The more I think about this comic, the less I like it. Upon first reading Catwoman #1, my initial impression was that, though I didn’t know what to make of the ending (yes, that ending, more on that later), this was a pretty fun, if lightweight first issue. I had plenty of complimentary things I was going to say about it. But once I got round to revisiting the issue, and trying to gather my thoughts to review it, I suddenly found it harder to focus in on what those good elements actually were.
The biggest positive that springs to mind is the art of Guillem March. My previous encounter with March’s work was on Gotham City Sirens, which I ended up dropping after a single issue because I thought the goofy cheesecake art was rather off-putting. Returning to March now, on Catwoman, I can confirm that he’s still drawing goofy cheesecake. But this is some of the most gorgeous goofy cheesecake you’ll ever see. As a penciller, March brings some exciting, energetic layouts to the page, but it’s an inker where he really seems to have elevated his game. The textures on Catwoman’s costume are beutifully rendered, making Catwoman leap off the page in a manner not too unlike J.H. Williams III achieved last week with Batwoman. Further punch is given to the visuals through Tomeu Morey slick colors. If you can live with the nip slips, gratuitous butt shots and upskirt angles, this is a great looking book.
Even the writing is largely decent, if unremarkable. Judd Winick sometimes seems a bit over-eager to hammer home that Selina Kyle is oh-so sexually liberated and free-spirited, but in her relationship with fence Lola and in hinted glimpses of a traumatic past, we get some promising hints of an actual character behind the titillating facade. And the plot zips along at a pace too brisk to allow for much boredom.
All in all, Catwoman #1 is – for the most part – a fairly solid debut, and a perfectly readable middle-of-the-range title amongst DC’s New 52 thus far. But then that ending comes along and just about scuppers the whole thing. I wondered if I was being a bit harsh on this ending, if I was being caught up in the controversy, so I went back and reread it. No, it’s as bad as I remember. Spoilers ahead!
Let’s set the scene. Catwoman returns home to her apartment in the aftermath of her first issue’s adventure. Batman is waiting for her. In most comics, this would be the moment where Batman and Catwoman trade barbs, and the sexual tension hangs thick in the air. But here, Batman barely gets out a sentence before Catwoman kisses him. Fair enough, they’ve kissed before in the comics. He half-heartedly tries to push her away, but our Selina has evidently gone to the “no means yes” school of romance, and so she tackles Batman to the ground and starts hauling his clothes off. Batman gives in to the consensual rape, and two of your cherished childhood icons start fucking. And I’m not even talking about a tastefully done, artistic blockbuster sex scene. I mean a clumsy Cinema Verite fumble, with our costumed lovers ripping at clothes and stumbling over each other.
Now, I’m hardly a prude when it comes to sexual content in comics. And I don’t object to the idea that Batman and Catwoman are lovers, and have indeed hooked up many times. But there’s so much more power in allusion and the well-timed fade out. I mean, in a typical encounter, you might have Batman chasing Catwoman over the rooftops of Gotham, ostensibly trying to stop her latest act of theft. He’ll catch up to her eventually, they’ll fight, and when locked up, they might begin to kiss. You get the conflict between the passion they feel for each other and the fact that these characters are on opposite sides of the law.
Here, in Catwoman #1, it’s just Bruce showing up at Selina’s apartment for a hook-up. It puts Batman in the kind of real-world situation where he starts to look silly. In the closing image, as Selina sits straddling him, he has his tights rolled down to his knees, all creased up, like he’d pulled them down around his legs to sit on the toilet and do a poo. Not the most flattering angle to depict the Dark Knight. Oh, and we find out he’s a premature ejaculator – “it doesn’t take long…” Catwoman purs in between thrusts. It’s not often you feel embarrassed for a fictional character, but this could very well be an example of it.
The next issue promises we’ll see “The Morning After”, but I’m not sure if I’ll be hanging around for it. I was on the fence as regards reading Catwoman past the first issue as it was, but the ending might have pushed me off. It’s a shame. Perhaps it’s not rational or fair, but in spite of some good work done by Winick and March, this shows that all it takes is one poorly-executed scene to leave a bad taste in the mouths of readers and a negative overall impression of a comic.