Batman Comic Book Reviews for 6/3/20: CATWOMAN #22, CATWOMAN 80th Anniversary, BATMAN/SUPERMAN #9

This Week: CATWOMAN #22, BATMAN/SUPERMAN #9, and CATWOMAN 80th Anniversary

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CATWOMAN #22 by John Funderburg

Getting cleaned out never felt so dirty!

Catwoman is on the tail of GET DIRTY, a cleaning service run by two sultry women, the “Dust Bunnies,” who use their *ahem* “services” as a cover for thieving.  When the situation gets out of hand, Catwoman decides to shut them down for good.  But they won’t go down without a fight!  Will they clean Catowman’s clock?  Or will Selina wipe the floor with them?  None can tell, but there will be cleaning puns along the way!

By the time you’re reading this, it will have been nearly three months since the last issue of Catwoman hit comic book shelves.

And frankly, this is the Catwoman we need right now.

This is fluff stuff, even goofy at times, but honestly, I didn’t mind it at all!  One of the things that differentiates this book from the last few helmed by Jöelle Jones is its fun factor.  This is a standalone, simple caper story – nothing deep, profound, or revolutionary happening here.  It is a pleasant palate cleanser from the rather dour storyline that Jones wrapped up previously.

Paula Sevenbergen is the scribe of this merry, provocative ride, Aneke is on art duty (doing a pretty decent Jöelle Jones impression without getting too clear-cut), and the brilliant Laura Allred fills the world with glamorous, flashy color.

I enjoyed this one.  If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up and want to throw a few extra dollars to your local comic shop, be sure to grab it.  Like I said – it’s the Catwoman that we need right now.  We need something silly, something light-hearted, something with splash, pizzazz, and humor.  It couldn’t have come at a better time. – John Funderburg

GRADE: A-


Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular Review by John Funderburg

Comics are finally starting to hit the shelves again!  This is a time to get excited, especially if you are a Catwoman fan.  Catwoman #22 is also out today (and it is a joyous ride), but the BIG news is this BIG, 100-page, 80th Anniversary Super Spectacular from DC Comics, celebrating the life and times of our favorite feline anti-hero!

Some noteworthy names contributed to this book (Tom King, Ed Brubaker, Chuck Dixon, Mikel Janín, and Kelley Jones just to name a few), and it is broken up into ten brand new stories.  I think nine stories would have been more appropriate (though perhaps too on-the-nose), but hey, I’m not going to complain at getting ten!

Between each story, you’ll find a nifty pin-up illustration and a retro time capsule page enshrining Catwoman in each of the decades she’s lived in since her creation.  I gotta say – I loved the addition of these time capsule pages.  It’s something simple, but it added a particular weight and reverence for the character.

Without giving away too much, here’s a rundown of each of the stories you’ll find in this monster issue:

“Skin the Cat”

The great Paul Dini opens the issue with a showdown between Catwoman and a nefarious ne’er-do-well called “The Taxidermist,” who has a penchant for killing big cats (an obligatory salute to Joe Exotic) and posing them in elaborate displays.  Will Catwoman be the centerpiece of his latest diorama?  This is a rousing, playful story – an excellent beginning to this book.   Art by Emanuele Lupacchino (pencils), Mick Gray (inks), and Laura Allred (colors).

“Now You See Me”

Selina tries to trap a dirty cop by planting some goods in a rooftop bird sanctuary.  This one is a bit of a snore.  Catwoman’s suit of black leather and white stitching a la Batman Returns is the only thing worth tuning in for.  Written by Ann Nocenti, art by Robson Rocha (pencils), Daniel Henriques (inks), and Alejandro Sanchez (colors).

