SYNOPSIS: “Nine Lives” part one. The Catwoman we know has vanished. Selina Kyle is gone. She’s no longer Gotham’s fugitive — she’s its ghost. After the events of “The Gotham War,” Selina leaves the city a forever-changed woman with a plan: nine deadly missions, each one set aside for their certain lethality-only possible for a cat with nine lives.
“Bold, new direction…”
“Everything will change!”
“Nothing will ever be the same!”
If you’ve ever read comic solicits or “NEXT ISSUE” boxes, I’m sure you’ve heard the above hyperbole before.
This issue warrants it, living up to the hype.
Writer Tini Howard is joined by artist Stefano Raffaele as Selena starts her new life (lives?) outside of Gotham, wasting no time putting her in unfamiliar environments, specifically Medellin, Colombia.
Catwoman, resplendent in her old, purple ‘90s outfit, is already tangling with a new villain, Santa Espada, aka “Our Lady of the Sword”. There’s a lot of energy to this opening sequence, while at the same time quickly establishing this new setting, right before heading back to the past to let us know how Selena wound up in this predicament.
Remember that whole Gotham War and Catwoman falling to her death fighting Vandal Savage’s forces? Well, seems like she did die, but through chance has been resurrected by the forces Vandal was trying to obtain.
There are some shades of Batman Returns here as Selena gets brought back to life, and then surrounded and mauled by cats. She later finds nine claw-like scars on her back…with one already filled in. Basically, like her namesake, Catwoman now has nine lives, with one already spent.
Selina stops by and talks things over with Eiko, asking her to be Catwoman in Gotham while she is gone. Outside of Eiko, Selena says goodbye to Batman, embarking on a mission to reunite Duchess the cat with her prior owner.
It’s here that the motivations get a little complicated, but I was very impressed by how not only did Howard bring in various elements from her run, but wove in past plotlines as well (“Heart of Hush”, anyone?), tying them together to embark on a new narrative. This is not the direction I thought the death of Valmont would take, but I am willing to go along for the ride as Selena becomes more daring and possibly more heroic.
Now, I’ll admit, I looked at this premise with a little side-eye at first. Does Catwoman need a supernatural element? Does she need to become a metahuman? My knee-jerk reaction is “no”, but with limited resurrection being her sole attribute, it’s easy to overlook it a bit. It’s not like she is growing claws and imbued with super-strength. And in this genre where countless heroes and villains have died, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to try this with Selina, especially with the aforementioned Batman Returns as precedent.
Raffaele, a veteran of GCPD: The Blue Wall and Knight Terrors: The Joker continues to make a big splash with his artwork. So much of the page layouts favor a cinematic, narrow aspect ratio, adding a movie-like quality to the work. He keeps the focus on the characters, particularly the eyes, drawing you into Selina while at the same time drawing parallels to the feline aspects of the story. I found his style breathtaking, with a great sense of pace to the action beats.
I’ve been restless on this book lately, but this issue has reinvigorated my anticipation for the title. Catwoman’s limited immortality may be too far of a stretch for some, but given that it stems from the recent Vandal Savage story, and that Batman’s world is already full of similar resurrections, like the al Ghul family, it doesn’t feel out of place. Catwoman can still die and be injured, but the premise allows the reader to have some fun along the way as she places herself in even greater peril and danger than she wouldn’t have tried before. Paired with some captivating art, I was engrossed with this entire issue and sad that the ride had to end. More of this, please! – Javier E. Trujillo