Review: Catwoman: Crime Pays trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 20, 2009

I've come to realize in thinking over Will Pfeifer's Catwoman: Crime Pays that what I've been expecting isn't exactly what Pfeifer's delivering. Whereas your average Teen Titans storyline, for instance, is a six-part tale where every chapter builds on the next with a conclusion that ties up threads from the beginning, Pfeifer's story is more of a picaresque, moving Catwoman from escapade to escapade often with no real tie between them.

This manner of storytelling is largely annoying for a trade reader, because instead of anything much really happening in the story, it often just feels like Pfeifer's wasting time. If it were not for the fact that Pfeifer writes a really nuanced, respectful Catwoman character, and artist David Lopez, I might not bother, but it's apparent on every page that these two know what they're doing (even if the reader doesn't always).

For instance, Crime Pays starts out with Catwoman on the trail of a master thief who's stolen all her belongings, including her own bed while she was sleeping on it. (How? We never find out.) Because she doesn't have a costume, Catwoman robs a billionaire with a collection of villain memorabilia (we never see said billionaire again). Catwoman goes to apprehend the thief, but is whisked away to the Salvation Run planet (we never see or hear from said thief again). Catwoman only briefly interacts with other villains on the planet before whisked off to an alternate reality story (which factors on the main story, in the end, not even a little).

It's disjointed, to be sure. And lest I paint with too broad a brush, Pfeifer is using many of these events to explore Catwoman's broken inner psyche after giving up her daughter, something Pfeifer does quite well. It also couldn't be terribly easy for the writer to fit in his own storylines between Amazons Attack and Salvation Run. But both the "costume stealing" storyline and the "alternate reality" storylines especially feel like softballs -- issues to fill space rather than ones with real bearing on the Catwoman story overall.

Catwoman ends with the next trade. In my opinion, this has been one of the all-time greatest character reimaginings; if you consider the purple-costumed Chuck Dixon/Bronwyn Carlton series that preceded this (which had, at some point, Catwoman fighting in the showers of a women's prison), the crime-noir, sensibly-costumed run that began with Ed Brubaker and ends with Will Pfeifer was nothing short of brilliant. Pfeifer's putting Catwoman talking about alternate realities and multiple earths signals to me it's time to bring the story to a close, but hopefully DC Comics will keep the character much as is. Co-feature, anyone?

[Contains full covers, "What Came Before" page]

We'll finish up Catwoman next time, and then on to some Jack Kirby Fourth World goodness.
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