“Helena”

I have a gut feeling that a lot of folks are looking forward to this particular story.  If you’ve been missing Tom King’s run on Batman and can’t wait until his Bat/Cat book comes out, this story is for you, my friend.  Bruce and Selina find out that a surprising result of their love will be arriving in about nine months.  Selina spends these pages struggling with the fear of her impending motherhood, and there’s plenty of classic Tom King Bat and Cat dialogue along the way.  King’s words are accompanied by Mikel Janín’s flawless artwork (he draws my favorite Bruce and Selina).  Colors are by Jordie Bellaire.  If, like me, you’re looking for something to whet your appetite for more Tom King Batman, consider yourself… uh, whet.  This story alone is worth the price of admission.

“The Catwoman of Earth”

Leaping from your 1960’s TV screen and onto the page of today is a very Julie Newmar-esque Catwoman!  Professor Overbeck is hosting the Annual Gotham City Science Fair.  Little does he know that the proceedings are to be crashed by aliens from the planet Oobysku!  These narcissistic (and rather misogynistic) group of aliens have arrived to subjugate humanity – but they’ll have to go through Catwoman first!  This is one of my favorite stories in the book.  It’s fun, colorful, and gloriously campy.  Writer Jeff Parker nails the tongue-in-cheek nature of the 60’s show, and the artwork and colors by Jonathan Case are positively to die for – this story is a joy to look at.

“A Cat of Nine Tales”

Writer and artist Liam Sharp conjures up the next story – a quick and clever story centered on Selina’s interactions with a security guard at the open door of a massive vault.  Selina tells the guard that this particular incident will play out one of nine ways, regaling each to the guard in turn… but could there be a tenth option that Catwoman doesn’t see?  Sharp does a great job with this story – and it shows what can be done in a mere three pages.

“Little Bird”

The focal point of this story is a mezuzah that Selina’s childhood caretaker had that has come in and out of Selina’s possession over the years.  The precious Jewish scroll is unique and highly valuable, a token of her childhood that causes Selina to recall a time when her caretaker had tried to set Selina on a better path.  This is one of the stories that didn’t really do much for me.  We get a glimpse of the Selina that looks an awful lot like the one from Frank Miller’s Year One, which is neat, but other than that, it didn’t draw me in.  Written by Mindy Newell, art by Lee Garbett and colors by Alex Sinclair.

“Born to Kiln”

Chuck Dixon is the writer.  Kelley Jones is the penciller.  What more could possibly you want to know?  Catwoman has slinked aboard a ship docked in Gotham’s harbor.  There’s supposed to be an eight-carat emerald aboard – and she wants it!  But someone may have beaten her to the punch.  The crew on board appear to be knocked out, or maybe even dead, and they’re covered it blobs of mud.  Or… could it be clay?  This is a darn entertaining, darn good-looking story.  Inks by Danny Miki and colors by Steve Oliff.

“Conventional Wisdom”

Selina finds herself at BatCon!  Her biggest fans, some of them even dressed up as Catwoman, want to take photos with her, she’s signing posters at a table alongside Bruce Wayne, The Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face… Later, she’ll attend a panel and take questions from folks that have been reading of her exploits in the comics for years.  But something is wrong.  Because this can’t be reality.  Something sinister is lurking beneath the surface of BatCon, and Selina is going to find out exactly what it is.  This was one of the stories that really surprised me and pulled me in.  It was engaging, unique, and fresh.  I was right along with Selina for the ride, wanting to know what exactly the truth was behind the trippy, unreal convention.  Written by Will Pfeifer, art by Pia Guerra and colors by John Kalisz.

“Addicted to Trouble”

Fresh off the heels of Catwoman #21, it’s a road trip story.  Selina and Maggie have turned their backs on Villa Hermosa and are headed back to Gotham!  Breakdowns, hitchhiking, and fisticuffs at the bar are in order for the scrappy Selina and her silent sister.  It’s a time of purging and catharsis for Catwoman.  She’s finally coming home.  Catwoman’s continued adventures in this storyline will continue in issue #25.  Written by Ram V, art by Fernando Blanco, and colors by FCO Plascencia.

