Review: Catwoman: Election Night #1 (DC Comics)

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I guess in notable election cycles there's a certain amount of "printing money" in DC Comics releasing an election-themed comic, with the potential for sales just in the spirit of the season. There must be something to it, because eight years ago, DC Universe: Decisions was ultimately much maligned (I waited for a trade that never manifested) and now DC's given it another shot with Catwoman: Election Night, albeit just a one-shot instead of a four-issue miniseries.

[Review contains spoilers]

Meredith Finch's Election Night doesn't fare much better, with a thin plot and the book's "mystery" villain revealing themselves with a slip-up reminiscent of an episode of Scooby-Doo. About the best part of the book's main story is a single page in which Finch succeeds in writing Gotham mayoral candidate Penguin's dialogue with Donald Trump-style diction. That's the beginning and end of the main story's satire, however, and otherwise the story really has little do with voting (including the fact that neither of the book's candidates are elected); to that end it's hard to pinpoint whether Finch means to lambast or inspire here or something else entirely.

As a trade-waiter who hasn't broached the Rebirth books yet, I did get a little thrill seeing Batman cameo in his new costume here; I'm not sure why I wouldn't have thought this book's characters would be on model, but I was happy they were. Shane Davis also draws well a Catwoman with big mask-eyes reminiscent of the animated The Batman, and with her costume logically all zipped up, to boot.

But satisfactory art can't help the plot; the "secret identity" of Penguin's rival candidate Constance Hill is obvious from Hill's first appearance, and there's no irony or twist to the equally-obvious "revelation" about Hill in the end. Particularly poor is when Hill outs herself as a murderer on live television with a slip of the tongue, underscoring the story's real lack of danger or even formidable criminals. Penguin ends up in jail at the end of this story, too, for buying land at low prices after stating he might build a wall there if elected, which is at best a shady move but not, I don't think, actually criminal behavior of the kind that would get you tied up by Batman.

Granted Finch's mandate here is not to tell a story that's very long nor has any grounds to be followed up upon later. But given that the Gotham television series just did effectively in an episode or two Penguin's successful run for mayor (with not a little help from new-ship Nygma), it's unfortunate more couldn't have been done with this in the comics. (Equally, given comics' tendency to conform at least a little to whatever television versions of the time, it's surprising that comics' Penguin remains the older, portly version of himself, and especially in an election-themed one-shot that's likely to grab the attention of more than just the regular comics-going audience.)

Comics-wise, probably the real draw of Election Night is the twelve-page Prez story by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell, a poor substitute for an entire other miniseries to follow Prez Vol. 1 but enjoyable nonetheless. But whereas Finch's story is overt, the compression of Russell and Caldwell's story sometimes makes it tough to know what's going on. The opening gun violence scene is particularly inscrutable, seemingly without bullet trajectories to know who's shooting whom. The story's final birth control gag is in the right corner of the very last panel and turned on its side, proving the "blink and you'll miss it" truism.

Depending how much a Prez fan you are will determine if twelve pages is worth it for $4.99; DC might otherwise just put those pages online for free or reissue the trade with those included. The Catwoman story in Catwoman: Election Night is not offensively bad, but exceptionally on the nose; maybe eight years from now the next iteration of this will be better.
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2 comments:

  1. I'm still very much annoyed that we won't get a second Prez mini, but Russell is doing an excellent job on The Flintstones, which sort of works as a substitute. He's the best satirist in comics right now.

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    1. Astounded, as I'm sure we all are, by how often I'm hearing good things about a Flintstones comic. Slowly creeping up my "need to read" list.

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