REVIEW: Catwoman, Vol. 1: The Game

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Catwoman #1 was released to widespread outrage. Writer Judd Winick and artist Guillem March, it was alleged, had turned a beloved character with a seventy year history into nothing more than a shallow sex-pot. Selina Kyle became nothing more than the object of male readers’ lust and misogyny. Indeed, readers are treated to three panels of her cleavage and a butt shot before seeing Selina’s face. To make the title even more controversial, the comic ends with Catwoman and Batman having sex—yes, with their costumes on. The issue even prompted mainstream news media outlets to run vitriolic stories about how sex filled comics were contaminating today’s youth. While some of the backlash was overkill, much of the criticism was justified. However, the comic improved drastically with each issue and Catwoman gets my vote for the most improved title of the New 52.

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My personal theory is that Winick and DC went overboard on the first issue intentionally. Pour on the sex to get people’s attention. While sexuality is not absent from the rest of the book, it never again reaches the levels of the first comic. Even the cover to the first issue (see above) is far more sensual than the ones that followed. The oversexed Catwoman #1—I predict—was a publicity stunt. Poor taste? Perhaps. Effective? It would seem so.  After all, Fox News didn’t run a story on Scott Snyder’s Batman or Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. 

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In The Game, Catwoman is young, inexperienced, self-confident, naive, and quite ferocious when she needs to be. More important to the progression of the story and character—she’s an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of the hunt/chase brings Selina more joy than the material riches she reaps from her illegal activities. Unfortunately, she learns that there are consequences for her actions—especially when those she’s stealing from are mobsters, drug dealers, and dirty cops. 

The six issues in this volume don’t constitute a traditional comic book story arc and the book does lack some narrative direction. The book mainly exists to showcase Selina’s inexperience and moral ambiguity. Winick’s Catwoman is far less heroic than what many comic readers have come to expect. She also does some things that even the most naive of thieves would avoid, such as going on a lavish spending spree after stealing from corrupt cops.

Nevertheless,  Selina’s inner monologue is typically revealing and sympathetic. She hints at a tortured past that will hopefully be expounded upon in future issues. Her rage and sadness following the death of one of her close friends is palpable, as is the self-realization she faces by the end of the book. These emotions are conveyed to the reader, not only through Winick’s writing, but March’s superb art, as well. There are some truly gut-wrenching frames when Selina is face to face with the corpse of her friend. In addition to emotion, March is superb at crafting action and showing movement. The cheescake that permeates some of his renderings may turn off some readers, but there is no denying that March is an extremely gifted artist.

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Catwoman may stumble out of the gate, but it recovers quite quickly to become an enjoyable and visually striking heist adventure. I, for one, am sad to see Winick leaving the title; it would have been interesting to see what he did with the character. I encourage anyone that was turned off by the sexed-up first issue, to give this title another chance.

My score: 3.75/5