Sunday, July 3, 2016

'Catwoman: The Game' trade paperback review

Just as DC Comics has started its "Rebirth" continuity/reboot, here's a look at my review of the first six issues of the New 52-era CATWOMAN series. ...

Luckily for Batman fans, with DC Comics’ New 52 — the massive relaunch of its entire line of comics — there’s been very few significant changes in Gotham City or to the Batman continuity. 

Sure, Dick Grayson has returned to being Nightwing.

Barbara Gordon -- one of my 15 hottest hotties in DC and Marvel -- is out of her wheelchair and prowling the streets, kicking some serious tail as Batgirl.

Babs' dad has the red hair we first saw in the BATMAN: YEAR ONE era and everyone is a bit younger. But other than that, the continuity and characterizations in Batman's world haven’t changed. 

Then there’s Catwoman.

Selina Kyle is as feisty and unpredictable as ever. She still enjoys being desired and doesn’t mind being groped (just not by Russian mobsters).

But she’s also a bit less confident than we’ve seen her in the past. Selina is connecting with her past more than ever, even to the point of calling people her friends.

Catwoman’s even had sex with Batman — “again.”

The sex scene with Batman in issue 1 simply didn’t scandalize me like it did other fans. Issues from the late 1970s pretty much imply Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne were sexually active -- and if I remember correctly, there were scenes of them cuddling in bed -- so I'm not sure why seeing this now is a big shocker.

We also learn it’s Batman who has wiped Selina’s criminal record clean off police databases over the years. (Who knew the Dark Knight was such a softie, but could be so rough in the sack? And didn't that idea of wiping clean one's history come from "The Dark Knight Rises"?)

And once again, DC has reverted to Catwoman not knowing Batman’s secret identity.

All that’s fine with me. The change that bothers me is how vicious Selina can be.

As I wrote about Catwoman in Part 1 of my choice for the "hottest hotties in DC and Marvel," I prefer when Catwoman is "more flirtacious, dangerously playful and morally ambiguous (rather) than nasty and vengeful."

For heaven’s sake, in this story, Selina bit the ear off Reach, “a metahuman who fires anti-gravity beams from her hands.” What the …?!

Selina’s always been a bit emotionally cruel or cold. She’s never stepped away from a fight.

But she’s never been vicious; that’s just out of character. (I know; the New 52 writers are taking a so-called new approach to DC characters, but work with me!)

I can understand Selina being pissed off about the mob killing her long-time friend Lola, the woman who taught her how to fence stolen property. Even more so, Selina understandably is bothered that her impetuous thieving nature (this time, from that same Russian mob) “finally got someone killed.” 

This is the Selina Kyle I know and adore: The alluring, complicated woman who wants it both ways.

She cares, yet expect a fight out of her when she's been wronged. She wants to live by her own rules, but she won’t abide anyone hurting her friends or lovers or being cruel to animals.

But just a few pages earlier, she gouges Renald Ivanko’s face — that bothered me. (Even if “he’s supposed to be locked up” and Selina holds a grudge with Ivanko for shooting her friend at point-blank range in front of her when they were teens.)

So in issue 6, when Catwoman bites off Reach’s ear, that really bothered me. Not “my Selina Kyle,” certainly!

Other than that, I enjoy what Judd Winick (“Under the Red Hood”) is doing with Catwoman.

Here are several new things I like: 1) There’s no hiding that Selina and Batman have a sexual history, 2) she’s sharing more of her complicated, often traumatic past as it relates to her present circumstances, 3) Catwoman turns to her friends when she’s overwhelmed, making Selina more vulnerable and relatable and 4) her use of disguises.

Most especially, I’m digging how Winick creates scenarios in which Selina Kyle/Catwoman is a John McClain-type character: Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing quite says like that when Gotham police barge into Lola’s apartment and find Catwoman kneeling over Lola’s dead body while burning evidence (photos of their happier times together)!

Winick is also giving Selina a sense of humor — something I’ve never witnessed in three-plus decades of reading comics and one that, as I mentioned, makes her much more relatable.

Two examples of Catwoman's new sense of humor: “Her name is Lola. And she actually was a show girl.” On being face-to-face with a flirty Bruce Wayne at a club: “Wow. That is some look. I swear to god, it’s like a musk. A thousand thoughts run through me and various parts of my anatomy.”

Artist Guillem March does a fine job. Any professional artist can make Selina sexy; his is as voluptuous as the next guy’s.

What sets March’s characters apart are the expressions. In the matter of pages over one sequence, Selina’s eyes express shock in realizing the situation turned much worse to being so intense they could only belong to a psychopath. I also respect that March is doing his own inking.

CATWOMAN VOLUME 1: THE GAME is an enjoyable read.

For Catwoman fans, it’s either a must-read or a must-have. And I haven’t thought that of any of the feline fatale’s previous solo ongoing series.

Grade: B+

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