Overview: In Catwoman: Soulstealer, a brand new version of Catwoman, Batwing, and the Gotham City Sirens burst onto the scene in a tale bursting full of assassins, friendship, family, and romance!
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Part 1 – Catwoman: Soulstealer begins with an eighteen-year-old Selina Kyle joins the underground fight gang the Leopards to make money to help her sister Maggie, who is dying of cystic fibrosis, but corrupt cops drag them in when their mother is arrested. Talia al Ghul offers to send Maggie to a safe home if Selina joins her, and Selina agrees, leaving Gotham on a plane.
Part 2 – Two years later, Selina returns to Gotham, having left the League of Assassins, disguised as rich socialite Holly Vanderhees, and moves into an apartment next to Marine veteran Luke Fox who is dealing with PTSD after returning from deployment. By day, Luke fights in MMA matches, and by night, he fights crime as Batwing, solo guardian of Gotham while Bruce Wayne is away. As Catwoman, Selina robs a museum, then shoots out the Bat-signal with a sniper rifle, sending a message. Commissioner Gordon reaches out to Batwing, and Luke helps a young boy hauled in by more corrupt cops on his way through the station, then learns from Gordon about the new player in Gotham. Catwoman fences her stolen merchandise, while Luke plans to be at a Gotham Museum Gala next week with his parents.
Part 3 – On his way to the Gala, Luke meets “Holly” dressed in athletic gear as they pass by each other in the hall of their apartment building – Luke thinking she is gorgeous but a wasteful spoiled woman, Selina thinking he is an arrogant pretty man. They bump into each other again at the Gala, as Selina pickpockets the rich guests and plans to steal Luke’s ten million dollar painting, but as she changes into Catwoman and makes her way towards her prize, she meets Poison Ivy after the same goal. They team up, and as they escape over the rooftops, Selina remembers her first chasm leap, where she tried to help her friend Anaya, but Nyssa al Ghul threw Anaya to her death as a lesson. Batwing appears to retrieve his painting since Luke had used it as bait to lure the new player out, but unprepared for her League training, he loses to her, and she leaks photos of her victory to the papers.
Part 4 – As Catwoman robs a bank, Ivy follows her, demanding her cut from the painting, and wanting to team up more permanently. Selina responds by demanding that Ivy bring Harley Quinn as well, promising to break the Joker free as payment. Luke tries to reassure Bruce that he has everything under control, as he bumps into Holly again, leading to more judgments on both sides. Assassin Shrike tries to kill Catwoman, but Harley kills Shrike with an ax, arriving with Ivy to team up. Batwing stakes out the rooftops, trying to find Catwoman, nabbing some mobsters dumping a body before she arrives. Harley blows up an empty cop car as a message of her unpredictability to Catwoman, triggering Luke’s PTSD, but Selina promises to keep his secret, as she wants him to protect the city from the League assassins coming after her – flashing back to her first kill required by Talia.
Part 5 – Catwoman: Soulstealer continues as Catwoman’s gang attacks another gala, this time going for personal valuables, and Luke gets the staff to safety before dashing to change into Batwing. He chases the gang’s getaway car, but Catwoman’s expert driving and Ivy’s vines destroy his wings, leaving him in a tree. Harley and Ivy leave together, leading Catwoman to reassess their relationship. As Holly, she drops in on Luke’s work, annoying him since he’s investigating Ivy’s powers, but she invites him to spend some time together at their apartments, secretly providing herself an alibi. The two spend the night eating pizza and proving their Jeopardy skills to each other, then Selina heads out to rob a bank – this time, one of Falcone’s, and traps his enforcers in the vault as she and her gang escape.
Part 6 – Luke and Selina meet again, this time both injured – Selina from her heists, Luke from his boxing matches. They draw closer together, but a misunderstanding causes them to draw apart again. Ivy invites Catwoman and Harley over to watch TV, but Falcone sends a bomb and a brick as retaliation for the robbery, sending the gang fleeing. Luke, regretting his reaction to “Holly,” gets up when he hears that Catwoman has released three of Joker’s henchmen. Catwoman and her gang perform a show of strength, besting Falcone in one of his bars, part of Catwoman’s plan to become a queen of crime. Luke plans another party as a final trap for Catwoman with his father, hoping to end their months-long struggle.
Part 7 – At the Fox party, Luke dances with “Holly,” apologizing for his reaction, and trying to earn her trust. Selina partly relents, but later, as Batwing, he almost catches Catwoman in the act of stealing from the party’s display, when Tigress, another League assassin, strikes first. Catwoman breaks Tigress’s spine, and Batwing stops her from a killing strike. Tigress takes poison, warning Catwoman that the rest of the League is coming. As they remove Tigress’s body from the Fox home, Catwoman reveals she’s an escaped League member, then Harley and Ivy pick her up, Batwing letting her go. Later, Ivy reveals her love for Harley to Selina as they research Lazarus Pit possibilities near Gotham.
