Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Catwoman #1

Catwoman #1
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Guillem March
Cover Price: $2.99

In a nutshell:
Provocative sensationalism distracts from a decent story.

This is one of the comics this month that has gotten a lot of internet coverage due to the provocative sexuality in the story and art. The story starts when Catwoman apartment is invaded and then blown up (it's unclear if the perpetrators are going to be important to the story or if they're just another random group of criminals that she ripped off doing their usual business). But Selena finds herself without a place to live and without cash so she connects with her friend Lola who sets her up with a place to squat as well as a thieving gig. While undercover as a waitress spying on the Russian mob, Selena spots a man named Renald who killed once shot and killed a woman important to Selena (it's not clear what the relation is at this point) in front of her when she was young. She starts to seduce Renald in the ladies room and then starts to beat and claw him in a very bloody and grotesque scene. She escapes the mob, returns to the penthouse she's squatting at, and gets it on with Batman, at which it's stated that they do this from time to time but they don't know who they are.

Why did I pick it up?
Catwoman is one of those characters that I really enjoy when she's done right. The cover design was seductive enough to get my attention. When paging through the interiors I was put off by some things but curious enough that I felt it was worth checking out the first issue.

The Good:
While there is a lot here that exploits the sexuality of the character (and by exploit, I mean uses it in a way that is only provocative and doesn't serve the story and/or characters), I did enjoy the story. It's not a totally new Catwoman story but it's a good template story that tells you what the character is all about. I spent a little bit of time trying to figure out if Guillem March was just another 90s/Image style clone or if I really liked his stuff and there is something stylistic about it that separates his art from most of the artists who draw in a similar style, and he looks to have the potential to become even better if he continues to evolve as both a designer and an illustrator.

The Bad:
There is nothing vague about the sexuality in this comic which is apparent from the cover which shows Catwoman lying on her back holding a little sack of jewels, which resembles a used condom, with white pearls pouring out of it and onto her cleavage, breasts, and body. I don't have the most conservative taste and I admit that there are "adult only" entertainments that I enjoy, but wouldn't let my daughters read this comic, which isn't a condemnation in itself because the 1980s Catwoman mini-series was a much darker comic that would probably be even less appropriate for children under ten, but I do ask the question (while not coming to an absolute conclusion myself), when a character or title has iconic status as something that is marketed towards kids, how far should we be willing to take a more adult orientated version of the character? I think it's a safe bet to assume that we won't see a DC comics character in licensed porn, at least for a few years yet. But there was a time in comics when DC had the label, "DC comics aren't just for kids anymore". Now it seems like the label might read, "DC comics aren't for kids at all", and I do wonder when the official continuity of characters we grew up reading is primarily for older teens and adults, did we perhaps take these characters with us to the point of leaving nothing left for the kids who once were the primary audience? Truthfully, as an adult I like more mature stories. The problem is that the kind of provocative sexuality and violence feels contrived and reads more like B-rated cheese than the HBO style shows I think it's trying to emulate and I think that works against the story instead of serving it. I do admit that despite being a bit overly exaggerated and beyond the usual "good girl" cheesecake that I usually find appealing in comic art, there is something about March's style in drawing hotties that makes it more seductive than most of the exaggerated artists in comics whose girls don't have a sense of reality or weight to their anatomy. What I had the biggest problem with in the comic is a very graphic and bloody scene. Nothing turns me off more than when you mix sex, which is something at the core of us, and graphic violence which turns it into something difficult to stomach. And I am a strong believer that when it comes to violent scenes what you imply in shadow or off panel can have a stronger emotional impact than graphic displays of celebratory blood and guts which just seem to enjoy itself more than I am comfortable with.

Is it worth it?
Despite my reservations I liked the comic enough that I will buy the next issue, however, we need to get a little more focus on the story in the second issue. I don't have a problem with Batman and Catwoman having a sexual relationship, but I think that being so graphic about it, as opposed to implying it, is a distraction that draws away from the story and makes it more difficult to escape into believing. If this comic forms the formula of the gratuitous T&A scene of the month, I'll get bored fast because lets face it, if I just want something tantalizing, there are a lot more material I can find that will be a lot more satisfying.

No comments: