Catwoman (2002) #4

Catwoman  4

And here’s how you do a comic book. I was wondering when Catwoman was going to click and level up, and it’s this issue. It’s not just Darwyn Cooke’s pencils, though he’s got dozens of great panels in the issue. Pretty much everything except Selina fighting Clayface Y2K’s muck is great. The muck stuff is fine, but it’s gross, and it’s just muck. Worse, it’s pink flesh muck. Icky bad.

The issue starts with Selina confronting the killer and hearing some of his origin story. U.S. soldier, battlefield injury, weird experiment, dumped as a monster on the streets of Gotham by the U.S. Army. Tracks. She thinks she can talk him down and get him some help from that dickhead Batman (who does end up cameoing and is a complete piece of shit, gloriously rendered in a forties nod from Cooke and inker Mike Allred). She’s not entirely wrong, but she’s not right enough not to have a big supervillain fight. Except she’s Catwoman, and she’s not ready to fight fleshy muck monsters.

Writer Ed Brubaker does an exceptional job writing the fight scene. It’s a character development micro-arc for Selina as she realizes the new responsibilities she’s taking on; there’s doubt, regret, turmoil, all in rapid-fire as the fight progresses. Brubaker captures these snapshots into Selina’s experience through the text, tied to the visuals, and it’s phenomenal stuff. I knew Catwoman was going to get good, but I didn’t think it would get this good this fast.

Especially when the epilogue involves setting up the series proper, with Holly becoming a Kyle Investigations operative and Leslie Tompkins firmly established in the supporting cast. Except Brubaker writes it as a contrast to dickhead Batman, who doesn’t care about sex workers getting murdered and thinks writing Leslie a check fixes all the problems with the poors.

Only then Cooke (and Allred and colorist Matt Hollingsworth) turn the final splash page into this Batman visual homage deep cut. It’s so good.

This opening arc has got to be a killer trade.

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