Writer: Ed Brubacker
Artist: Cameron Stewart
The book opens with Catwoman noticing that there's been a marked increase in purse snatchers & pickpockets, and when she follows one of the young thieves into a section of Gotham called Alleytown, we see her discover that a criminal organization that uses children to collect its spoils is back in action after nearly a decade of inactivity. We then discover that after she ran away from the orphanage, a young Selina was part of this operation, and given the woman who ran it before was a cruel taskmaster who kept almost every penny that was stolen for her, while leaving her child operatives half starved, we see Selina's decides to investigate this new operation. After dealing with the guards that keep curious people like herself from looking in on this organization, Catwoman discovers that the new operation is being run by a woman who was a fellow child thief when Selina was active, and the new operation takes good care of its youthful operatives. Meanwhile, Slam Bradley is busy having a conversation with Holly, where we discover he's looking to find out if Selina would ever consider going out with him. However, this conversation is cut short, and as she is helping Slam home after the ensuing bar brawl, Holly runs across a surprise guest-star.
A low key issue in terms of plot advancement, but Ed Brubaker manages to make good use of the various elements he's developed in the previous issues to produce a highly entertaining issue. From Slam Bradley's little sit-down with Holly, to another fairly interesting revelation about Selina's past before she became a costumed criminal, this issue proved to be a fairly engaging read. First off, Ed Brubaker deserves full marks for developing Slam Bradley into a character who one can't help but find interesting, and the situation that is being discussed with Holly is a fun display of Ed Brubaker's ability to insert a timely interruption, so that the response to the big question that is sure to have the reader's utmost interest is left unanswered. This issue also fills in another little gap in Selina's past, as we what happened to her immediately after she decided to run away from the orphanage. We're also introduced to a new section of Gotham City, as this issue is the debut appearance of Alleytown, a labyrinth like collection of narrow streets that criminals use to elude police who are hot on their tails, and one can't help but hope we'll be making a return visit to this rather interesting corner of the city.
I'm left with the sense that that the final page of this issue is more earthshaking in its importance than I found it to be, as I'm relatively new to Catwoman's corner of the DCU, and as such the return of this particular character didn't exactly blow me away. I'm assuming that this character is a preexisting creation, and given the jaw dropping effect the final panel seems to be trying to elicit I'm guessing longtime Catwoman fans will realize how momentous this character's return is to this book. However, as it stands, I simply hope that Ed Brubaker remembers to acknowledge that not every reader has been with this book since before it's recent relaunch, and hopefully next issue will fill in the gaps (though I'll gladly accept a heads up from any of you readers out there who feel the need to enlighten me on this character's previous role in these pages). Now that I've wasted most of this column revealing I'm a bit out of the loop, I would like to say that one of the reasons I've found this book so enjoyable thus far is that up until this final page, the book has done a very solid job making itself extremely friendly to newer readers like myself, and here's hoping this trend continues.
While it's a bit worrisome that this book seems to go through it's artists so quickly, as Cameron Stewart is the third artist to fill the role as this book's regular artist, and we're only a twelve issues in. However, all three have maintained a fairly similar style, and as such the book has held up pretty well artistically, and here's hoping that Cameron Stewart is here for the long haul, as his debut issue is very impressive. In fact I'd even go as far to say that the art on this issue is just as good, if not better than the opening issues, where I was convinced that Catwoman had itself the most complete creative team of all the DCU titles I pick up. This issue is full of great visuals, from the credit page shot of Alleytown, to the little flash of action as we see Selina takes a page from Captain America's play book to stop a purse snatcher. There's also a nice little rooftop battle that Catwoman has with a thug, though I must confess I do hope future battles are a little more in your face than this encounter. as while it's strong from a storytelling sense, moving the camera in closer would've made the encounter more exciting. I also have to make mention of the JG Jones cover, as it's a lovely piece of art.
Given the previous arcs have been notable for their strong starts, I must confess I was a little surprised by the rather subdue quality of this issue, as we see Catwoman stumble across an Oliver Twist style situation. However, given the 1968 filmed version of this Charles Dickens book is one of my all time favorite films, I'm not going to make too much noise. In fact I wouldn't mind seeing this network of little sticky fingers become a semi-regular part of this title, as it works quite nicely with the guardian angel role that Ed Brubaker has set up for Catwoman. This issue also sets up an interesting little situation with Slam Bradley, as we see him express a desire to pursue a romantic relationship with Selina, and while I'm not sure I'd like to see these two together, it does make for a fun secondary plot, and anything that turns the spotlight Slam Bradley's way is always welcome, as he's a highly engaging character.
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