Road Trip: "History"
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Guy Davis(p), Cameron Stewart(i), Matt Hollingsworth(c)
Catwoman is a mess, but the book in spite of that entertains. The payoff to Selina and Holly's roadtrip gains interest by tying in to the emotional impact of Black Mask's torture. While the dialogue will confuse loads and loads of people who direct their energies toward various continuities, every line of it rhythmically crafts a story that doesn't follow the usual pace of a super-hero, or if you prefer urban vigilante, comic book.
Another boon for Catwoman comes in the form of Guy Davis' cinemagraphic layouts--a little more evident this issue--for Cameron Stewart's splendid finishes. In fact the artwork makes better sense than the story. This is not a knock against Mr. Brubaker. He's stuck with two decades of set-pieces that dare be called continuity. He does create part of the conflict.
Visually the story looks like Catwoman and Holly, who after negating a few pests on a train, meet up with Ted Grant in a city under the auspices of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Ted introduces Catwoman to the Hawks and the couple delves into the origins of the kooky, pesky cult that has been dogging Selina's tail. Selina reveals a secret for Holly and with Hawkgirl's help arranges for her a special surprise. Visually the story works. Sadly, the DC nullverse never will be that simple again to comprehend.
The first problem of course arises from the domino effect, which results in Batman, Dr. Fate and the crippled Babs Gordon existing in the same universe, which of course does not and never will make sense. Having two more members of the Justice Society in Catwoman just exacerbates the stupidity and/or blindness of DC's upper creative management.
The second problem comes from the audience that Mr. Brubaker attempts to reach. He writes Hakwman and Hawkgirl as updates of the alien Silver Age Hawks who are antithetical to the Geoff Johns two-dimensional conglomerates. He's not however willing to go all the way in saying that the feathered friends are indeed the earth-one Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
A Geoff Johns fan will be mightily confused by their behavior. Hawkman for instance is courteous to Catwoman. If Hawkman had met Catwoman in a Geoff Johns book, I suspect Hawkman would repeatedly try to slam a mace into her face while Wildcat attempted to stop him, and Johns would stretch it out to thirty-eight pages. Kendra in Catwoman makes a joke involving Thanagar, acts as if she's knowledgeable about Egyptian lore and enjoys herself. The Johns' Kendra is a brooding, angst-ridden character who has denied her reincarnations and possesses a single gray cell in each breast.
I could see these two as revamped pre-Crisis Hawks ala Brubaker if not for the references he makes toward Johns' lousy continuity. The chat between Selina and Kendra--thankfully in a subtle way--alludes to Kendra not accepting the memories of her incarnations, and the latter exchanges may be read in a bisexual subtext, which I do not believe any writer has ever suggested. Mr. Brubaker may be making a very logical observation about the consequences of the Hawks being incarnate beings. Kendra and Carter are according to Johns "cursed" to be eternally reincarnated. Since these incarnations are not gender specific but destined to fall in love, Mr. Brubaker may be saying that the Hawks are hardwired to find both sexes appealing. This update actually annoys me less than his paying lip-service to Johns having Kendra deny herself of all her memories.
The subtext is a very canny move on Mr. Brubaker's part. Because of his resurrecting Holly and making her a positive lesbian role model with a steady girlfriend, his Catwoman has steadily gained a wider lesbian audience who do not normally give a bean about comic books. Since he's only making hints here and there, he makes what amounts to a wink to that audience, and it's not a lascivious wink. So, it's easy to take.
Still somebody totally unfamiliar with Catwoman and the asinine changes DC has hacked out are going to wonder why Batman's nemesis associates with Justice League member Hawkgirl, who has apparently gotten a chic haircut and a bottle of Clairol. They'll also wonder where she got the slab-like sidekick. The dialogue will leave these folks scratching their heads, and the weight behind the words will be difficult for this oblivious audience to grasp.
Catwoman's terrific artwork balances out, in reference to the whole, the scattershot characterization. The well-written dialogue balances out DC's overall Swiss cheese continuity. One story element however tips the scales in Catwoman's favor. While most of DC's books have a mood that's as dark as an oil stain, this issue of Catwoman fosters a mercilessly upbeat attitude. The optimism and ebulient tone does not quit, and Mr. Brubaker demonstrates that you can tweak a book to a appeal to a sophisticated audience without losing the sense of wonder that iconic of heroes are supposed to instill.
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