Review: Catwoman Vol. 3: Friend or Foe? trade paperback (DC Comics)


It feels like there's a good Catwoman story somewhere within Joelle Jones' Catwoman Vol. 3: Friend or Foe? and the volumes that lead up to it, but this book is pulling in so many different directions that it's tough to find it. What's a cogent crime noir plot, even tying well into the Year of the Villain event, is often derailed by nonsequitors or irrelevant action sequences; a lot of what shows promise in the beginning comes to naught by the end.

Friend or Foe? feels like a conclusion because it is — these issues mark Jones' last on the series — but without Jones getting to tie up all her loose threads. The book continues, with issues promised at least to tie in to the upcoming "Joker War" storyline, but I wonder if this title will continue much after that.

[Review contains spoilers]

The book starts promisingly with Catwoman taking a dip in a Lazarus Pit, lead there by Lex Luthor via Year of the Villain, all part of Selina trying to stop the mad Raina Creel and save her new adopted city of Villa Hermosa. Leaving aside any established information about Lazarus Pits, the pool produces a seemingly powered-up Catwoman clad in a take on one of her earliest costumes. Continuing to seek Creel, Selina then solicits the help of one Zatanna Zatara.

So far, one might say, so good. We've got a Catwoman perhaps getting in touch with her criminal past — which might mean, for this continuity, getting the audience in touch with her criminal past. We've got Zatanna, who makes an interesting team-up for Catwoman given their pointy-eared paramour in common and some alt-continuity (or is it?) adventures they'd shared.

But the trouble signs are there already — the first issue stalls for a while on Selina beating up some of Creel's goons for information, though just as quickly in the second issue Selina's seeking out Zatanna because apparently the goons didn't give Selina anything. No sooner does Selina finally sit down with Zatanna in the third issue than a club full of men attacks them — really it is never clear why — and then Zatanna magics up a rabbit's foot and sends Selina on her way.

That rabbit's foot reoccurs, though in the most mild way possible, hardly as integral to the story as the whole dedicated issue makes it out to be. Neither does Selina's swim in the Lazarus Pit ultimately seem to have any effect good or ill; if it gives her some increased strength in the beginning, it's never remarked upon again. Despite that Jones' new Catwoman costume received a lot of fanfare at this series' start, Selina goes from the Lazarus Pit costume to another no-frills costume and then eventually back to her Ed Brubaker-era costume for the conclusion; perhaps this goes along with the decision Selina ultimately makes to return to Gotham, but it seems a strange repudiation of Jones' contributions right at this story's key moment.

All of which is to say, at its very core of Catwoman battling Raina Creel, Jones does a fine job, but when the book tries to deviate from that, it doesn't seem able to deliver. Wizened, grotesque Creel has been a great villain, her lust for beauty and power — irrespective of who gets hurt — making her a good foil for Catwoman, and Creel's often gory actions have been well-illustrated by Jones and Fernando Blanco. This has been, as I've mentioned before, something of a horror book by way of Catwoman and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that, again, often this book seems to be padding its issues with action sequences in service of Year of the Villain and/or the Batman title, and when it deviates from the Creel plot, it's too obvious that the book's just spinning its wheels.

I'm a sucker, of course, for these Year of the Villain tie-ins; the Catwoman one, at least, uses Lex Luthor's "offer" a lot more than some other titles, and I enjoy seeing Lex and Selina banter, both being kind of "anti-villains." The "Doom sigil" that's started appearing in the sky in a bunch of titles is essentially the equivalent of Crisis on Infinite Earths' red skies, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing — and Jones' title is one of a few that could have better explained that the sigil was causing the general populace to go crazy — but still it's fun that what's happening in Catwoman is also taking place in Nightwing, etc.

I was at first annoyed that Jones seemed to suggest Selina and Zatanna knew each other and that Zatanna owed Selina a favor — not that they couldn't, but in Rebirth's often nonsensical continuity, the simpler route might have been that this was just their first meeting. But in the end when Selina gets around to pressing Zatanna on why she owes Selina, Zatanna demures — and that suggests that their past encounters, when Zatanna wiped Selina's mind circa Identity Crisis, remains in continuity.

Further, in Catwoman Dies, Selina had a baby, placed it for adoption, and then asked Zatanna to wipe her memory again, though Zatanna refused. We never heard about that child again and one assumed it was the kind of ill-considered plot that went away with Flashpoint and never came back — however, now the audience can wonder if maybe Zatanna did make everyone forget it after all. I have no expectation, especially with Jones leaving the title, that we'll hear any more about this, but it's so much better that Jones suggests some tie to an earlier alt-continuity story than just imagines some event from the ether.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Catwoman Vol. 3: Friend or Foe?



So, as has been my feeling for all of Joelle Jones' books in this series, Catwoman Vol. 3: Friend or Foe? is good enough (just one scene where Selina starts sobbing felt out of character). This largely seems a situation where various extra-title events — including the un-wedding that started it all — derailed a title that otherwise might've gone better. The whole status quo for the Bat-titles is in flux right now, not in the least that the Batman/Catwoman series that this book ostensibly would have lead in to seems at best delayed and at worst out of continuity. My fervent hope is that DC doesn't keep this Catwoman title going if no one has a clear direction for it, but rather that they cancel it before a "good enough" Catwoman series turns bad, which they often have a tendency to do.

[Includes original and variant covers, line art]

Comments ( 2 )

  1. I guess we're skipping issues 14-15 for now? I'm assuming they'll be in Vol. 4 but that sure will be an awkward read.

    1. Oops, thanks for pointing that out. Yes, Vol. 2 was #7-13 and Vol. 3 is #16-21, so they did skip issues #14-15 by guest writer Ram V. Maybe they can shunt those to the end of Vol. 4 like they did for a recent Harley Quinn volume to show them as separate from the main story.

      But those were Year of the Villain (branded) issues! I'm surprised DC didn't collect them. I'd still like to see a collection of the Year of the Villain specials, Lex Luthor and Sinestro and etc. (the Black Mask one is in the Batman: Arkham: Black Mask collection). If DC did that, they could put the Catwoman ones in there.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post