SYNOPSIS: “Nine Lives” part two. Somewhere in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, a dance to the death is taking place. The setting? An accursed theater where no matter the play in question, the stakes are life and death, with a prize worth more than its weight in gold. And at the heart of it all stalks the devilishly deviant Flamingo and his latest costar-Catwoman! Can Selina Kyle glide her way through the performance of her lifetime, or will it be curtains for the amoral alley cat?!
With three lives down and six to go, Selena finds herself on the trail of The Flamingo in Croatia, trying to wrangle possession of the Idol of Bacchus from a criminal named The Producer, who was bequeathed the idol after Flamingo was presumed dead following the events of Catwoman #48.
Howard works in a recap of the new status quo well, with Raffaele repeating the image of Selena’s nine tally mark scars to emphasize how many lives she’s lost. With these new leases on life, Howard deftly gets us into Selena’s headspace on how she is going to spend them through the narration, with a wonderful noirish slant to the dialogue.
The plot has an air of mystery and intrigue, with a mystical jester taking the place of The Cat God from the last issue. Again, I’m still not minding this supernatural element that has been brought in. We still have no clear motivation for why this force has chosen Selena, but I like how she is going about using it.
The Theater of Death is suitably decrepit and creepy, but The Producer as a serious threat falls short to me. He just leers malevolently while Flamingo poses the real danger. As such, The Producer is more of a plot device than a character.
Similar to the last issue, I am just enamored with Raffaele’s art. There’s something about his linework that just clicks with my brain and compliments the character of Selena well. I love that the majority of his panels look like a frame clipped from a film. Most importantly, he does numerous close-ups focusing on the subject’s eyes. It enables the reader to feel more connected to the character and what they are feeling and I am along for the ride with Catwoman every step of the way!
Catwoman’s life “lost” was not terribly dramatic, but it felt like a throwback to an old serial cliffhanger. It was more typical of knocking a hero unconscious than a method of murder. Her final confrontation with Flamingo was a little more thrilling as it consisted of a high-speed getaway, making me wonder what is it with her and Flamingo and moving vehicles?
Overall, I found a lot of enjoyment with this issue. Some of it felt slightly undercooked, but I enjoyed the travelogue aspect of the story, seeing Catwoman experiencing cultures outside of Gotham once again. There’s a potent mix of mystery and action that keeps the narrative chugging along, with some lush art that adds to the excitement. There is a real zeal that Selena seems to have in this arc, adding to the enjoyment after she has been beating herself up over the death of Valmont. The new direction is definitely clicking with me! – Javier E. Trujillo