Catwoman – The Ed Brubaker Trades (Dark End Of The Street, Relentless, Crooked Little Town, Wild Ride)
To say that I’ve never been a Catwoman fan is an understatement. The character has always represented the worst of DC’s silly excesses to me. So why the hell do I own 9 Catwoman trade paperbacks? Two words: Ed Brubaker. The man has a gift for great crime stories, and since Catwoman is supposed to be a great criminal, it makes perfect sense that him writing the book would be a perfect fit. And it is.
Brubaker’s Catwoman is a “small c” crimefighter. It’s mostly gangs and mob bosses for her. But Brubaker builds a great supporting cast for Selena Kyle, and between them and the choice of Black Mask as lead villain, it’s a pretty great little series. Extra points go to Darwyn Cooke, Javier Pulido, and Cameron Stewart for some great pencil work.
One thing that I HATE about superhero comics is the constantly changing creative teams. You love a book, get used to the look and feel, and bang! They’re gone, and some no-name rookie is in there making your much loved book a dark and gritty deconstruction of the superhero genre that nobody asked for. So as you can imagine I wasn’t too inclined to give Will Pfeiffer a shot when he took over Catwoman for the much vaunted Ed Brubaker. But I did, and I’m glad. Sort of.
Although Pfeiffer injected a bunch of nasty into the book with some great new villains, specifically the Film Freak, he also delved into serious melodrama, with a “who’s the baby daddy” storyline that wouldn’t have been out of place on Guiding Light. Worse than that, the actual pay off to that storyline satisfied NO ONE, and only alienated fans that had been patient enough to give it a shot. Although Pfeiffer’s run started strong, it eventually got roped into the regular DCU shenanigans (And by shenanigans, I mean she went to outer space. Seriously.), and pretty soon any of the charm that the book had had was gone.
First two trades: KEEP. Last two trades: CULL.
Catwoman – When In Rome.
This was essentially the epilogue to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s much loved Batman Long Halloween/Dark Victory mini series. It takes place between the two series, and it shows a young Catwoman traveling to Italy to find out if a big time Gotham gangster was actually her father.
Jeph Loeb is many things, and some of those things are good. But subtle ain’t one of them, and he pretty much mucks this one up right from the beginning. Loeb’s Catwoman is nothing but a cheap vamp, and while that may make sense if she’s flirting with Batman, it loses it’s charm when she’s on a personal mission. Not to mention the lack of anything much like a real plot. The only thing that saves this is Tim Sale’s art. Even though the story is utterly dispensable, Sale produces some of the best artwork of his career. Absolutely stunning work on this one.
KEEP. Just barely.
Challengers Of The Unknown – Challengers Of The Unknown Must Die!
Yep, it’s another Loeb/Sale collaboration. In fact, it’s their first, from 1991. As such, it’s extremely unpolished in places, and it’s obvious that the two future superstars are still feeling their way around the medium. The Challengers are a fairly obscure DC group that is most famous for being the characters that Jack Kirby ripped off when he created the Fantastic Four. I suppose it’s ok since he created the Challengers too. Talented bastard. The Challs are one of those groups that most long term DC fans know, but don’t really care about, and they are rarely used in continuity today. So Loeb and Sale had free reign to do pretty much anything they wanted. It’s an interesting, though uneven attempt, and a decent story about some of DC’s more obscure heroes. There’s quite a bit to like here, though I think ultimately it’s about two issues too long.
Next up: Checkmate to Deadman. Yes, he’s dead, and yes, DC is often a little too “on- the- nose” when naming their characters.