Catwoman #4 // Review
The superhero genre focuses on the lives of extraordinary people. Every now and then, the heroes end up in the background as panel lands more squarely on those who are caught up in the lives of extraordinary people. This is the case with Catwoman #4. Writer/artist Joëlle Jones focuses the entire issue on Catwoman’s sister, Maggie. Both the costumed thief and her alter ego, Selina Kyle, have put her sister through a lot over the years. With the aid of artist Fernando Blanco, Jones moodily explores the drama of Selina’s past in relation to her sister.
At the end of the previous issue, Selina had gone in costume to visit a wheelchair-bound Maggie in a mental institution. A fractured network of flashbacks ensue in which readers are given glimpses into isolated moments in history that helped shape Selina into the Catwoman she has become. Of particular note is a Halloween in which a young Selina, in kids cat costume, saves another kid from a few bullies who had stolen his candy. Memory lane is cut short as mysterious man named Doctor Finick arrives to administer a hypodermic and some form of treatment to Selina’s troubled sister.
Jones tackles a bit of Selina’s past with a careful hand. Displayed here is Catwoman’s more vulnerable emotional side in moments leading up to the present. Her past presented here is not terribly interesting stuff, though. A juvenile Catwoman (Catgirl perhaps?) is staring down a bully, and the connection of the past to the present feels a bit too forced. The establishment of Maggie as a contrast to Selina could have been fascinating if the issue focussed a bit less on Catwoman. Maggie’s lived through a hell that readers see brief glimpses of, and now she’s a very broken person. It would have been a lot more interesting to see more of Maggie than Selina. It’s nice to have an issue center around Selina’s sister, but it’s too bad her sister wasn’t able to be just a bit more central to the story.
As with last issue, Jones shares the art with Fernando Blanco. Last issue had Blanco cover the cheerier end of an unreliable narrator’s lies to contrast against Jones’ darker, shadowy style. Here, Blanco is handling the art for all of the flashbacks from Selina’s youth. Blanco has been given a dark narrative to handle that isn’t nearly as much of a contrast as what he had been given last issue. The effect isn’t nearly as dynamic as it was previously. To make matters worse, Blanco handles darkness with a heavy pen--and it’s not stylishly heavy, like Mike Mignola’s signature style. Selina’s past as viewed here is thick and sketchy. In places, it feels like Blanco’s inking with a sharpie. There’s a look he’s going for that DOES have its own appeal, but it doesn’t work well with the story that Jones is telling. Blanco’s style as presented here would work really well on its own, but it feels sloppy when paired with her work.
It’s always nice to dive into a character’s past. As cheesy as it feels in places, the Catgirl mood actually kind of works. It’d be fun to dive into a juvenile Catwoman a bit more through Jones’ panels, but it feels like a rather strange departure from what the series has been thus far, though it’ll be interesting to see where Jones takes the narrative with Doctor Finick in the next issue.