Review: CATWOMAN #45

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CATWOMAN #45
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by David Messina, Gaetano Carlucci, and Lee Loughridge
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 14, 2015

Roles are reversed as Eiko takes control of her family’s leadership and leaves her life as Catwoman behind. Only one loose end remains… the man who killed her father, the Black Mask. But will it be Eiko or the Catwoman that seeks revenge?

There’s something so stunningly beautiful about parallel plot construction in modern day comic book epics. Most arcs aren’t planned so carefully or with definitive conclusions, but we see it frequently in Snyder’s Batman, and we’re seeing it rendered magnificently here in Catwoman. Where this story began 11 months ago — and sadly concludes next month with the end of Genevieve Valentine’s too short run — we saw Eiko desperate to take on the role of Catwoman as Selina abandoned it to lead her family. And now with a perfect, tragic flip of fate, we have come to the reverse. And not without significant cost.

It’s a beautiful, if not devastating, way to cruise into the end of this story and leave Selina in somewhat of the same place she was prior to the run, albeit wiser and with scars. The brutality she’s had to execute in the course of saving Gotham City from chaos and the Black Mask cannot be callously dismissed. It is heavy and it is a burden, clearly so because of her desire to save Eiko from suffering under its grasp. But some people can’t be saved…

Watching attraction and romance wither in the face of painful circumstances makes for great drama, and Valentine plays that tension out over the course of the last two issues so perfectly. Selina and Eiko are not just acting in parallel. They are tethered by the moments they’ve shared, even as their metaphoric train cars speed off in opposite directions. I’d be sincerely disappointed we didn’t see more of the romance between the two if what we’ve experienced with them wasn’t so deeply poetic and more impactful than a happy ending can be on my psyche.

I’m also beyond pleased to see Antonia’s rise come to fruition here. As the new head of the Calabrese clan, she represents so much of what Selina did in terms of intellectualizing the responsibility of being a crime boss, but with a much cleaner soul. And once again, this is part of the sacrifice Selina made for the women around her, whether they would have asked her to or not.

Messina and Carlucci deliver another spot on issue, giving a cool, marble-esque feel to all the women gracing these pages. It’s never Eiko or Selina or Antonia or Stephanie who grimace in the face of disaster. But their stony presentation under Messina’s lines doesn’t disguise the emotion underneath. The sadness and anger is controlled and it’s buried, but it’s still there, glistening under a semi-opaque surface.

All the characters have a sort of luminosity with Loughridge’s color palette, not so much shining in the darkness, but glowing just enough to be seen. As the scene shifts from autumn exterior to dank underground, the shadow and color sincerely sets the tone for the Catwoman’s final act of vengeance and protection of those she loves. And when the light turns back up, we get a brutality that even more shocking than that which appeared in the dark. How that movement plays across pages, with color palettes shifting and artists choosing what moments are seen and unseen, pulls everything together like a Shakespearean tragedy. And that makes for exceptional comics.

A stunning issue that has done its best to prepare my heart and soul for what comes next, Catwoman #45 has me on edge, heartbroken, and smiling at its beautiful construction through the tears. Valentine has carried out a majestic tale of woe, love lost, and regret here, and I feel both blessed for having read it and raw for knowing that it’s all about to end.

The Verdict: 10/10

 

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