Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Selina, In the Sun: A Brief Review of Catwoman #64

I admit it freely, Gentle Reader. I’ve had problems with the One Year Later run of Catwoman. This used to be one of my favorite titles—particularly any Cat/Bat Interaction!—but the “Who Fathered Catbaby?” storyline disappointed me, to say the least. I wasn’t thrilled with the Sam Bradley answer, or his convenient death, or the way Selina seemed to dismiss everyone’s concerns over her recent act of murder. As a Wonder Woman Fan, I felt a bit cheated that Selina murdered someone and was applauded for it, while Diana killed someone in self-defense—of the *world*--and she’s been put on trial.

That is to say, I go a bit sack of hammers when The Amazon Princess is wronged.

But the Catbaby Father storyline has come to an end, both Selina and Holly are Back In Black, and Catwoman #64 gives us one heck of an issue that has the feel of Old Selina with the caution and meticulousness of New Selina. Or, to wit, This Humble Author Eats Crow, and feels that #64 is the best issue of Catwoman we’ve had since we’ve jumped, One Year Later.

Selina is “hired,” so to speak, by Calculator, to perform a little theft. In exchange for stealing Lex Luthor’s snowglobe from an insanely high security vault, Calculator will erase Holly’s name from the Gotham PD computers, and she will no longer be under threat of arrest for the murder Selina committed. Simple, yes? A simple little crime for a simple little cat burglar.

But of course, it *is* simple for Selina Kyle. With #64, we see Selina at the top of her game again. She’s smart, she’s sassy, she’s cunning, and she’s pulling one over on everyone, despite the bright sunlight that seems to creep into every corner of Metropolis. Despite the reflective chrome-and-glass feel of Superman’s City. And most importantly, because of the introspection we, The Readers, see. Sometimes we forget, Gentle Reader, that sunlight can illuminate inside as well as out.

When reflecting on why she chose the rather obvious pseudonym of Irena Dubrovna, Selina remembers a line from Cat People in which Irena admits that she prefers night to day, dark to light. “She’s right,” Selina thinks to herself. “It is friendly. I suppose that’s why I love Gotham so much. It’s dark. It’s cozy. It’s home.”

It would seem that Selina is never farther away than when she is outside of Gotham, and even, sometimes, outside of the East End. The final panel of that page shows Selina, squinting against the sunlight pouring through the train windows. It shows Selina, in the sun, an image we so rarely see of our favorite Feline Heroine. The sun is cleansing, yes, and light is often a symbol of purification and reveal. Think only of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Blanche DuBois’ continuous pulling away from harsh light. She could never abide a naked light bulb or a cruel remark, she says, and we only see Blanche for who she is when her face is turned directly to the light.

Selina, too, favors the dark, as do all denizens of Gotham City. Batman, the Joker, the Penguin, Huntress, all of them prefer the cover of night, to disappear deep into the shadows and pop out when we least expect. Not so Metropolis. The first thing Selina sees upon arriving in the city is a streak of red over the sky. “Look!” the citizens say, pointing upwards. “What are they all…” Selina begins, before she, too, looks up.

“Oh,” she thinks, rather unfazed. “Right.”

And that, ultimately, is the beauty of Selina Kyle. Not only is she unfazed by the sight of the Man of Steel, but she’s unfazed by the sight of, well, herself. In an odd time crunch, Now-Selina runs into Future-Selina. If the costume alterations—tears, scratches, and bloodstains—are any clue, Selina is about to run into some problems. “Wait, I remember this,” Future-Selina says. “Listen… you need to watch out for the loo…” but before she can finish, she fades away. Now-Selina tells herself to calm down because “Could’ve been anything. Illusion generator. Parallel dimension portal. Hypnosis device.”

It’s this Selina that This Humble Author has missed over the past several issues. Smart, rational Selina. Confident, shining Selina, who shows nothing but pure joy for her job. When she prepares to break into the inner depths of Luthor’s building, she gives us a—pardon the pun, Gentle Reader!—cat-with-cream grin. She hopes Lex’s company has his sense of paranoia, because, as she tells us, “I’m here to rob them blind.”

