In Catwoman #5, Raina Creel executes her plan while Selina Kyle tries to save her sister Maggie. After two issues of flashbacks, the series is back firmly in the present as the paths of Selina and the Creel family continue to cross. Does the new issue do a good job of getting the plot going with its best foot forward?
In scripting and illustrating the issue, Joëlle Jones has Selina and Raina’s stories told simultaneously with alternating panels color coded by Laura Allred to convey which panels go with whom. Roughly half a page will show Selina’s story progressing while the other half shows Raina’s and there is oftentimes some visual symmetry connecting the two. For example, on one page both Selina and Raina’s panels feature a syringe being used, but the space around the characters are colored either red or purple by Allred to show whose story is being told. The layouts, colors, and letting have to work deeply in synchronicity to pull this off and Jones, Allred, and Reed manage it in a way that looks effortless. I never had to wonder which panels went with whom or what was happening as the team kept all the action very clear. It makes for an exciting read that essentially moves two stories forward at the same time, maximizing the space on the page without an inch feeling wasted.
Jones continues to perform at her best with regards to the pencils and inks of the issue. There isn’t a character rendering that looks off-model or an awkward face to be seen. I continue to love all the lines on Raina’s face giving away where her false nose sits as well as the lack of lines in her eyes where her color contacts are. The blank irises colored a milky blue by Allred make her look all the more ghoulish and harder to connect with on an emotional level.
When the issue breaks from all the panels on the pages, the team treats the viewer to page-filling illustrations that break up the pacing nicely while exhibiting the excellent pencils and inks from Jones and subtle, elegant coloring work from Allred. For the busier pages, Josh Reed’s lettering plays an especially important role in this issue, because without the balloons helping to guide the eye correctly the reader can get lost in the panels. Each balloon leads to the next like a skillfully laid out trail across the concurrent storylines, always showing the reader where to go next and locking the layouts together with finesse.
Allred continues to employ a palette of washed out or muted pastels that look great against Jones’s inks. This issue features a very gory scene in which Jones inks all the blood pitch black, both making the scene somehow more grisly than if the blood had been red while also contrasting well with Allred’s palette. There’s also a scene late in the issue with panels almost completely in inks aside from small details like Selina’s skin and some faint areas on walls and stairs colored in with a washed out grey that have almost photorealistic texture from Jones’s inks that work well because of how subtly Allred’s colors blend together with them. Yet another example of the team working so in sync with one another that the end result is an absolute delight to look at.
Catwoman #5 is just one of those issues where I can’t find anything to criticize. Not only is the storytelling and art excellent, but the emotional work put into Selina’s character thus far isn’t ignored for the sake of a faster-paced issue. There’s a quiet moment that keeps Selina’s internal struggle in the reader’s mind on one of the pages with a gorgeous spread I mentioned before. The issue ends on kickass line that only Selina could deliver, spreading a cool layer of icing on an essentially flawless cake.