Review: Catwoman: The Replacements trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 03, 2008

I liked writer Will Pfeifer's work on Captain Atom: Armageddon and H-E-R-O, but he's hardly in the same league as Ed Brubaker, especially when it comes to Catwoman. Brubaker, of course, redefined Catwoman for a new generation, and while Pfeifer's portrayal of Selina Kyle in Catwoman: The Replacements certainly stays in line with Brubaker's, the plot just doesn't measure as high.

The Replacements is the first Catwoman trade since Catwoman: Wild Ride, with a space of twenty-five issues in between, and some of my difficulties with the story stem from not being quite sure what's going on. There's intentional One Year Later confusion here, in that Selina's given birth to a baby in the missing year, and I'm OK with that, but there are any of a number of other plots--Selina having potentially killed Black Mask, the villain Film Freak believing he once killed Selina, something having to do with Slam Bradley's son--that are referenced but not explained here, and it makes for a bumpy, jarring reading experience.

Second, much about The Replacements is terribly predictable. Once she learns she's pregnant, Selina passes the role of Catwoman onto her friend Holly; under the common rubric of "hero abandons role but must don it again," Holly begins to make mistakes, forcing Selina to question her decision. Zatanna makes an appearance toward the end, and I hope Pfeifer isn't building toward Selina intentionally mind-wiping her own memories of her baby; as with Black Canary adopting a child in Birds of Prey, I fear this plot because making a formly free-wheeling hero a parent is a change that never sticks, and the removal of said child from the story is always heavy-handed. I just don't believe Pfeifer intends for Selina to really give up her role as Catwoman, and as such the story doesn't hold much suspense. Add to this the Film Freak and Angle Man villains, neither nearly as scary as Black Mask, and this hardly makes for the most compelling Catwoman read.

To his credit, however, Pfeifer does a great job with Selina's determined, conflicted voice, and within the story I certainly believe Selina believes she's given up the Catwoman role, even if I don't believe Pfeifer. He similarly writes Catwoman stalwarts Holly Robinson and Slam Bradley with equal aplomb. The danger with a title like Catwoman is that the writer will fill the story with gratuitous cheesecake, but Pfeifer's story is respectful and thoughtful, if not terribly groundbreaking.

In terms of presentation, artist David Lopez offers excellent work that also avoids being too sexualized; his expressive figures very often resemble the art of Frank Quietly. (The same can't be said for cover artist Adam Hughes, who's Zatanna on the final cover, with breasts pushed up to her neck, looks simply ridiculous.) And I did appreciate that, despite this trade being so far removed from the earlier Catwoman trades, DC's collections department designed this book to look like those, giving Catwoman: The Replacements a familiar feel overall.

[Contains full covers.]

So it wasn't that I didn't like Catwoman: The Replacements, which might be good if it's the first Catwoman volume you've read; I just didn't think it stacked up. Still, I'm on to Catwoman: It's Only a Movie now, and we'll see how the second part of this tale works out. Join us next time for more!
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