Catwoman #3 has Selina face to face with the Creel family as the depths of their villainy are further revealed. This is a comparatively quieter issue as the antagonist’s backstory is revealed, but does it keep the story moving in a compelling way?
This issue is very much centered around exploring Raina Creel’s origin, with Selina’s story put on the backburner a bit. This makes for a much slower paced issue compared to the first two, so readers looking for more action may be disappointed, even if this exposition is required reading for getting to know the characters. If you thought Raina Creel was cruel after the first two issues, buckle up. Writer and artist Joëlle Jones scripts a deliciously evil villain who isn’t here to earn the reader’s sympathy or play around in shades of grey. Color me jaded, but it’s almost refreshing to not have to grapple with how much sympathy a story’s antagonist needs to be allotted and can just be enjoyed as a “love to hate” type of villain.
As I said, the pacing slows down a lot to deliver Raina’s backstory, and as someone who loves character development over action, this wasn’t a problem for me at all. However, the pages more centered around Selina had an awkward rhythm to them, particularly in the last few pages of the issue. Three pages in particular feature so little narrative work that I’m almost concerned my review copy is missing some sort of narration, internal dialogue, or even monologue lettering that might appear in the printed issues on Wednesday. If this isn’t the case and the pages are intended to be silent, I can’t say the artwork–well-rendered and dynamic as it may be–doesn’t do enough to make the pages feel well used. Because these pages close out the issue, it left me with a less enthused feeling about the issue than I’d like.
Speaking of the art, it’s no surprise that Jones’s art continues to be stunning. She covers the opening pages at the Creels’ soirée with complex patterns in glass windows and leafy fronds that give the environment rich details which convey the lavishness of the event. From issue one Jones has proven her character renderings are no joke and the quality of her artwork doesn’t drop at all in this issue. For the flashback pages delving into Raina Creel’s story, Fernando Blanco takes over interior art work. The transition in and out of Blanco’s pages it seamless thanks to a clever trick the artists collaborate to pull off and Blanco’s style is close enough to Jones’s that the change in line art isn’t jarring or off-putting. This is thanks in part to their similar use of thicker outlines when inking and colorist John Kalisz sticking to Lauren Allred’s palettes and values for his pages.
Blanco does an excellent job illustrating Raina’s origin with expressive faces full of malicious smirks and panel layouts that guide the reader across the years in a compelling, dynamic way. Blanco employs a variety of inking methods like Ben-Day dots for the edges of shadows on clothing or blotchy spatters of ink for dark tree lines. John Kalisz’s coloring not only doesn’t break the rhythm set by Allred’s but features a lot of subtle texture work in walls or splash panels. For example, there’s a grey wall that would’ve been fine with a flat color slapped onto it, but Kalisz uses gradients and lighting to make the texture much more nuanced and realistic. Returning to Laura Allred’s colors, she keeps to the palette from the previous issues and continues to convey the mood of the scene especially with the nighttime setting in which the Selina-centric pages take place. The icing on the cake, Josh Reed’s lettering twists around with the action in sound effects or stands boldly, almost ornately when it needs.
Overall, the issue continues the series trend of being a visually stunning, character-driven experience. I loved getting to know Raina Creel more and the team does a great job of tying in the second art team without the shift feeling jarring. However, the last few pages do so little for me, the ending left me feeling underwhelmed even if the very last page hints at what’s next. Again, there’s a chance there was something missing from my review copy, but if that wasn’t the case, the pages could’ve been used for something else.