Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: CATWOMAN!
The Concept and Characters: In all the years Catwoman has been around—and she’s probably the second-most-famous DC female in the world, right?—she hasn’t featured in all that many great comics. Until this past decade.
Ever since Darwyn Cooke redesigned the character in 2001 Selina Kyle has been the star of her own top-notch graphic novel (Selina’s Big Score, by Cooke himself), an 83-issue series that was often the best Batman-related book on the stands, and the co-star of the ridiculously-titled Gotham City Sirens, which isn’t nearly as great as the first two examples on this list.
Sometimes I wonder if there are people in the world who only know of Catwoman as played by Michelle Pfeiffer, or worse, Halle Berry. The Catwoman of the comics is far more entertaining than either of those two incarnations. She’s a super-sexy cat burglar who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd. That’s her deal. And in the best comics, she’s super-smart, five steps ahead of everyone else, except maybe Batman. She’s only two steps ahead of him.
In this relaunched series, writer Judd Winick (who, by now, has written hundreds of comic books and no longer deserves the “from the MTV’s The Real World” tag, but I keep adding it anyway) keeps the focus on the essential hook that is Catwoman’s purpose in life: she steals stuff, and that leads to trouble.
She won’t be a mom (the 83-issue series that ended in 2010 saddled her with a kid, but the baby was quickly written out of the story, even after a Lone Wolf and Cub homage cover gave hope for a much more interesting angle), and though she may have a past with Batman, it won’t likely be as knotty as their actual continuity tends to be.
It’s unlikely that Winick will delve into her Frank Miller-written past, in which she was a prostitute.
No, this series will be clean family fun with a heist vibe and a sexy-smart heroine who stumbles her way into doing good while trying to do bad. In a recent interview, Winick emphasized that he wants to ground the series a bit more than we’ve seen in other Catwoman capers. That doesn’t mean keeping her off the rooftops, but it means that Winick says he’s shooting for something with a bit more real-world suspense.
“It’s not about her being a computer whiz and finding this out—if she’s breaking in someplace she going to cut through a window and crawl through a vent because that is, for me, more interesting than her doing things with lasers and infra-red schematics,” says Winick. “It should be fun! I think in general DC Comics and all comics have gotten a little too darn high-tech. Somebody can pull something off their belt and do anything, and that’s no fun. It’s too easy. So I guess what I’m saying is I want to make it hard for us. It makes the story better to challenge ourselves that way.”
The Creative Team: Like several other September DC relaunch titles, this one suffers from a weak writer paired with a strong artist. Winick may have hundreds of comics to his name, but as I mentioned in my entry on Batwing, he’s susceptible to clanky tonal shifts in his writing, and he has yet to write any truly great, or even very-good superhero comics. He’s a mid-list superhero comic book writer.
Guillem March is going to have to carry the worthy-of-attention weight in this collaboration. March himself is kind of a fitting companion to Winick in some ways, because March can be inconsistent from page to page at times, but, unlike Winick, he has shown himself capable of genuinely stunning comic book work. When March is doing all of the art, from penciling to inking to coloring, which I assume he’s doing here, he’s often top-notch, and his unorthodox color choices only help to accentuate the hallucinogenic mood the fills his best work.
But March isn’t always top-notch. Sometimes he’s merely good, which still makes him the guy responsible for the heavy lifting to make this series worth reading.
Recommendation: Skip it. Catwoman is a great character, and a back-to-basics-plus-extra-struggle approach seems like the right one to take, but unless March is at his best in every single issue, this series lacks the kind of creative team who can really do something innovative with the series. The first arc might be enjoyable, and you should probably flip through the trade to see how it turned out, but by the second arc, this series is likely to settle into typical superhero melodrama with Winick behind the typewriter.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.