Part 8 – Luke starts putting together the threats facing Gotham – the League coming after Catwoman – but before he puts plans in motion, he runs into Holly again, and they have another stay-in pizza date. It goes very well, but Luke falls asleep during a movie and wakes to a PTSD nightmare. Selina helps him, and they once again draw close, but she draws back, not wanting to hurt him with her complicated life and lies. At a GCPD gala, Batwing patrols, finding the three Joker henchmen Catwoman freed and taking them down – though the last one injures him badly. Catwoman finds him and takes him to his apartment, caring for him and protecting his identity. She turns off all the light, takes off her helmet, and kisses him, then knocks him out and leaves without looking at his face. She meets Ivy in Harley’s hideout and awkwardly confesses to Ivy her confused feelings about Batwing. Luke wakes up, realizes that Catwoman knows his identity but protected him, and takes off.
Part 9 – Harley has had enough and demands they get the Joker out now. The police attack the gang, and Catwoman surrenders. When taken to Arkham, the police unmask her on TV, and Luke finds out that his neighbor is also his foe – leading him to break into her apartment, just as the League invades Arkham, revealing that Selina stole the formula for making her own regenerating Lazarus Pit. Selina allies herself with the Joker against the League, and escapes, calling her old Leopard fighting gang to protect her sister in the hospital while chaos reigns in Gotham’s streets.
Part 10 – As the final part of Catwoman: Soulstealer begins, Selina’s plan to heal her sister’s cystic fibrosis is finally in motion – she brings her sister from the hospital to her hidden car, but Harley and Ivy arrive. Harley stabs Selina for not freeing the Joker, but Ivy stops her from more damage as a gravely injured Selina drives to her pit site with her sister. Batwing beats her to her site, and kisses her, promising to protect her while she saves her sister. He holds them off, and Ivy arrives, helping him defeat them. Maggie is healed, but Selina appears to have died from Harley’s knife wound. They put her in the regenerating pit, and then use CPR and an electric shock to restart her heart. Luke and Selina take Maggie back to her adoptive family, and as they drive back, they finally tell each other the truth about their identities and plans. They kiss again and pledge to help each other make Gotham better. Later, Selina and Ivy have lunch together, Harley having surrendered herself for therapy and trial, her attack on Selina having shocked her into recognizing her problems. Ivy and Selina plan to build a new hideout together and pull off new heists.
Analysis: Though DC’s “Icon” series of prose novels was a bit uneven in quality, bestselling author Sarah Maas’ vividly reimagined version of Catwoman in Catwoman: Soulstealer stood out as a solid tale, surpassing even Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker in engrossing character work and plotting. Comics legend Louise Simonson provides the adapted script, and though the opening stumbles a bit, sticking too closely to trying to capture the narration and flashbacks of the story at the expense of dramatic scenes that use the strengths of comics – action and visuals – eventually, the strength of the carefully plotted story and intricate relationship development provided by Maas are deftly handled by Simonson’s dialogue. Though the awkward use of the semi-3D style of word balloon lines distract from the dialogue a bit, eventually, the engagement with the characters is their pain and earnest desires to make their worlds better finish the story with great emotional power.
Maas’s plot carefully lays the overall plot of Catwoman’s plan to save her sister, the danger of her enemies in the League and Gotham’s criminals, Luke’s attempts to save the city, and the strongly appealing romance between Luke and Selina, balancing everything quite nicely in Catwoman: Soulstealer. The growing affection between this alternate version of the Gotham City Sirens, and myriad details like Ivy’s Jane Austen-themed pet plants, the appearance of Alfred Pennyworth as Luke’s partner, and even the names of the Joker’s henchmen, bring the characters to life in full appealing glory. The only real weakness ported in from the novel is the fact that to make sure Selina’s plan can work, Luke has to fail quite often, making Batwing seem a bit more incompetent than this Batwing fan would prefer. However, the backstory and rich development given these alternate universe versions of Catwoman and Batwing still work quite strongly, and it would be nice to see more of them if a sequel is ever released.
The art by Samantha Dodge provides functional character work in Catwoman: Soulstealer, though often feeling a bit rough and not fully controlled. The action scenes shine a bit brighter, as Dodge uses the costumes of Catwoman and Batwing to great effect. Colorist Shari Chankhamma “splashes” colors over the primarily black and white linework, giving the book a slightly more appealing look than the typical two-tone scheme of most of these teen-aimed offerings, but a full color job would be nicer and strengthen the linework. Dodge also drew the cover, a very nicely rendered mirrored torso shot of Catwoman and Batwing, with Wayne building and the Bat-signal providing visual counterweights in the background, giving the potential reader a good sense of the main romantic pairing and their characters in strong poses.
Editor’s Note: You can find this new original graphic novel and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this edition digitally either through Comixology or Amazon, or as a physical copy in a paperback form at Amazon.