Catwoman 14

Alternating Currents: Catwoman 14, Patrick and Drew DFToday, Patrick and Drew are discussing Catwoman 14 originally released November 21st, 2012. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.

Patrick: The scenario “Joker plays mind games with Selina Kyle” is ripe with potential for unpacking deep psychological issues. But that would be asking a fundamentally stupid series to try something smart. The result here is disastrous — a pointless diversion through visually incoherent space populated with flat characters playing a no-stakes game of Who Gives A Fuck.

The plot — such as it is — can be summarized: Catwoman survives two encounters with the Joker. But that doesn’t do justice to the absolute trainwreck of an issue we have on our hands here. To do that, we’re going to have to explore every beat of this story, one-by-one, until we all hate ourselves.

At the beginning of the issue, Joker has a bunch of orphaned children locked up in oversized chess pieces, all of whom are wired to explode. Why does he do this? So he can capture Catwoman, of course, and launch into the various ways he can “skin a cat.” She’s a cat burglar — just leave some fucking diamonds out, she’ll be by in a second to collect them (there’s no reason to overthink this).

Jokers methods of cat-skinning (which, I guess you could generously refer to as the “theme” of this issue) are equally inane and have nothing to do with anything. Method one — put Catwoman in one of those carnival rides that spins around so fast that you stick to the wall. But then turn it up to, like, so super fast. This shreds her clothes and starts to peel off her skin, instead of crushing her (I hear the jury’s still out on… science). And then something happens I can’t explain: the ride fills with water and it looks like Catwoman is flushed down a giant drain. Her response “I just want to sleep.”

No time to make sense of that action, she wakes up “hours later” to Joker kissing her. Why would Joker kiss her? Why would he conspire to take her clothes off? Joker offers her a new Cat-suit, one lined with “special rigor mortis paint” because that’s a thing that exists or has any reason to exist. It means that Joker can freeze Catwoman in whatever position he’d like, so he uses the opportunity to bring her… some place… Seriously, who wants to tell me where this is?

So his plan — just to recap — was to get Catwoman unconscious and naked just so he could dress her, incapacitate her, and get her to take her clothes off again?

But instead of using Catwoman’s state to his advantage in any way, Joker tells some story about his father being an asshole to him. Catwoman dismisses this story as a lie (as though it matters) and tells Joker not to play the victim card with her. Why on Earth, he’d have to play any cards with her is totally beyond me. He gives her the antidote to the rigor mortis paint (it’s at the end of a kiss-shaped stamp) and then scurries away to annoy Mr. Freeze or something. Who knows why he leaves. SHUT UP, HE JUST DOES, OKAY?

No, no, no. The reason Joker leaves is so Catwoman can go back to her apartment and TAKE OFF THOSE CLOTHES AGAIN. Everyone knows the quality of a Catwoman is directly proportional to the number of times she takes her clothes off. Joke’s on Selina, that new Cat-suit left little bat-symbols all over her body! Oh no! She’ll have to take a shower to get those off! Truly, this is a terrifying new Joker that attacks his foes with temporary tattoos.

Then there are like 6 pages left, so Catwoman’s got to go back out searching for Joker. Turns out, the joke is on her YET AGAIN, because he’s set up a vat of piranha’s to eat her. How’s he lure her into the piranha-vat? I… don’t know. Here’s what the page looks like.

Right, so, she’s up on a ledge. Good so far. Then Joker shoots an arrow that pierces the beam near her. Alright. Then a truck comes speeding around on the scaffolding? How’d a truck get up there? FUCK YOU, that’s how. So she falls from the ledge, which now appears to be a skyscraper under construction. Miraculously, there’s a bubbling vat of piranhas right where she’s about to fall. Maybe that magical flying truck silently delivered that vat moments ago, unbeknownst to our hero. Oh, but never mind, those aren’t really piranhas — another one of the Joker’s funny jokes!

Then the most asinine thing happens: Catwoman and Joker talk about which one of them is in-love with Batman. Joker says that if Catwoman marries Batman, “he’d start lying around too much, eating pizza, watching TV, all that snuggling at night. He’d become a soft blob.” Abstractly, I understand the argument, but this version of Catwoman is SO FAR AWAY from marrying (or even having a substantive relationship with) this version of Batman. Maybe Joker’s thinking of Earth-2 continuity before the Apokolips invasion…

Scene-by-scene, this thing is an absolute shitshow, but individual themes and characters don’t make sense either. Drew, I leave those broader criticisms to you.

Drew: Well, Patrick, I’ll thank you for having so much faith in me, but even with your scene-by-scene synopsis, I can’t make enough sense of ANY OF THE ACTION in this issue to say anything substantive about the characters OR the themes that it might contain. I’d rather not just take pot-shots at this entirely incomprehensible mess, but there’s exactly nothing else to say about it. Instead, I’ll just broaden the scope of complaints from the narrative nonsense to look at some of the other massive problems it can’t get over.

Patrick already mentioned the absurd number of times Selina strips down in this issue, so I’ll spare you any actual images of the gratuitous T&A (allow me to assure you, though, there are plenty of panels in this issue that crop out her face entirely to better frame her breasts). My point here isn’t to shame artist Rafa Sandoval — I’ve honestly grown tired of making the ENOUGH WITH THE BOOBS ALREADY complaint — but just to point out that this issue is particularly enamored of Selina’s anatomy. You’d think, then, that this issue would at least be accurate in its anatomy (or, failing that, consistent in its inaccuracies), but then we get panels like this one.

