This review contains spoilers!
The last issue closed with Selina and Batman having sex. This issue opens with them having even more sex. Selina’s narration says of this encounter, “Some very misplaced anger is present,” an assertion that, while used here to indicate Batman’s lovemaking style, nonetheless seems an appropriate description of his relationships in general. After this tryst, Selina dresses and leaves as Batman stares after her. She immediately goes to steal the horse painting she learned about in issue #1, taking care in her ransom note to voice her opinion that it’s ugly (she’s right).
Back at Lola’s apartment, Winick provides some exposition through Lola’s dialogue, relating that Selina used to “run with the Russians” and that the woman Renald killed in Selina’s flashback was a friend of Selina’s, which surprised me, since I was expecting the woman to have been Selina’s mother, given how young Selina looked in the flashback. We learn that Selina literally scratched Renald’s eye out when she attacked him. Lola warns her against making this mission too personal.
Selina sets up an exchange for the painting at a Wayne Foundation gala. However, in addition to passing that information to the Egorovs Clan (to whom the painting belongs), she has also “invited” the Ivgene Clan, the Egorovs’ rivals. At the gala, the disguised Selina notes Bruce Wayne’s foolish behavior, while, unbeknownst to her, Bruce surreptitiously confers with Alfred about Selina’s mob heist. He may not know that Selina Kyle is Catwoman, but he definitely knows the blonde in the revealing red dress is her, and he knows what she’s up to at his party. Pretending to be drunk, Bruce hits on Selina, while Alfred intercepts the text messages Selina has been sending the respective mobs.
The Egorovs and Ivgene Clans meet. Selina, now dressed as Catwoman, pulls Bruce Wayne to safety in a classic Catwoman move—dropping down on him from the ceiling, wrapping her legs about his shoulders, and kissing him. She throws a firecracker into the room to scare the clans into firing on each other. Renald is (apparently) killed. Taking her ransom payment, Selina leaves the party (and the suddenly grim-faced Bruce Wayne) and returns to Lola’s apartment, where she finds her friend dead. Before she can react, she’s attacked by the masked men from issue #1. They injure her gravely before their boss calls them off. A man with deformed, calcified flesh reveals himself—Louis Ferryman, aka Bone. Bone says that he has been a target of Catwoman’s thefts in the past and the issue closes with Selina, bloodied and weeping, looking up at him.
This reads like a classic Catwoman issue, and is a vast improvement from the sex fantasy romp of issue #1. Selina indulges in a tryst with Batman but immediately gets back to business, leaving the Dark Knight alone, staring after her. It’s a moment that previous fans will recognize as a welcome character trope—after they’re done with each other for the time being, Catwoman goes back out into the night an independent agent, and Batman broods in her wake.
The party scene is the highlight of the issue. Selina and Bruce’s inability to recognize each other for who they actually are (remember, the implication, at least from Selina’s perspective, is that Bruce recognizes her as Catwoman, but doesn’t know that Catwoman is Selina Kyle) brings to mind the campy 60s Batman TV series. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scene were an intentional throwback to it. Selina’s ability to play a character—in this case, a mysterious young partygoer—shines here, and her interactions with Bruce are hilarious in her ignorance of his “other” identity. Though Selina is the focus of the scene, it’s a high point for Bruce too, as we are treated to a ridiculous display of his false front. Selina is appropriately repulsed by him as he drunkenly flirts with her, but later, just enough of his true personality slips through that she almost sees his Bat-instincts kicking in. He turns off the charm with Alfred so quickly that we are yet again reminded of how much of “Bruce Wayne” is just an act, with the grim Batman personality being the man’s real one. I think it’s safe to say that even Batman fans who aren’t particularly interested in Selina would enjoy this issue.
Selina’s wit also comes through in the party scene when we see her engineer the deadly confrontation between the two clans. Neither one of them has done anything to insult the other this time, but Selina plays on their rivalry (and a firecracker) to cause a conflict that will ultimately leave Renald dead and the clans, respectively, minus a hefty sum of money—and all without putting herself in danger from them.
The last four pages take a disturbingly violent turn, in keeping with the darker tone of the DCU reboot. This last scene seems a little out of place in this issue and might take readers by surprise, as seems to be its intention.
March’s expressions continue to make Selina look physically somewhat catlike, which works for the title while nonetheless resulting in more awkward moments. In contrast to the brutal sex of the first page, the second page has Batman and Selina looking almost tender together, as he holds his cape partially around her.
The visual manner in which Selina steals the painting is classic and amusing.
At the gala, Bruce’s nose and cheeks are slightly reddened to suggest his (faked) intoxication, and invite the reader to imagine him slinking off to apply a light blush to his face lest anyone get the impression that Bruce Wayne is NOT a drunken idiot. His quick transition to grimness is visually as strong as the written transition.
The page on which Renald dies is, in terms of the art, the climax of the issue for me. There’s a two-panel juxtaposition of Renald’s and Selina’s faces as Renald attempts to dodge the bullets Selina has indirectly sent his way. Though only partially visible, Selina’s expression as she takes one last good look at him is beautiful, dangerous, and proud.
I found Lola’s corpse a bit more disturbing than was necessary. Though her clothes are on, she’s tied to a chair in a position that suggests sexual openness, and though she’s bound, cut, and bloody, the positioning of her body calls the viewer’s eye immediately to her large breasts. Despite an obvious laceration on her arm and a bullet wound to her head, most of the blood is concentrated on the floor, below her spread thighs. There’s no sign of sexual assault actually occurring there, but the location of the blood certainly evokes a sense of that. The reader might wonder if this was actually intentional, and if so, why.
The beating Selina takes is quite a graphic one, and we see her sustain several injuries that could be life-threatening, including impact to her head and spine. The visual end of the issue is, then, just as violent as its narrative.
On a final note about the art, Bone looks very much like one of classic Universal Monsters, with a touch of The Thing (Marvel, not John Carpenter) thrown in.
This cover, like the issue itself, calls to mind some of the classic Catwoman/Batman stories. Standing on one of his signature gargoyles, Batman holds Selina in the air with one arm as they kiss. He holds his grappling line; she holds her whip. It’s an image highly reminiscent of their old rooftop chases.