Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Paul Gulacy (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As the criminal community moves in on Gotham's East End to fill the void that has been left in the aftermath of the Black Mask's death, we see Catwoman's attention is brought to bear on a gang that has decided to send a message to their competitors by murdering a shopkeeper. To this end Catwoman decides to hit this gang where it would really hurt, as she targets the truck that is carrying the profits, and she sends them a message by setting their money on fire.
Ed Brubaker looks to have gotten the lighthearted stories out of his system with the road trip arc, as this new story-line is a fairly dark affair, as Catwoman takes on a gang that has decided to set up shop in Gotham's East End. What I like about this arc is that Catwoman looks like she would have been perfectly happy to let these criminals set up shop in her neck of the woods if they hadn't decided to make an example of a local shopkeeper. Now from a storytelling sense it's much easier to get behind Selina's vigilantism once she's given the kick in the backside that the shopkeeper's murder provides, but I like the sense that Selina has a bit of a skewed measuring stick when it comes to her war on crime, as unlike Batman her view of the criminal community isn't quite so ridged in what she considers right and wrong. I like that she's more that willing to use the dirty money that she comes across during her battles, even if Ed Brubaker seems to make an active effort to show us that she's got a bit of a Robin Hood complex when it comes to the distribution of this wealth. I also like the fact that she is willing to cross the line from time to time, as her involvement in the Black Mask's death is still making it's presence felt as we eavesdrop on the conversations between the various criminal bosses looking to establish a foothold in the East End. This is turn allows the villains to respond in kind, as the last page arrival of the person being brought in to deal with the Catwoman problem is quite effective.
As for the art, the arrival of an art team with a style that is completely different from what we had been getting is a bit disappointing, as if nothing else it makes the title look one of literally a dozen titles that look pretty much the same, rather than the refreshingly different style that it had previously. The art is also a bit disappointing in that it isn't nearly as effective at selling the emotions of its characters, as there's a scene in the final pages where we a pair of criminals discussing what is to be done with Catwoman, and the art completely fails to deliver a sense of menace. However, the action is very impressive as Catwoman moves across the page with a wonderful sense of energy, and the impact shots are truly impressive, with the fight on the garbage truck being the highlight of the issue. I do miss the more functional look of her costume though, as once again we're back in the form fitting leather.
The arrival of a new art team does seem to have made greater impact on the book than I expected it too as the book seems to have shifted from the popcorn movie action sequences, to a more in your face urban warfare type story. Now the characters are still there, even if they do look dramatically different, and there are moments in the story where I'm reminded that the action scenes were just a welcome perk, to what is a fairly engaging character study, as Ed Brubaker does a wonderful internal monologue as Catwoman moves in to deal with the various threats she encounters in this issue. I also love the sheer impact of this book's action sequences, as the book has Catwoman dealing with a thug blasting away with a gun in the cab of a speeding truck, and a particularly brutal fight in an abandoned warehouse. The final pages of this issue also do a nice job of carrying us into the next issue, as while I don't know much about this hired killer, this final sequence makes it clear that he's not a pleasant customer.
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