Ed Brubaker faithfully follows the "road trip" genre in Catwoman: Wild Ride; given the dark turn that Catwoman took in Relentless, Wild Ride is a straightforward story necessary to balance the series out. Wild Ride recognizes the beats of a road trip story and gleefully follows them like a map; whomever chose to hold the title of the story for a few pages into the book -- until Selina and Holly steal a car in a Thelma-and-Louise-tribute moment -- understood that the joy in Wild Ride is in the familiar. What follows, in comparison to Relentless, is a positively G-rated romp through the DCU, emphasizing the story characterization of Catwoman's characters both in Gotham and away.
After the events of Relentless, Selina and Holly decide to get out of Gotham for a while, hitting the road in a couple of stolen cars and making their way through a variety of Selina Kyle's safehouses -- a trip, really, through Selina's past. But like Brad Meltzer's Archer's Quest, this road trip has a secret agenda not apparent to both it's travellers, plus a new threat picked up along the way. I was surprised, personally, not to see all of the threads begun here wrapped up in the end, but I think it also served to connect Wild Ride to Catwoman proper -- these might have been out-of-town issues, but they're still important to the Catwoman story overall.
Appearances by Ted Grant bookend this story, and it's an interesting choice by Brubaker. Selina could just as easily have taken a road trip through Keystone, New York, and Metropolis, meeting the members of the JLA along the way; instead, she visits Opal City and St. Roch, meeting a couple of JSA members and even learning a bit about the JSA legacy. Brubaker takes this a step farther in the end by offering a bit of a Starman/Hawkman "Times Past" story. More than once, Catwoman is invited to join the JSA, a novel idea to be sure, but as much as Selina repeats that she's not necessarily on the side of angels, the reactions of those around her suggest the opposite.
Even stronger is Kendra Saunders' immediate friendship with Selina -- Kendra remarks that Selina is not nearly as villainous as Kendra had been led to suggest. It's a quiet dig at the DCU proper -- Superman and Batman might be the flagship titles, but there's a different truth to the DCU when seen from the eyes of Catwoman, JSA, and other DC titles. More than a road trip story, Wild Ride is also a tribute to the "new, hip" DC that started in the mid-nineties -- Starman, especially, a missive on how guys in tights, wildly-named villains, and character-driven stories can still be cool, that lead into JSA and Outsiders and Teen Titans and, like it or not, Identity Crisis -- whether for good or ill, the culmination of how super-heroics and strong characterization can co-exist. As a low concept, Wild Ride is an archtypical road trip story (if that can be considered "low concept"); high concept, it's a state-of-the-union report on DC Comics, mid-2004.
So as mentioned previously, here's hoping the next Catwoman trade takes us all the way to War Games. And by the way, in answer to my previous surprise at how Wild Ride was five issues for $14.99 (or $2.99 per issue, more than the Catwoman monthly), it actually turns out that Wild Ride has a Secret Files story in it, too, so the price works out a little better. Now, on to Justice League Elite, JLA: Syndicate Rules, Batman: War Games Act Three, and Identity Crisis!