer in the corner of the image. The cover to this issue is also a solid visual cue regarding Captain Cold's presence in the issue.

Final Word:
A pretty entertaining little throwaway issue that benefits quite nicely from its guest-villain, as Ed Brubaker makes pretty good use of Captain Cold, and the change of scenery Keystone City provides. In fact if this tour of the DCU has done anything it's acted as a bit of a relief value, as the book had built up a little too much turmoil & angst, that I found I was having a hard time enjoying the series. Now I'm sure there's some formula in the comic writer's guide book that basically tells them how serious-minded a book can become before it turns the readers off the book, and I'm probably a happy little fanboy because this book simply overloaded the doom & gloom so this more lighthearted tone seems more impressive. Plus it certainly helps that this book offers up a fun little bit of action, as Catwoman is drafted into pulling off a job, and thanks to Captain Cold, the job turns into a firework show, instead of the stealthy, in & out job that she normally pulls.

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