Catwoman #55 operates as more of a resetting of the table than the fifth part of a story arc. Tini Howard’s script has more room to breathe now that Selina is out of prison and Nico Leon’s slick aesthetic gets ample opportunity to shine as the series returns to its usual high class environments. Nonetheless, some story beats grow increasingly stale, particularly Dario’s relationship with his former lover, Noah.
Selina and Eiko take the fight straight to the Gotham Underworld, fully revealing that Eiko has been working with Catwoman all along. It’s refreshing to see Selina and the crime bosses interacting again. While Howard’s run has its ups and downs, it was at its strongest when Selina had a clear purpose in taking down Black Mask and any crime boss who allies with him. These first pages tap into the creative team’s strengths, especially Leon’s compositions and Veronica Gandini’s colors. The first page only consists of two large panels stacked atop each other, but the figure work and the composition itself delivers equal parts style and substance. The first panel has Selina deliver a jump kick to Sullivan’s head as Eiko takes on several goons below her. The background is sparse, but filled with Ben Day dots, which offers a nice contrast to the panel below which only features a color gradient for its background. Gandini’s colors also cast the entire scene in shades of purple and black. To ensure Selina and Eiko stand out among the crowd, Gandini keeps their outfits largely jet black, while the rest of the cast has their suits enveloped by the pale, purple lighting. There’s a lot happening on the page, but Leon and Gandini offer the necessary clarity, even with the book’s credits taking up space in the middle of the page.
From there, Howard also offers a nice beat when Selina and Eiko run through the club’s break room. The women inside then cover for the duo once Black Mask arrives, playing dumb and buying Selina and Eiko time to escape. There’s also a few funny visual gags as the employee who talks to Black Mask has a little heart emoji appear by her head as she feigns innocence, while another poses coyly before quickly returning to her cellphone once Black Mask decides to leave. This is when Howard’s scripts are at their best, deftly combining exciting action with the overarching theme of Selina teaming up with women who are held down by the thumb of authority.
What doesn’t work is the relitigation of Dario’s relationship with Noah. It’s already been established that Noah is a terrible person who valued his place within the criminal underworld over Dario. There isn’t much else to mine from this dynamic so when Noah pulls a knife on Dario, I was looking forward to finally settling this subplot which has run its course. However, this goes nowhere, despite Noah getting the jump on Dario and even slicing his hand. They instead decide to meet up (again) to have a duel to the death. Almost nothing about the scene works and there isn’t a reason given for the meeting to even take place if Noah wasn’t ready to kill Dario right then and there. The entire scene is a pulled punch and while Dario’s plight is sympathetic, there’s no depth to Noah, leaving their dynamic stilted with no room to develop into anything more than jilted lovers wanting to kill each other. The subsequent scene where Dario tells Selina about his upcoming duel with Noah also dips into the type of melodrama the issue seemed to be breaking away from. Selina relates to Dario by detailing her last moments with Valmont and the fatalism of both their romances, but the parallel never fully works because we never saw Dario and Noah truly together. While I wasn’t a fan of Valmont, at least they had some degree of characterization while Noah has only ever existed as an outright villain.
The second half of the book brings back the spark as Eiko takes on Ibanescu’s henchmen, aided by her own crew who use sniper rifles, swords, and motorcycles. Eiko’s reveal panel is also great, with her backlit by a large explosion caused by her sniper shooting a rocket launcher wielding henchman. The subsequent fight is short, but effective, with Eiko using the Catwoman costume and whip to easily clear out any leftover stragglers. I’m glad Selina asks Eiko to no longer use the Catwoman mantle since she’s now out of jail, and I’m even more glad Eiko agrees with some reservations. The last moments depict Selina and Dario teaming up to deliver a message to Dario’s father, Don Tomasso. There’s solid characterization as Selina urges Dario to handle two henchmen on his own, giving him confidence and training before his eventual bout with Noah. The only nagging hiccup is Selina once again tries to make a deal with a crime lord, which is something I feel she’s been trying to do for months now. Unless there’s significant progress in this plotline and soon, there remains a lack of threat on both sides since Selina seems to have chats with her villains more often than fighting them. Luckily the final page hints at a more overt attack between the warring factions.
- You’ve been waiting for Selina to escape prison and regain her mantle.
- Dario’s ongoing conflict with his ex-lover Noah hasn’t run dry.
- The return to Selina’s war with the Gotham Underworld is your preferred storyline.
Catwoman #55 offers some hope that Tini Howard’s run can regain focus and embrace its strengths instead of trying to shake up the formula too much. While I appreciate the series’ attempts to diversify its setting and take a more insular approach, Howard and Nico Leon succeed more when keeping the storyline focused in Gotham City and examining its seedy underbelly.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.