Review: Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Ram V is a writer whose work I’ve been enjoying lately on Justice League Dark, though Justice League Dark and Catwoman are two different animals, so to speak. Still, I had felt the previous Catwoman run had stalled a bit by the end, so I was optimistic there was nowhere for V to go but up. Indeed Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat is fine, bringing the title right up to the Future State break; V more or less seems to have it under control and I’ve no hesitation about picking it up again when the title resumes.

Notably, however, Come Home is largely an anthology book, with V’s fill-in issues #14–15 from Joelle Jones' run, a one-off by Paula Sevenbergen, two by Blake Northcott and Sean Murphy, and then we get down to the regular story with four by Ram V, though even that includes some 25th-issue short stories. So on the whole I’d call Come Home entertaining, and most importantly the main story is a success, but it is a book that swings wildly in terms of story, setting, costumes, and so on as one might expect an anthology would. (All that and a Joker War tie-in issue!)

[Review contains spoilers]

In the main story, V and artist Fernando Blanco bring Catwoman Selina Kyle and her sister Maggie back to Gotham. V posits a new facet of Selina’s childhood, working as a thief in Gotham’s “Alleytown” under ringleader Mama Fortuna. Now Selina’s taken over Alleytown, knocking out the gangs there and taking Alleytown’s child thieves under her own wing. V’s tone is crime noir, evoking (and even mentioning) Ed Brubaker’s seminal Catwoman run, answering the question of whether V’s Catwoman would echo the supernatural of Justice League Dark or keep to the (better, more appropriate) tone of Brubaker and Jones. Blanco depicts Alleytown’s crowded concrete neighborhood of bridges and skyscrapers with dizzying detail, simultaneously grimy and beautiful to look at.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

I have mild pause about Selina becoming den mother to a group of street kids (especially with names like Skidmark and Shoes). This seems the kind of thing bound to become cutesy, or otherwise Selina will pal around with these kids for a while and then we’ll never see them again. If I understand correctly there’s a sidekick in Selina’s future, but like Wonder Woman’s brother or Selina’s own baby, this feels like a device that a writer can get some drama out of for a while but that’ll ultimately just be written out. I do actually have more faith in V than all that, but while I came away from Come Home enthusiastic about the Gotham crime tone, I’m more skeptical about the kids.

The two-parter by Blake Northcott and Sean Murphy is pretty wild, in that Catwoman goes up against a 1980s-style cocaine dealer (codename Snowflame, no less), with more explicit references to coke in two issues of DC comics than I would’ve ever have thought was allowed. Between the big shoulder pads and the “codpiece cannon,” Northcott and Murphy are obviously trying to be funny, and the whole thing is enjoyable as an over-the-top lark (were they the incoming Catwoman team I might have more concerns).

Really what threw me here was that at the story’s beginning, it seems very much like Selina is going to sunny “Isla Nevada” to investigate reports of a giant panther. As such, when Selina is accused of trying to pull a somewhat predictable heist, I thought as the reader we were supposed to understand that the heist represented what others believed to be Selina’s low motives, versus her actual semi-heroic nature. While the truth is mildly more complicated, ultimately Selina is in Isla Nevada to pull a self-serving heist and knew nothing about the panther, and this back-and-forth had me flipping around a bit to reestablish what was going on.

V’s initial two-parter in this book, with artist Mirka Andolfo, is not as strong as his later story; it’s a blessing perhaps that DC shunted these earlier issues into a later V-focused book, else indeed they might have worried me about his run. “Hermosa Heat” is not specifically problematic so much as I found V’s “throw it all at the wall” approach to the story offputting; NoBody is here, a villain who’s very specifically supposed to be dead (killed by Damian Wayne), and the inclusion of Gentleman Ghost feels random (though I’m always happy to see Batman: The Animated Series transport Lock-Up). Two other moments seem off in the story — guests at a fancy party eat ortolan songbirds, with V’s dialogue hewing very close to Anthony Bourdain’s description of the same in his book Medium Raw; in the same scene, V offers a homage to Batman: Year One that’s recognizable but again doesn’t seem to have thematic purpose besides a random callback.

3.0

Rating

But in all what I take from Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat is that Ram V is off to a good start, and Fernando Blanco has some truly beautiful pages here (even stretching himself a bit in the watercolory dream sequences of Selina charming a tiger). That’s fine enough for this transition volume, and we’ll see where things go from here when this series returns.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs]

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Snowflame was a one off cocaine themed villain from New Guardians in the late 80s, when DC was trying a little too hard to be socially relevant. Linkara used him as a running joke on his comics show Atop the Fourth Wall

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    Replies
    1. Guess I didn't research far enough on that one. Still an outrageously astounding issue. Now I want to read the epic that must be a New Guardians collection.

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    2. Doubt they'd ever do a New Guardians collection but the Pride special mentions Extra├▒o being in it and he's from that series. Pretty sure he was the first openly gay character for DC and boy was he a really strong stereotype.

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    3. Yeah, I guess New Guardians is a long shot for exactly the reasons you mentioned, though I'd argue for its (comics) historical significance as an offshoot of the Millennium crossover.

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