Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Catwoman 9 originally released May 16th, 2012. This issue is part of the Night of the Owls crossover event. Click here for complete NotO coverage. Not caught up on Catwoman? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram Session.
Patrick: Judd Winick’s Catwoman is a morally dubious character that makes poor decisions all the time. And not just poor life decisions (like dressing up like a cat to steal things, or hate-fucking Batman), but tactically shitty decisions that put her life and the lives of her friends in danger. She will occasionally – arbitrarily – grow a heart, and do something nice for someone, as she does in her Night of the Owls adventure. But there’s nothing under her mask that supports any of this kind of behavior, and no amount of teased backstory is going to change that.
As has become the custom, the issue introduces us to a unique Talon. This one is from the 1660s and his named Ephraim Newhouse. In life, he was retired from the Talon program after a botched assassination meant that he had to kill like a dozen innocent witnesses. He also lost an owl dagger, which, I guess that’s a bummer too. The Court sent him into his coffin-slumber naked and stripped of his Talon equipment. On the Night of the Owls, Ephraim is resurrected and told that if he just kills Oswalt Cobblepot, his honor will be restored to him.
Meanwhile, Catwoman and her new stealin’-stuff partner – a Meta-human with electrical powers by the name of Spark – are casing the Penguin’s office because he’s got an antique knife with an owl etched on the handle. WHAT A COINCIDENCE. The Talon bursts through the door and kills Penguin’s body guards and is about to kill Penguin himself before becoming distracted by that shiny, shiny dagger (orders to kill the man in front of him be damned). Spark tries to convince his partner to abort their mission and leave Penguin to his fate, but Selina feels an unexplainable pang of conscience and jumps to Penguin’s defense. They scuffle for a while, with the Talon predictably able to shake off any attack Catwoman or Spark can deliver. But Penguin finally puts the whole thing to bed by shooting Talon through the face with his umbrella-gun (which is a gun disguised as an umbrella and not a gun that shoots umbrellas). Catwoman takes the totally unfounded stance of “you didn’t have to do that” and then takes the body and the owl knife (along with the 4 others she’d stolen previously) to the roof of the GC police station.
Here we go with another Talon totally unable to follow orders. Actually, wait, there’s a lot of this Ephraim Newhouse’s story that doesn’t really add up. First, wow, 1665 was a long time ago. Previous to this, I don’t think we’d met any Talons from before the 19th century. It seems like the world of 21st century Gotham would be so different and alien to Ephraim as to render him totally ineffective as an assassin. (Though, I suppose he does fail in his task, so that’s that.) There’s also this weird little bit about burying him naked to shame him, but when the Court wakes them all up 350 years later, they’re all naked. Are all the Talons buried in shame? And the last thing that bugs me about this character – why would he not just kill his target instead of obsessing over a knife that probably isn’t even the one he lost in the first place? Also, what a dumbass: doesn’t even realize the Court was mostly mad about him needlessly killing all those witnesses, the lost knife was just icing on the cake.
But I’m done complaining about the character of a one-off villain. Now, let’s complain about the character of the protagonist. Catwoman claims to be able to see that Talon was mistreated by those that raised him. She says “Mirrors come in all sizes,” which would be poignaint if there was any truth to it at all. Not only is she weirdly projecting on this character she’s just met, she’s also suggesting a past of which we have no evidence. Not once in the eight issues that proceeded this one (and I should know, I read them and summarized them here) does Selina indicate that she had a hard childhood. Hell, she doesn’t mention her past at all. Catwoman is effectively not a character, but a vehicle of convenient storytelling – motivated only by greed and undeterred by all other concerns.
This issue tries to make me think she gives a damn. And not only is that a hard sell as it is, Winick shows her giving two different, conflicting damns: one for the Penguin and the other for the Talon. Thanks goodness Penguin shoots poor Ephraim though the head or there would have been some messy resolution to deal with.
I didn’t much care for the rest of the series, and this is one more solid nail in Talon-coffin: I shan’t be picking up Catwoman again, and I’m totally looking forward to having the series out of my life. Shelby, I know you’ve been having some problems with the series’ lack of voice and confused tone; issue 9 do anything to change your mind?
Shelby: No, but I am going to disagree with you on a couple of points. We do know that Selena had some sort of “bad childhood.” She killed Renald because he killed some friend of hers in front of her back in the day, and when she was beating the shit out of Bone, she said she knew something something about things suck.
That being said, I don’t think any amount of owls could make me continue with this series, which is a shame. We’ve discussed this before: I really, really want to like Catwoman. Hell, there are even things I do actually like about this title. But this character is just unbelievably out of control. Reading this title is like reading a bipolar’s dream journal; Catwoman is so all over the place in mood and action that I just can’t (nay, DON’T WANT TO) keep up.
This issue is no different. It made sense in issue 8 for her to save that hooker from mystery man in van. We can chalk it up to a vicitimized woman thing. But why would she go out of her way to save Penguin? Unless she has some fond memories of that time they teamed up to frame Batman for killing the beauty queen, her actions don’t make any sense. And then to have her turn around and show that same misplaced compassion for the Talon? Why would she do that? More specifically, why would she bail on however much money all those knives are worth? This is the same woman who stole a pile of money from dirty Gotham cops and promptly treated herself to a spa day! I could maybe, maybe believe her compassion towards the Talon as one broken creature to another, but there is nothing about this character that leads me to believe she would turn her back on that kind of cash. The only character who acted with any sort of sense in this issue is the Penguin. Think about that for a second: Winick created a universe where the Penguin is the voice of reason.
So, the Night of the Owls leaves Catwoman exactly as it found her: with no real sense of voice or direction, doomed to wander aimlessly between strangely selfless and retardedly reckless. I would love to see the DCU through the eyes of a sexy and sassy pseudo-villainness; one who falls on the wrong side of the law more often than not, but is ultimately a decent person. Sadly it looks like I’m going to have to wait.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?