Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Paul Gulacy (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As Catwoman descends upon the criminal community of Gotham's East End in a bid to locate the villain who put Slam in the hospital, we see she becomes increasingly frustrated by the lack of answers. However, a visit from Batman lets her know the attacker was named Zeiss, and after she ignores his attempt to warn her off, we see Catwoman pays a visit to the Penguin, as she correctly believes that he's connected to Zeiss.
I'm not a huge fan of the relationship, but Ed Brubaker is the best writer that I've encountered when it comes to delivering the Batman/Catwoman romance. Now this is probably largely due to the idea that he tackles the relationship from Catwoman's perspective, which allows for a more engaging look, as Batman is closed off emotionally, and as such any time he has dealings with Catwoman the writers seem to feel the best was to show Batman can be romantic is to offer up a passionate embrace, so I was pleased to see this issue didn't follow this established pattern, which in turn results in a more powerful scene. This issue also offers up a surprising revelation that Slam Bradley is a father, and while the issue leaves us out of the loop when it comes to the reunion between the father and son, the book does offer up enough insight for us to believe this relationship isn't a healthy one, and most of its problems likely are the result of Slam being a poor father figure. I also enjoyed the sequence where Catwoman is busy dropping the hammer on the criminal community of the East End in her bid to locate the hired killer who attacked Slam, as this is one of those quests where one can't feel a bit concerned that one of these thugs might just send her into a trap. These scene also do a nice job of selling Catwoman's relentless nature, as in moments like this she comes across as almost Batman like in her war on crime.
I realize that this book is following the established formula that one finds over at Marvel, in Ed Brubaker does seem to write his arcs with the eventual trade-paperback in mind. However, one of the problems that one encounters with this writing style is that there are on occasion issues in the middle of the arc where it feels like the writing is cooling its heels, as it's finished establishing the threat in the early chapters, and it's too early to be moving to the big climax, so the middle is left with precious little to do but reaffirm the established relationships. Now there's some moments that held my interest, as the opening sequence where we see Catwoman in her bid to discover the location of Slam's attacker is a wonderful sequence to pull readers into the issue, and Ed Brubaker does a nice job with the Catwoman/Batman relationship. However, most of the material in-between these two points of the story has the padded feel to it, as Selina's late night visit with Holly is almost completely devoid of any real insight into the relationship between these two, and the page where we're introduced to Slam's new roommate did little more that play up the inherent silliness of using kids as bodyguards. I also have to restate my belief that the Penguin is a goofy villain whose physical appearance in the final pages of this issue manages to derail any real sense of suspense this final sequence might've developed.
I realize that by placing the art review on the bad side of the fence I'm sending the message that I didn't like the art, but this is more a case that I simply didn't feel comfortable placing it in the good column. I mean the art is nice enough, as Paul Gulacy clearly knows how to deliver the action sequences, with several wince inducing panels as Catwoman questions the various thugs. The art also does a solid job of selling Catwoman's fluid movements, as there is a cat like grace to several of the panels. However there are moments where I find Catwoman, and others look downright strange, as the characters faces come across as looking a bit flat, with Slam looking like he's in the hospital recovering from having his face squashed flat by a coal shovel. Still I suspect most of my problems with the art are still the direct result of my fondness for the unique look this book had going for it previously, and the somewhat conventional appearance of Paul Gulacy's art simply doesn't quite do it for me.
The Bat, The Cat, And The Penguin:
Not exactly the most engaging of issues, as Ed Brubaker looks to be taking his sweet time getting his pieces in place for the big finish. Now part of this could be simple impatience on my part as I want to get to the desert of the story without having to clean the plate, but I have to say I found sections of this issue to be a devoid any real excitement. I mean it's always fun to watch Catwoman on the warpath as she's looking for answers in the opening pages of this issue, and Ed Brubaker deserves credit for his work on the Catwoman/Batman relationship, as their exchange in this issue is extremely well done. However, over half of the issue is handed over to moments where all the forward momentum of the story looks to drag to a complete stop, as we see Selina is bothered by the idea that in spite of her efforts there's still crime in the East End, and the late night visit with Holly was also quite disappointing as it plays as more of a information dump than a real conversation between friends.
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