Overview: As Selina Kyle’s confrontation with Batman looms, she and her allies make a major move against Black Mask in Catwoman #56.
Synopsis (Spoilers ahead): Dario takes a shot in preparation, and Onyx passes Selina Kyle (Catwoman) a message from Eiko that the Yakuza will start their war tonight. Selina explains that her welfare program is funded by her gang of prison breakout thieves, and they are training poor children.
Selina predicts Black Mask’s (Roman Sionis) attack on the Trixie hotel, where all the mob’s women stay, and she plans to end the war tonight, saving some women and her cat Duchess from Mask’s RPG goons.
Eiko duels the Ibanesco mob boss with her katana, while Dario confronts his ex Noah at Gotham Catholic Academy for Boys, stabbing Noah in a knife fight.
Selina fights Black Mask hand to hand and is saved by her top trainee Marquise. Her team pulls up to steal all of Mask’s weapons, and she gives Black Mask his mask back, so he can become one of her thieves instead of a murderer for money.
Noah wakes up in the hospital with a breakup letter from Dario. Selina comforts Dario on a rooftop, and warns him that Batman isn’t going to like her plan to steal as much money as she wants from the wealthy and give it to the poor.
Analysis: Catwoman #56 marks the end of the “Rise and Revenge” six-part arc and the transition to the Gotham War crossover with Batman, which officially starts after “Knight Terrors” ends in September. This issue presents Tini Howard once again putting Black Mask on ice. While I understand that this time it’s somewhat out of her control, and perhaps the Punchline crossover was similarly forced upon her, she’s also done TWO nearly consecutive out-of-Gotham road trips where Selina just leaves Black Mask to do what he wants. She doesn’t really put her city in Eiko’s hands until she goes to jail, AFTER those two arcs. There’s a real frustration with Howard trying to convince the reader that Sionis is such a big threat when Selina seems to push the pause button on the remote whenever something else comes up – and not even something important. The final confrontation with Mask will almost certainly feel pretty weak, unless Howard carefully builds Mask back up as a serious threat.
Quite apart from the overall structural problems of the run, Howard also continues to have extremely wonky writing on a scene-to-scene level – when Selina defeats Mask in her duel, the transition to her gang stealing Black Mask’s stuff is absolutely bewildering, taking more than a page to figure out what is happening and where. Additionally, Howard’s action-beat writing pushes the suspension of disbelief pretty hard – Catwoman uses her whip to deflect RPG rounds in mid-air. Perhaps you could say that I wouldn’t have a problem if Batman did it – but honestly, the way it’s rendered, it just looks silly instead of cool.
Perhaps some of this storytelling incoherence can be put down to the dual art teams taking piecemeal portions of the art, veteran DC and Marvel artist Marcus To tag-teaming with Marco Santucci. Both To and Santucci are excellent, and their styles mesh reasonably well (much better than the recent Poison Ivy issue’s FOUR separate artists), but the effect could still account for the rough transitions. Veronica Gandini colors both art teams, making the tone of the book consistent, thankfully. DC has some absolutely phenomenal artwork going on across their books – Green Lantern, Superman: Lost, Action Comics, Superman, Batman, even Batgirls have had consistent single artist-per-issue efforts with really strong visual results. It baffles me why DC continues to pull this kind of artistic shuffle with Catwoman, Detective Comics, The Flash, and others.
Our main cover by David Nakayama again shows a shiny armpit hole Catwoman perched cheekily on a roof edge against the moon and a pale aqua night sky – a nicely contemplative image, compared to a lot of the more extreme poses Nakayama has been doing for this run. Joshua Sway’s variant (also used as the 1 in 50 foil incentive variant), reminiscent of Jenny Frison’s style, features Selina with a whip in an elevator with two mobsters, giving a finger salute as the door closes. Sweeney Boo echoes Nakayama’s main cover with a blue-dominated image of Catwoman against a huge moon, though she has Catwoman rock-chimney climbing up an alleyway. Terry and Rachel Dodson provide our summer Swimsuit Variant of Catwoman with a nice black one-piece swimsuit on a boat, a nice champagne flute full of ice in her hand. Lastly, Rian Gonzales’ 1-in-25 incentive variant humorously shows Catwoman sneaking into a museum through a picture frame, stealing the Cat-Mona Lisa, a tranquilized guard sitting nearby.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of Catwoman #56 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.