CATWOMAN 2021 ANNUAL Review by John Funderburg

SYNOPSIS: Father Valley is a mystery. His unusual style as a hitman, his habit of keeping a bible designated for each of his targets, his macabre and particular method of elegant savagery, his insistence on waiting until his target has reached their highest point before he strikes them down-these are all strange and enigmatic traits that have remained unexplained…until now. Bear witness to Father Valley’s past with the Order of St. Dumas, and his unexpected connection with Azrael, to learn the method to of his madness. And see, once and for all, why Catwoman should be deathly afraid of being on his hit list.

Right up Father Valley’s Alley!

Boy, oh, boy.  This is the second issue in a row that feels like a major disruption to the overarching story Ram V’s been stitching together.  Last month we got about two pages that actually pushed the narrative forward, and though this month gives us more, the rest of the pages are filled with Father Valley’s disappointingly tedious backstory.

Also, we get to see Father Valley self-flagellate, so if you’re into ham-fisted clichés concerning religious zealots, that one’s right up your alley.

Last month, we were asked the question: “Who is Catwoman?”  This month, the question is: who is Father Valley?  Essentially, he was a pupil of Azrael’s who became full of rage when Azrael didn’t turn out to be the perfect father figure…so he left the Order of St. Dumas in order to dispense his own form of religious vengeance upon the world.

Since Father Valley emerged on the pages of Catwoman, I’ve been eager to hear more about who he is and where he came from.  Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.  I guess I had hoped that he’d have some sort of standalone narrative, something that was entirely his own, but instead, his history is intertwined with another popular DC character.  Father Valley’s backstory should have been powerful and absorbing – independent of anything (or anyone) else.  The fact that he is tied to Azrael (in my estimation) actually weakens the character, which was disheartening.

Catwoman alum Fernando Blanco is joined by two other artists this month — Kyle Hotz and Juan Ferreyra.  Even though there are three artists working, the book manages to not feel disjointed — Hotz and Ferreyra handle the flashback sequences and Blanco tackles everything happening presently in the story.  On the whole, this issue isn’t very exciting to look at (with the exception of a few pages showing Azrael taking some guys out with his flaming sword), but it’s serviceable.  David Baro did the colorwork, which is quite good overall.

All in all, this was a dissatisfying issue.  I’d almost rather that Father Valley’s history remained a mystery.  Here’s hoping Ram V puts this story back on track…and soon. – John Funderburg