War has finally come to the streets of Gotham and Selina returns to being Catwoman. This is the moment Genevieve Valentine’s run has been building to and it doesn’t disappoint. This issue uses Cleopatra as it’s historical figure, making sure that the apocalyptic fury of the gang war and Selina’s mortality are fully felt. It isn’t the Elizabeth Taylor variety of orientalist ersatz on her mind, it’s the queen who killed her own family to consolidate power and ended up losing everything.
This issue sees Selina having to come to the realization that the Calabrese family has become more than a means to an end to her, that she may have actually found a real family in them. Especially her cousin Antonia, who she again tries to remove from the front lines, this time naming her as successor should Selina not survive her war with Black Mask. Family remains on her mind throughout the issue, with her crosshairs aimed squarely at drawing Mason out to settle her score with him.
In the biggest payoff of Valentine’s run so far, Selina makes her way to Forster Lane where she accompanies Eiko’s friend Lewis, who also happens to be Penguin’s mole within Black Mask’s organization. It’s definitely the most conventionally Batman moment that Valentine has produced so far and that’s hardly a bad thing. Instead, she delivers a great moment that gives us a glimpse of just how much more she has under her sleeve. Like Valentine, Selina understands just how important the tradition of games and puns is to Gotham’s underworld. Selina knows how to play to Penguin’s vanity and is willing to do it. It’s a seemingly small thing, but it’s precisely what begins turning the tide in her favour. Showing his appreciation for Selina taking the time to figure out the penguin connection to Forster Street, Penguin shifts his support to the Calabreses and throws the entire conflict into chaos by sending his men after Black Mask affiliated families.
Selina returns home to find that not only has Mason come out of the woodwork to confront her at the Calabrese townhouse, but Antonia disobeyed her order to get out of town, unable to let Selina stand alone. Two out of three leave the confrontation wounded, but Mason lives to fight another day and Selina escapes without losing yet another member of her family. Neither Selina nor Antonia are interested in going anywhere, with Selina realizing that she can’t continue to distance Antonia from her actions and Antonia admitting how much Selina has come to mean to her since taking control of the family. Selina hasn’t quite let go of old habits where Eiko is concerned yet. She has no problem admitting how strongly she feels about the Hasigawa heiress, displaying the same intimacy with her that was on display last issue for the surprise kiss but Selina urges her to hang up the costume again. This time Selina’s reasoning is that she’s returning to being Catwoman and cannot afford the possibility that Eiko could be targeted for her own actions under the cowl. Eiko, ever the optimistic party, has questions of the future beyond the gang war on her mind while Selina has no conception of it yet. Eiko’s continuing role is definitely the question that will be weighing the most on my mind while Catwoman goes on break for Convergence.
With Selina not only outing herself as Catwoman to Black Mask at the end of the issue and openly contemplating doing the same with the Calabrese family, she’s could looking closer than ever to the Batman Eternal vision of her that Batman has feared she would become all along. Especially after Olive’s showdown with him in this week’s Gotham Academy, I’m disinclined to agree with Batman’s assessment. True, Selina has now united her identities as crime boss and vigilante, but her relationships with both Antonia and Eiko may very well be the saving grace that keep her from descending into that darkness. Consider that, congruent with Brubacker’s vision of her, Selina distances herself from the people she cares about most, shutting them out. The epiphany that led her to get back in costume this issue was part of a climb out of that mode. Selina seems to be poised to construct a healthier synthesis of her civilian and vigilante identities than anything Batman has ever sought out.
Gerry Brown proves his worth perhaps more than ever this issue, keeping it locked down to the key players and the emotions at work and away from slick action pieces. This also marks the issue with his most detailed faces across the board. Something I’ve come to really treasure in his work over the last five issues is that he always knows where to place the emphasis and in what direction his style needs to move in bolster Valentine’s vision. He truly outdoes himself this issue on Penguin’s face, but the true standout of the issue is the companion piece to Selina standing whip in hand surrounded by cats on a rooftop. This time Brown caps off a brutal, yet triumphant issue with Selina back in costume as Catwoman, staring down Black Mask on a rooftop across from his office, letting him know he’s got the combined fury of the head of the Calabrese family and Catwoman bearing down on him.
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Drawn by Gerry 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.