After the events of Batman #50, an issue that should be read before Catwoman and before reading this review to avoid spoilers, one of the biggest questions is where Selina Kyle goes after her wedding day. Catwoman #1 has immediate answers, placing Selina in Mexico where she tries to gamble through her feelings and process the decisions made in Batman #50. Does the introduction of a copycat committing crimes in Selina’s name make for an exciting start to her new solo series?
The overwhelming feeling I get from Catwoman #1 was a sense of movement. Selina’s acrobatics, the layout of the of the panels, and the tight plotting all keep the pace going strong as you read the issue, a fitting feeling for Gotham’s favorite feline-themed burglar. Writer and artist Joëlle Jones wastes no space on any page. There’s rarely a panel where everyone and everything is sitting still and when there is, there’s still storytelling happening in the background through the characters or environments. Take for example a panel in which Selina walks away from the reader through a set of storage units. Everything from the perspective of the panel’s art, the cats following her, and especially the dramatic shadows that frame the image all pull the reader inwards, giving the panel that sense of movement that would feel static without those techniques.
The next panel features Selina opening a storage unit to reveal shelves packed with boxes and presumably stolen paintings. The panel serves its purpose of Selina, as expertly rendered in Jones’s signature style as she is on every page, to reveal a cluttered background letting the reader know that Selina’s been busy, but one detail stands out. One of the paintings in the unit is Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. This painting brings a number of questions to mind in a panel with relatively low action. Is the painting there to foreshadow the Catwoman copycats which Selina may have to defeat unless they overtake her title and image? Or does it represent a rejection of the familial ties Selina almost formed through her wedding to Bruce? Her violently emotional reaction to a package from Gotham a few panels after the Goya appears really conveys how emotionally wrecked Selina is even if her narration, which Jones writes with a relatable sense of gravity, wasn’t there. Jones brings these ideas to life with affecting aplomb through her willingness to let Selina’s face contort in grief and allow her body to even break free of the panel in her emotional outburst. The art and script are working in perfect tandem to deliver an emotional read.
On a lighter note, a Catwoman series never feels complete without lots of cats prowling about and Jones renders a variety of breeds expertly with fur textures and stretching limbs that look and feel real. Laura Allred’s colors only elevate the excellent pencils and inks with a palette that uses every color in the box but keeps them all close to the same values, so the overall brightness of the book stays uniform enough to maintain the script’s mood. The feeling of movement is also conveyed by the lettering and panel layouts. Josh Reed’s lettering in this issue helps guide the reader’s eye across the page with balloons that trickle down diagonally from panel to panel. The layout and varying sizes of Jones’s panels naturally led my eye where it needed to go, but Reed’s placement of the narration balloons feels like an extra set of guiding step stones laid down onto a naturally worn path.
Overall, it’s hard for me to find anything bad to say about this issue. Everything it doesn’t say, it does through its artwork which, if I haven’t been clear enough, is not only gorgeous but does a lot of storytelling work in style. The fact that Jones wrote and drew this issue and delivered this level of quality with that massive of a workload deserves applause. The introduction of a ghoulish new villain and the implications of copycat Catwomen makes it hard to wait for the next issue.