Overview: IN Catwoman # 42, Selina Kyle turns both Eiko’s Yakuza and Black Mask down in a daring robbery game.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Catwoman # 42 begins in the Year One days where Selina Kyle and Holly Robinson worked as strippers as Selina comforts her roommate and promises to burn any man who hurts her. Selina jumps to the present and wakes up when Eiko’s Kobun (Yakuza muscle) fires a warning shot into her pillow. One of her cats distracts Kobunen, so Catwoman and Yakuza fight in her apartment as her Tomasso defector tries (and fails) to help. Kobunen, who ends up in a fight, tells Selina that in order to get Eiko’s vote against Black Mask’s hit on her, she must persuade two of the other five to vote against Roman Sionis first – and Selina recognizes the leader as Eiko in disguise .
The next day, Selina and Dario plan lunch, and she sets off to rediscover Black Mask’s organization by pickpocketing his secretary. That night she pursues Valmont, who had persecuted her and Dario disguised as servants during the day. She dismisses Valmont dismissively as an asset, a follower, and assigns him to create a vital component. She sneaks into Mask’s office while his teeth are being made at night and she steals right under his nose.
The five leaders meet with Sionis for the vote on Catwoman’s life, but Catwoman puts himself out as bait … wearing a Black Mask mask and claiming to be wearing a forgery, knowing he will not risk damaging his precious mask made of his father’s coffin. She throws the mask in the air and blows it up, then she takes Sionis by the neck with her whip, humiliates him in front of her men and causes a psychotic breakup as Eiko’s Yakuza shows up around the gang. Later, Selina mourns over Kristi, the girl who helped her in first problem and was slaughtered by the men of Tomasso, incited by Mask.
Analysis: Tini Howard and Nico Leon, along with the new colorist Veronica Gandini, continue their dirty crime story about Catwoman vs. the mob and Black Mask in this cleverly plotted chapter in Catwoman # 42. Basically a tropical but decently executed shell game, using the Black Mask mask as the pea, Selina manages to take the Mask down in reputation and psychologically, even though it doesn’t seem to have changed anything material, just another notch in it best of metaphorical whiplash between the two disguised figures in the noir scene of Gotham’s underworld. I use the double word “whip-measurement” on purpose, as Howard continues to push hard on “all men are scum, all women are part of the sisterhood that fights them,” which she has added since the first issue. The structural unity of flashback to Selina and Holly on the first page and the last page spent mourning a Holly surrogate in Christ is well thought out, but unlike Holly we have no history of love or affection between Christ and Selina, which makes the intensity of the scene falls flat, despite Howard’s intelligent structure and Leon’s most effective art for the two sides.
The continued flirtation between Selina and Valmont pulls out frustratingly, though Selina at least finally demonstrates her ability to beat Valmont and devise a plan for him, instead of being surprised, beaten and helpless in the face of Valmont’s occupation. An improvement, admittedly, but it makes the last numbers of Selina struggling to get the upper hand over the men around her feel a bit arbitrary. Nothing changed between last issue and Catwoman # 42 to give Selina the necessary confidence or skill boost to beat people she struggled to beat before, even though one could argue that the victory achieved was a small or even false one – short-term gains for a long-term loss – but that’s not the case. , the problem itself presents it. All in all, the problem takes a step forward in providing classic Catwoman enjoyment, but continues to frustrate in the search for a coherent throughput line for the run.
Art also evokes a duality of reactions. While Nico Leon’s face and figure work is still solid enough, the shift in coloring does not change the fact that large parts of the texture are provided by the colors, not the pencils. The opening match offers deeply confusing action and blocking – people go from standing to lying without transition, and then they stand again and are in completely different parts of the room in the very next panel. Frustrating closing (reading between panels) can be a profitable exercise when done consciously, but there is no point in Leon doing this on purpose, merely providing images that evoke emotion but do not present any actual sequence of action.
Jeff Dekal again delivers the main cover, a lovely, almost chiaroscuro (black and white effect) piece with Catwoman that leans back in romantic ecstasy towards Valmont – a bit of an exaggeration of what happens in the book itself, but it’s a beautiful picture. Jenny Frison gives us an almost explicit BDSM mistress picture of Catwoman with a lace mask, whip and extremely specific lingerie displayed through a sheer black body stocking for the cardstock variant. Sozomaika comes back to the 1:25 incentive cover (which I recently discovered sold for significantly more than other 1:25 variants, for no reason I can see), giving us a distinctively shiny Catwoman that provocatively sits on a building with floodlights behind her. All three certainly exploit Selina’s sexuality in different ways, which is extremely interesting considering how little actual romance and sex Selina has in the book itself (strange flirtation with Valmont and possibly Eiko aside).
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally at Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title throughout Things from another world.