Overview: In Catwoman #52, Selina continues to claw her way up the food chain in prison as Eiko and Dario make plans for Gotham’s crime families.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Catwoman #52 begins with Eiko Hasigawa, leader of the Yakuza in Gotham, and current Catwoman now that Selina’s doing a bit of time for killing her lover Valmont, teaching Dario Tomasso, estranged scion of the Italian crime family in Gotham, how to drive. Badly. They get some drinks to prepare for their meeting with the other Four Families of Crime.
In jail, Selina meets with her lawyer, Ms. Ventura, who tries to convince her that Punchline killed Valmont, but Selina’s guilt refuses to let her take the out. Meanwhile, she makes many friends and influences people with the line of snack food from Eiko and Dario, and runs an “Advanced Thieves” course for a select group of women. She protects one of her girls and gets herself back in solitary (her “office,” as she calls it), and gets a note from Bruce tied to her cat, who crawls around the vents.
At the meeting, Eiko calls for Catwoman’s head to conceal her double life, blustering in an attempt to compete with Black Mask’s hold on the mob. Outside, Dario tases his ex-boyfriend Noah (who tried to kill him recently) and tells him he’s declaring war on him personally. Eiko comes out, and as they change into Catwoman and Tomcat, she tells him firmly he must only act violently as Tomcat, and they set out to disrupt the plans she noticed at the meeting.
Catwoman dreams of her sister Maggie and rereads Bruce’s note. She then sets the next part of her plan in motion, breaking out of solitary and meeting her select few (Linda, a Scarecrow henchwoman, Scorpiana, Vox, Lady Clayface, and Hoops) in the jail chapel, and teaches them “Advanced Combat.”
Analysis: Tini Howard’s “Selina in Prison” arc continues in Catwoman #52, as Eiko takes Selina’s place in trying to play the mob as Catwoman on the outside while Selina recovers emotionally and forms her own gang on the inside. Veteran artist Sami Basri continues on art, providing very appealing, assured, and mostly coherent storytelling and figure work. One odd exception to Basri’s coherency appears in Eiko’s meeting with the mob, where she throws one of her father’s shuriken at Black Mask but is holding it in the next panel – it’s possible that she’s meant to have more than one, but not well communicated. On the whole, however, Basri and colorist Veronica Gandini do a very solid job on the art, not relying too heavily on coloring and CGI finishes to fill out weak and underbaked linework as the first part of this run too often did.
Howard’s writing has some distinct upsides in Catwoman #52 – Selina’s connection to Bruce is underlined three times – a tad redundantly, but it’s nice seeing Howard drawing heavily on the romance between the two, even if she does lean extremely hard on “Bruce won’t tell Selina directly what to do because he respects her, but he still tells her what to do in subtext” in their communication. It’s nice seeing Howard actually develop Selina’s fellow prisoners and Selina’s plan, though why we’re supposed to root for Selina and her select women who prey on the other inmates is unclear, as is how Selina actually does any of the things she’s doing, like breaking out of solitary and gathering all her women together in the chapel. The connections with the Punchline book through Selina’s determined lawyer continue to remind the reader of the gigantic disruption in issue #50 from the semi-crossover between this book and the Punchline miniseries that Howard is co-writing.
While Selina’s plotline is definitely on the upswing from the last several issues, Eiko has picked up the idiot ball that Selina dropped when she went to jail, sadly. Her plan to compete with Black Mask is to bluff and bluster, sneak looks at the plans of the mob, then go directly to disrupt them as Catwoman, giving Roman Sionis even more ammunition against her as Catwoman’s creature – which she is, even if she’s a lot more direct about it than Sionis may think. Dario also picks up his share of the idiot ball in confronting his ex-lover Noah in public and as himself, though it’s nice to see Eiko taking a harder line with him (even if the way she does it is cringe-inducingly badly written in dialogue, both in the driving instructor and Catwoman and Tomcat scenes). All in all, though more positives stand out than in many past issues of Howard’s run, the negatives still continue to render it overall a difficult reading experience.
David Nakayama continues his run as the main cover artist with an extremely shiny (and extremely skin-tight) costumed Eiko Hasigawa (who also gets title credit in the trade dress, interestingly). Original main interiors artist Nico Leon also continues his stint providing 1 in 25 incentive variants featuring his design sketches, this time for Tomcat (a deeply unfortunate name and costume, sadly). Sweeney Boo’s cardstock variant features a lovely if generic Catwoman (Selina) pouring milk for her cats in a perhaps provocatively bent-over posture. Rounding out the main covers, Joshua Swaby paints an oddly not playful Bat/Cat post-kissing pose, Selina’s lipstick on Bruce’s stoic face.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.
The “Selina in prison” arc continues, with Eiko taking more of the page time in badly handled “infiltrate the mob” scenes as Selina forms her own gang on the inside.