As Selina faces mounting pressures from the outside that threaten her campaign to literally rebuild Gotham and rid it of guns, she shifts her focus to the legacy of Lucrezia Borgia, whom she shares a lot more in common with than embroilment in their fathers’ intrigues. Despite the privilege that Lucrezia enjoyed as the Pope’s daughter she was marked as an outsider for being a Spaniard in Italy, much like Selina’s constant reminders that she comes from outside of the family, no matter what blood flows in her veins. Even Gotham’s crime families resemble little else than the rival city states of Renaissance Italy, a fact not lost on writer Genevieve Valentine.
Another immaculate Jae Lee cover beautifully renders the chasm opening up in Selina’s mind between her identity as crime boss and Catwoman with her dangling by the neck between “cat” and “woman,” held aloft by her would be successor Eiko Hasigawa, introduced last issue as the heir to Gotham’s pre-eminent Japanese crime family. Eiko and Selina meet this issue at an art gallery to negociate Selina’s family taking on a heroin supply in exchange for using docks controlled by the Hasigawas to smuggle the guns Selina desperately wants out of the city. Eiko expresses a certain disappointment in their first face to face meeting after Selina seemingly waxes poetic about her shift from Catwoman to crime boss with her comparison of the legacies of Caterina Sforza and Lucrezia Borgia. Eiko steps up to become an exciting foil later on in the issue when she attacks Selina wearing a Catwoman costume of her own, revealing herself to be the crime fighter the issue opens with. Eiko embodies all the same fury and energy that Selina put into her early years as Catwoman (see Batman: Year One), but she isn’t willing to see herself in the younger woman, passing it off as youthful arrogance. From Eiko’s perspective, Selina’s become everything Catwoman stood against and for her part Selina is unwilling to clarify her reasons for accepting the drug shipment and in doing so turns away a promising new ally. No matter what Selina has to say about the matter, Eiko’s tenure as Catwoman is already defining itself as the best plot thread of the new run as both the cops and Black Mask intensify their hunt for her.
Hardly willing to make the simple trade off of flooding the city with heroin as the price for ridding it of guns, Selina hatches her most complex scheme yet, standing aside to let Nick Calabrese leak the location of the heroin deal to the cops, allowing her to complete the deal in good faith without letting them get out onto the street. Which as plans go, is incredibly effective, but all of Selina’s careful speeches about Elizabeth I and Caterina Sforza as leaders in war time meet their first serious dose of reality as Nick’s actions lead him right into the clutches of Black Mask.
Brown and Loughridge’s art remains primarily in service to the story, continuing to prioritize mood over action, but they definitely shine brightest in the two page spread confrontation between Selina and Eiko-as-Catwoman on the former’s balcony. Sharp layouts and careful placement of figures easily sell the kind of action that gets muddled and lost in the glossier books and this really isn’t even being sold as an action title. The colours slide between cool blue and warm orange hues that stay distinct until Eiko and Selina’s confrontation, giving it all the pop it needs to be the centerpiece of the issue. Another issue in and Valentine’s Catwoman continues to be a slow burn, fitting for a series that focuses so much attention on a famous poisoner.
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Drawny by Garry Brown with colours by Lee Loughridge
Emma Houxbois is a fiercely queer trans woman from the wilds of Canada, most recently spotted in the Pacific Northwest. She is a two time IWC Women’s World Champion and has written about comics for the web since 2005 for sites including Playboy, Bitch Media, and Graphic Policy.