Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Exfanding Review: Catwoman, Issue 1

Okay, so, this is the kind of thing we normally wouldn't even think about touching on Exfanding, but last week's Catwoman, issue 1, from DC' New 52 relaunch has sparked so much debate online that I feel the need to talk about it.

First, a warning. Actually, two.

This post will be filled with spoilers. Seriously, if you haven't read the issue and plan to and don't want the ENTIRE THING RUINED, then stop reading now. Second, if you do plan to continue, know that we'll be talking about some not-exactly-PG stuff for the next few paragraphs.

Hey--don't blame me. DC put the book out.

And now, for the especially dense...


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Catwowman, issue 1, is a bit of a head scratcher. On one level, it's an interesting and engaging revamp of a popular character. On another level, it's a very creepy comic book.

And I'm not talking good, horror story-creepy, either.

I'm talking the Bridge Troll Comic Fan-creepy.

Stop it. You know exactly the kind of fan I'm talking about--he might stare at you a little while too long with somewhat murderous intent in his eyes, but in the end he really is harmless. Creepy? Sure, but ultimately just a fan who lacks a few social skills, and is otherwise a pretty decent guy.

That's what Catwoman, issue 1, feels like to me.

It's that kind of creepy comic book storytelling that plays into all of the worst stereotypes about the comics industry, but at the end of the day, it's pretty much harmless.

But let's back up a minute for some context.

As with all of the New 52 from DC, the goal of Catwoman, issue 1, is to re-introduce the character to readers both old and new. In that sense, writer Judd Winick has introduced us to a new(ish) version of Selina Kyle who is in the vein of an international woman of mystery.

Infiltrating Russian mob parties, escaping from mysterious assassins, etc.

That's pretty cool, and I think it's a nice revamp of a character we'll be seeing a lot of in the next year as Chris Nolan's third Batman film approaches. But character revision is not what has raised the ire of so many people.

Winick's Catwoman is, I think, supposed to come off as a predator, using her sexuality to get the upper hand on the bad guys. Only, I don't think the issue did a good job in that regard. Instead, it made Selina look pretty bad.

In an issue titled, "...and most of the costumes stay on" the main character is in her underwear a lot. And when she's not in her underwear, she's spending a lot of time trying to get Batman out of his.

Underwear, I mean.

The art--by the incredibly talented, but cheese cake loving Guillem March--played this up to an extent not uncommon in many comics featuring female leads. Unfortunate, but true when it comes to super hero books.

Like it or not, T&A is a part of the culture. Like anything else, a little here and there is okay, but let's try to keep things from getting embarrassing, you know?

And that's where the furor over this issue really lies. At the end of the book, Batman and Catwoman have sex. It's not the usual kiss and lights out thing, or the implied aftermath of a close call in the heat of battle.

They just have sex.

And Catwoman tells the reader what it's like to have sex with Batman. Which is more than I ever wanted to know.

If you're wondering, that whole scene is about as weird and uncomfortable for the reader/viewer as you might expect when two people dressed in spandex and leather, respectively, start going at it on a rooftop after a night of crime fighting/Russian mob infiltrating.

Now, as someone who is not easily offended--especially when it comes to fictional characters--my initial reaction to the book was not one of outright indignation. Even now, after reading the firestorm online, I really don't care that they had sex.

And I really don't care that the art was as racy as it was.

I guess my biggest issue with the book is that DC certainly didn't offer this book as one with a limited, older audience in mind. Note the playful cover copy for the issue, which DC ran as the solicitation information to retailers:

Meet Catwoman. She's addicted to the night. Addicted to shiny objects. Addicted to Batman. Most of all, Catwoman is addicted to danger. She can't help herself, and the truth is – she doesn't want to. She's good at being bad, and very bad at being good. Find out more about what makes Catwoman tick in this new series from writer Judd Winick (BATMAN: UNDER THE HOOD) and artist Guillem March (GOTHAM CITY SIRENS)!

Granted, the book was rated "T+" though I didn't notice that until it was pointed out by someone online.

What has struck me most about the DC relaunch is how all over the place in terms of mature vs. all ages these books have been. I know comics aren't for kids anymore, and I personally like that about the industry, but it's a little weird that most of DC's books are not suitable for kids.

That said, you have to judge a book on its own merits. And Catwoman, issue 1, has problems. Selina is DC's most popular female character--I'm going out on a limb and saying she's more popular amongst readers than even Wonder Woman. Some of those problems lie with the storytelling, and some with the characterization of a major player in the DCU.

Issue 2 is going to be on pretty much everyone's radar to see how DC handles Catwoman going forward.

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