Review: Catwoman: Catwoman Dies trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 14, 2008

With Catwoman: Catwoman Dies, writer Will Pfeifer hasn't quite overcome the villain-of-the-week feel of the earlier trade, Catwoman: It's Only a Movie, but the main story's relevance to Catwoman's own struggles is far stronger. The book moves swiftly--and at times with quite harrowing suspense--toward its conclusion, one that's been predictable ever since Selina Kyle had a baby, but is movingly-written nonetheless.

Just like DC Comics won't ever really let Bruce Wayne abandon the mantle of the Bat or let Superman grow out his hair, I think we all knew from the beginning that Catwoman would never remain the mother of baby Helena. It seemed, after Zatanna's involvement in Catwoman: The Replacements, that Pfeifer was telegraphing the inevitable end where Zatanna would make Selina forget her child; instead, what was most surprising here was that Selina ultimately retains her memories of Helena, even as Pfeifer writes the child out of the series. It's a small revelation in what was, in my opinion, kind of a silly path to take the Catwoman character down, but at least it means Pfeifer's run impacts the Catwoman mythos instead of being retconned away.

Indeed, Pfeifer offers a number of gripping scenes here that are quite reminiscent of Ed Brubaker's crime noir run on the Catwoman series. The villains Hammer and Sickle are shockingly violent, and I worried for both Helena and supporting character Karon during their rampage; Selina's fight with the Bana Amazon after the Bana tries to murder Helena is similarly gripping. If anything, Pfeifer's Catwoman plots are perhaps a bit too Brubaker-esque; every villain attacks Selina in her home, and every villain threatens Selina's child, with too much regularity, toward the inevitable conclusion.

Batman plays a larger part in this trade than in the two of Pfeifer's previously, and Pfeifer writes Bruce and Selina's relationship remarkably well. The introduction of Helena brings out the "knight" in the Dark Knight, and under Pfeifer's auspecies it's easy to see how Batman and Catwoman could love one another, both in costume and out. It's impossible to reconcile Batman's acceptance of Catwoman murdering Black Mask with his outrage over Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord, but for the purposes of this story, it works. I'm curious to see if Pfeifer will revisit the issue of Selina giving up Helena for adoption in another scene with Batman; I wonder if his role in it will ultimately cause tension between the two.

Pfeifer's portrayal of Selina Kyle remains quite cogent, and it would probably rank as the best Catwoman's been in years if it weren't for Ed Brubaker's stellar run before. It bears mentioning also that Pfeifer, David Lopez, and Alvaro Lopez have worked on every issue of all the Pfeifer-Catwoman trades, a rare thing these days. David Lopez's art, as with Fallen Angel, is a fantastic mix of the cartoony and the real, and I hope to continue to see him on projects as we go.

[Contains full covers]

Well, Holly Robinson's departure in this volume of Catwoman puts us just in the right place for ... Countdown! Join us next time for the first part of the build up to Final Crisis.
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