She may have come over to the Bright Side, Friends, but at heart, she is the Selina Kyle that we’ve grown to love: toeing the line of good and not-so-good, of bright and dark, of crime and necessary crime. In short, Selina is damn good at what she does and at being who she is. And the reason we love her so completely? Because she knows it. Selina’s confidence may have been shaken by recent and not-so-recent events—Zatanna’s mindwipe, for starters—but this issue seems to bridge the gap between the former, devil-may-care Selina and the current more-cautious, more-meticulous Selina. It’s an interesting move, and one that I think works Quite Well.

Sometimes, I find that familiar characters are their most interesting, their most intriguing, outside of their comfort zones, not because of their vulnerability or Otherness, but because they truly demonstrate their core strengths. Buffy never had to be as strong as when she thought she was alone. Wonder Woman never held a position of honor so high as when she had to make horrible choices by herself. But Selina is, as This Humble Author is coming to realize, charming in Gotham or in Metropolis, fascinating at home or abroad. Because ultimately, Selina is, like Blanche DuBois, “very adaptable—to circumstances” (Williams 55).

Selina is not, of course, on her way to Elysian Fields like Dame Blanche, dependent on the kindness of strangers—and we can all thank our Lucky Stars for that, Gentle Reader! But she is self-confident, self-dependent, self-assured of her strengths, critical but understanding of her weaknesses; she is the same Selina, in Metropolis, in the sun, as she is in Gotham, in the dark. Her adaptability to circumstances, any circumstances, is a survival mechanism that has served her well, from her earlier, purple-suited days, to her black-suited, more utilitarian present. And the lengths to which she is willing to go to clear Holly-as-Catwoman prove that her obligations and loyalty are the same as they’ve always been. To Friends, to Family, to Those-In-Need.

6 comments:

R said...

Every time I read one of your positive reviews, I am all "zomg I need to pick this up and read it myself now now NOW!"

I dunno if that's because we have similar tastes and interests, or because your reviews are such wonderful pieces of writing. Probably it's a little of both!

Amy Reads said...

Hi Robyn,
Every time I read one of your positive reviews, I am all "zomg I need to pick this up and read it myself now now NOW!"
I dunno if that's because we have similar tastes and interests, or because your reviews are such wonderful pieces of writing. Probably it's a little of both!


Flattery will get you everywhere, Friend! :)

No, this issue truly is loads of fun, particularly because I was so iffy the last several issues. Not just because it was Sam as Helena's father--Ragtime made the argument a while back that Sam could have worked, and worked quite well, but they never gave him any face time. I agree with that. It didn't have to be Bat-Or-Bust for me. I just wanted either someone more interesting than Sam, or Sam to be made more interesting.
Ciao,
Amy

The Dane said...

Wait. They killed Slam? I'm glad I left the book when I did.lcggx

Gregg Kern said...

Amazing review. You've managed to perfectly sum up why I originally loved Catwoman, my misgivings with the OYL relaunch, and how happy I was to read the latest issue.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Dane,
Wait. They killed Slam? I'm glad I left the book when I did.lcggx

No, sorry to make you think that even for a second! What a horrible thing to have to believe :( (as you can tell, I love Slam). Sam Bradley, Slam's *son*, is the father of Catbaby, and the one who is killed off.
Slam would have been the much better Catbaby Father answer, in my opinion.
But that's just me :)
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Gregg,
Amazing review. You've managed to perfectly sum up why I originally loved Catwoman, my misgivings with the OYL relaunch, and how happy I was to read the latest issue.

Thanks so much! I was so happy to read this issue, too. I adore Selina, and Catwoman, and both Brubaker and Pfeifer have done wonderful jobs writing her. I didn't want to yank it off my list just yet. So very glad I waited!
Ciao,
Amy