“… And Most of the Costumes Stay On …”
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist/Cover artist: Guillem March
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Boy, this comic book is covered all in kinds of wrong sauce, and by the end of the book, other kinds of “sauces” as well, it would seem. But then again, it’s exactly the kind of comic book the cover image suggests. No, scratch that — it’s far worse and dirtier than the cover would suggest.
This entry in the New 52 relaunch initiative and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (also released this week) have been the focus of a great deal of criticism for their gratuitous visuals and oversexualization of their female protagonists, and the negative reaction is well deserved. It seems to me Winick started out trying to tell a story about an emotionally scarred woman who’s decided to maintain an illusion of control by refusing to allow anything to get to her, but the end result is something quite different. This book is about sex, nothing else, and not in a loving, healthy way or emotionally dramatic way. It’s about teasing and titillating an immature audience receptive to this sort of thing. Honestly, after reading this comic book, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a blurb on the cover indicating it was produced by the same “creative” minds that are churning porn parodies of super-hero fare and other genre fiction.
Poor Catwoman. After being tracked down by the previous owners of some loot she pilfered recently, she finds herself without a roof over her head. A friend hooks her up with a temporarily vacant abode, not to mention a lead on a new job that could prove to be profitable. An intelligence-gathering excursion takes an unexpected turn when Gotham’s greatest thief spots a hated enemy while she eavesdrops on some marks. After an unpleasant encounter, Selina Kyle retreats to her new safehouse, only to encounter another opponent on her home turf. But hey, don’t worry about Catwoman. She’s got everything under control… or so she keeps saying.
The first panel sets the tone for the issue, both visually and in terms of the plot. The reader is faced with the title character’s breasts. Her face isn’t even visible in the panel. The opening escape sequence is clearly all about sex despite the violence that’s unfolding all around the protagonist. The gratuitous T&A is unrelenting, dominating almost every scene. The shame of it is Guillem March’s art is quite lovely. Having him draw tits and lacy underthings is a waste of his talent. For example, he clearly conveys the frantic pace of Selina’s escape in that opening scene as she grabs the bare essentials before getting out. But the choice to feature her half naked throughout that sequence is completely unnecessary and contributes nothing to the story.
I enjoyed March’s depiction of Catwoman’s friend and fence, Lola. Though the narration suggests she was a shapely bombshell in her day, March depicts her as more of a matronly figure. Her middle age comes across clearly, and while she’s far curvier than the title character, she’s not portrayed as obese or even unattractive. She looks like a regular person — and she stands out pretty much as the only figure in the entire comic book to look that way. Furthermore, she lives in what looks like a real urban apartment, with a cramped kitchen and close quarters. She lives in the real world, in real space. While the cover art serves foreshadows the amped-up sexuality of what’s to be found within, there was one element on the cover that looked great, and that’s the new Catwoman logo. The letter forms are unusual but attractive, and the claw marks making up the “W” are striking and really pop off the cover.
While the creators have made plenty of room for superficial sexual content, the effort to jam as much as possible into this standard comic book has apparently forced an important element out of this Catwoman story. She is, after all, a master thief, portrayed in the past as the best thief in the world. So what’s missing from this opening issue? A theft. Selina’s in action after being pursued following a theft, and she’s seen on the hunt for a new job. But there’s no daring heist, no clever circumvention of security, no suspense to be found in this comic book about a cat burglar. Certainly an effort to introduce readers to this altered interpretation of Catwoman ought to have included a display of the skills for which she’s best known. The only thing she steals in this issue is a kiss (and she doesn’t stop at a kiss).
Batman is essentially portrayed as something of a sexual predator. He appears in this comic book as a supposed gesture of caring, claiming he’s worried about Selina. But her narration makes it clear he would’ve known the potential for a physical encounter. He’s portrayed as a man who knows this woman is troubled and under stress, who knows she’s emotionally unpredictable and volatile, and who knows a likely outcome of his visit. In short, he’s portrayed as a creep, as someone who’s taking advantage of circumstances to fulfill his own desires. That’s not Batman, and the whole scene left a bad taste in my mouth.
After reading this comic book, all I could think was, “What the hell were they thinking?” Having a woman edit a book that’s clearly meant to excite teenage boys and awkward men who haven’t discovered porn on the Internet doesn’t make it acceptable. Catwoman is exploitive, it’s gratuitous and it’s obvious. But most of all, it’s embarrassing. DC has managed to generate a lot of mainstream media attention with this New 52 campaign in an effort to reintroduce lapsed readers to comics and hook new ones. Is this collection of drawings of fleshy globes and dysfunctional sex really what DC wants those people to find when they venture into the medium? This relaunch of Catwoman is about making a quick, dirty buck, not about diversifying the DC brand or expanding the audience. 3/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.