There’s No Crying In Heists! Thoughts on Catwoman #0.Posted: October 9, 2012
It’s time for ThatMonster versus Catwoman, Round 2. In Round 1, Catwoman and Judd Winick won by a landslide, winning me over utterly and completely, despite my fear of her ample busom on the cover of the TPB Volume 1 of The Game (they…they were quite ample). Then he left, and with doing so, took a little piece of my heart (queue Janis Joplin, please).
Now, for Round 2 it’s me versus Ann Nocenti’s take on my girl Selina, and…well…
I’m going to be blunt: I hated Catwoman #0.
Initially, I thought the storyline made some sort of sense (discussing Selina’s orphaned background and her descent into cat-burglarly could be fantastic grounds for an evocative and compelling read), but that the execution was too over-the-top and didn’t leave anything to be desired. There were some interesting bits where we got to see Selina learning how to hone her disguise and lying skills, but these are overshadowed by too much heavy-handed melodrama (for example, Selina as a girl, reaching for pearls, saying “I want more” in a Golem-esque voice, I imagine).
Then I sat on it for a little bit, and realized it wasn’t just that the execution lacked tact, but that the entire narrative was disjointed from what makes Catwoman great. Selina has always been damaged, but not in an “oh woe is me” kind of way. In Issue #9, her cross-over with the Night of Owls story arc, displayed this wonderfully. She is in no way psychologically well-kept, but like Batman, she replaces the emptiness with a devotion to who Catwoman is and what she stands for.
Her damage, her hurt, comes out in her compassion. Which is why she fluctuates between being the good guy when she fights alongside Batman (say in the No Man’s Land epic) or when she fights against him as a villian (say in the No Man’s Land epic). As I’ve said before, Catwoman is not easily definable, neither are her motives. She slips between boundaries, because she’s guided by her own inner ideals and rules. Not what society deems as important, but what Selina Kyle deems as important. Catwoman is done best when her psychological duress is imported through her interactions with others, not through a near-crippling self-pity. And this comes across perfectly in her encounter with the talon in Catwoman Issue #9.
Now, as I discussed in my review of the TPB of The Game, Catwoman steals and lives the luxurious life of a jewel thief because she can. She is angry at the absurd wealth some people covet, and the danger and hurts this creates. She steals out of injustice, but not to fill a void or an emptiness from growing up without material possessions. Crying and clutching pearls defies what makes Selina Kyle a great character. It reduces her to an angry child, and unfortunately, Nocenti does not make any attempts at illustrating Selina will grow out of it. Instead, we were left with the impression that what guides Catwoman from this moment on is a desire to find herself… through lots of diamonds. There is hope, though, that Nocenti will use this as a defining moment of how Catwoman learned to not be a whiney drama queen, and I will hold onto this. For dear life, readers, for dear life.
Now, granted that this could be a stepping stone to something not groan-worthy, it still fails as a piece of writing. Whether or not you agree/disagree/hate-me for saying that Catwoman would never wander around ditsily bemoaning her past and filling her soul with sparkly objects, we can all agree on this: it is incredibly heavy-handed and offers no nuance as a story. Whereas with Nightwing Issue #0, (which also deals with an “orphan” origin) while we are told explicitly by Kyle Higgins that he is comparing and contrasting Bruce and Dick, there is still a lot for us to infer and grapple with on our own. We see his hurt, but it’s through evocative art and carefully-crafted sentences. The narrative extends itself to us as readers, rather than telling us everything point-blank and moving on.
I repeat: to have Selina cry and clutch pearls ruins her characterization and her motivation. To do so puts her in the same position of those she hates and who she steals from. She doesn’t attach herself to material possessions; it’s the role of Catwoman she’s attached to, and not the objects themselves. If all she really wanted was to be rich, she’d be a more dedicated villian. But she’s not. If all she thought of was herself, she wouldn’t fight alongside Batman or help people who need it (like in the Dollhouse storyline that finished off Winnick’s run).