“The Art of Picking a Lock”

Catwoman alumn Ed Brubaker is back to round this book off!  Selina is on the heels of gangers in clown masks that have something she wants… something locked in the trunk of a taxi.  While she pummels bad guys and races against time, Catwoman spins a yarn about her twelve-year-old self – kissing boys and attempting (sometimes futilely) to pick locks at the Sprang Hall Juvenile Detention Center.  This story by Brubaker is an absolute knockout and a perfect conclusion to this book.  Beautiful art, colors, and lettering by Cameron Stewart.

There you have it!  This 80th Anniversary tribute to Catwoman is a delight.  I loved this book; and it may be sacrilege to say, but I liked it even more than Detective Comics #1,000.  Not all of the stories were winners (two were kind of meh), but most of them are excellent, and the ones that hit REALLY HIT.

Right, I’ve blathered on enough for now, so I’ll boil it down for you: pick this one up. – John Funderburg

GRADE: A


BATMAN/SUPERMAN #9 by Garret Grev

Over the weekend I had plans for a dinner that I was really excited about. The recipe sounded delicious, the ingredients were all high quality and fresh, and I was going to be able to use some cast iron cookware that I had recently refinished. Everything seemed to be in order until I hit a couple of bumps in the cooking process and the end results didn’t quite meet my expectations. It was still a fine meal, and my family enjoyed it, but I was not nearly as pleased as I had hoped.

Batman/Superman #9 falls victim to a similar fate. The ingredients are all there, they just don’t come together the way you’d like them to.

The issue opens with a narration from Batman on Gotham’s citizens and their response to living under attack from Super-Villains and crime. He tells us that when the city goes through a major disaster people actually move TO Gotham to show how tough they are. It’s an odd way to open the issue, one that seems detached from the story unfolding (GCPD officers investigating a washed-up body and the arrival of Atomic Skull) as well as a bit unbelievable. I know we go into superhero comics with a mandatory suspension of disbelief, but seeing these otherworldly characters in action is typically accompanied by, and juxtaposed with, the concept of how their existence would impact a world where general people behave as real people generally would. The result is a dissonance between the reader and the story and one that doesn’t seem to really serve a purpose in the narrative to this point.

Joshua Williamson has handled the writing duties since the launch of this title and more often than not I think he has delivered a quality product. Williamson has a talent for creating intriguing stories that utilize the two titular characters well in exciting and action-packed adventures. Sometimes, he gets a little fuzzy on the execution of those ideas. The pieces just don’t quite fit the way you’d like. Beyond the intro, there are some odd bits of dialogue that seem to be pointed more toward the reader than anyone else on the page. Batman barks sentences designed to explain the plot more than interacting with Atomic Skull or the “police” and Ultra-Humanite has such a strong desire to explain his plan that a random police officer becomes a necessary sounding board.

The story is also held back by a need to explain where this arc fits in the broader DC continuity. The editor notes and forced dialogue throughout the issue get in the way of the story and it seems unnecessary for a team-up book that could easily exist as its own bit of storytelling more effectively. I don’t fault Williamson here as I’m sure it’s an editorial directive but it doesn’t add to the enjoyment of reading this particular story.

Now that I’m done complaining, let me tell you, I think this storyline could be pretty good.

The key to a team-up title like this is providing an engaging reason for these two heroes to interact. It’s cool to see Ultra-Humanite in a story and the set-up is there for Batman and Superman to work together to confront the challenges ahead. For every weak bit of dialogue, there is something that really works (Atomic Skull using some of his final moments to give Maggie Sawyer a message of thanks) and even with some clunky larger narrative reminders there is a pay off (Lois and a secret identity-less Superman having a fun interaction in view of the paparazzi.)

The artwork is solid. Clayton Henry crafts a Batman that is all kinetic energy and grimace while Superman is fluid, powerful, and emotive. Large panel layouts strike when the story needs them too and narrative flashbacks are handled well. It’s a very pretty book to look at.

Overall this is a decent entry into the series that gets in its own way as often as it gets stuff right. If you dig this team-up title then you won’t want to miss it but don’t be surprised if it isn’t as delicious a dish as you might want it to be. – Garret Grev

GRADE: B