"Did I say 'Rigor Mortis Paint'? I meant 'I cut your leg off'."For those of you attempting these poses at home: don’t bother — this one’s impossible. Slipping a poorly conceived image like this one between all of the lovingly crafted cleavage sends a clear message to the audience: “why are you looking at this panel? It hardly has any boobs in it.”

That kind of…let’s call it “expressive creativity” is seen outside of just anatomy. Sandoval likes to employ this spatial freedom with scenery and blocking, too, making for many of those WTF moments Patrick mentioned. Take this establishing shot of that carnival ride.

This actually makes sense if you tilt your head and TAKE A LOT OF DRUGSGranted, maybe your first thought when reading “The Hell Hole Ride” paired with that image of the crouched Devil wasn’t just to giggle, but there’s still no reason for you to assume it’s one of those centrifuge rides. The next image doesn’t really establish that, either, since there’s WAY TOO MUCH SHIT going on in it, including that “P-TOOM” with the trail of smoke, that is neither explained nor referenced ANYWHERE IN THE ISSUE. Thankfully, Joker explains the whole thing for our benefit, which only leaves the problem that it makes no fucking sense.

Never mind that the plan doesn’t make sense — Selina’s escape makes even less sense.

Good thing these bonds were made of PUDDINGThe pressure — pushing down on her, mind you — is enough to peel off her skin. I’ve never been in a SUPER POWERED version of that ride, but even when they don’t peel your skin off, it’s damn hard to lift your arms at all, let alone break out of shackles you couldn’t break even when you were sitting still. It makes as little sense as explaining that your teeth hurt by exclaiming “My teeth! They hurt…”

ARGH! I’m just getting caught up in these details because I can’t get my head around how dumb this issue is. It’s frustrating that this issue is even considered part of the Death of the Family crossover — something it pays barely the least possible lip-service to. Sure, the Joker is wearing the mechanic’s jumpsuit and is complaining about Batman going soft, but like Patrick mentioned, his complaints here make NO FUCKING SENSE. My absolute least favorite moment comes at the end of the issue, where we get voiceover from the Joker.

This shadow...it doesn't have any BOOBSNevermind the strained spelling of “be-yotch,” Nocenti presumes to know what the Joker is thinking. That shit should NEVER happen. Moreover, his concerns don’t make any fucking sense. Why should Selina have any loyalty to Joker? That was his plan? Torture her for a couple days, then offer her something she doesn’t want and hope she agrees out of loyalty? The thought that he’s been conditioned by his abusive relationship with Harley is the most interesting idea this issue comes up with, and it clearly does that accidentally. BARF.

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?

46 comments on “Catwoman 14

  1. Confession: my shop was sold out of this issue so I haven’t read it. I think I might be better off for it.

    What the fuck is rigor mortis paint?

  2. It really is staggering that no part of this plot makes sense. There’s so much anti-logic at play here, I wonder how Nocenti even wrote it. Like can you imagine having a sense of cause and effect so crummy that this is the story you want to tell?

    • More mind-boggling: this shit gets edited before it goes to print. What was Rachel Gluckstern thinking with this one? Was Nocenti pulling some kind of “Emperor’s New Clothes” bullshit here, convincing her Gluckstern that, if she thought this issue didn’t make sense, it was her fault? Or maybe Nocenti’s script made even less sense, and this was as close as Gluckstern could come to a coherent story. Point is, a whole bunch of people READ THIS ISSUE, and still thought it was moral to ask people to pay for it. I’m way madder about the decision to publish this script — there are plenty of terrible writers out there, and even more terrible scripts, but editors are supposed to be our bellwethers against having to read them.

  3. Maybe the PTOOM panel is like a Magic Eye thing: if you cross and uncross your eyes, you’ll see what is supposed to be happening.

  4. Haha, I read Avengers vs. X-Men so I didn’t read this. I HAVE learned my lesson. I am making a list (checking it twice) of the writers that pull this crap. However, looking at that sideways leg, maybe I need to actually make a list of artists as well.

    I am going to spend $3 on buying cat food for the humane society I think instead of buying this.

  5. Ack. What a complete and utter mess this is.
    I held out hope that Nocenti would turn this book around. I was willing to give her a bit of room to find her feet with it (she inherited a train wreck so it is only fair to giver her a few issues, right?) but after this horror-show I am out. I can’t believe I’ve spent $45 on this piece of crap title…. ugh.

    How did DC let the prestige event – the return of the Joker!!! – get so out of hand. The tie-ins so far have had great wraparound covers…and very little else to recommend them. Even Batgirl – the issue (#13) on its own was fine but other than the one page at the end it didn’t have anything to do with DotF. To even call it a prologue seems a bit much – unless they are going to tie the Cherise arc in with it. If you only bought 13 because of DotF you would be lost and probably pissed that it had so little to do with the Joker (same with Catwoman 13, although it had a *bit* more Joker-related content…there are plenty of reasons to be mad about buying that one, though). Batgirl 14 was very good; Suicide Squad was awful.

    I want this event to be great and I want to pick up all the related issues but I am feeling like a sucker.

    • I’d argue that the Joker portions of Suicide Squad are merely bad. I literally skipped the non-Joker sections and have a much sunnier outlook on that issue than my compatriots around here.

      But, y’know, bad series are still going to be bad – even when they’re participating in a cross over event. And Nocenti’s three issue run on this series has been among the worst comics I’ve ever read. Not even Snyder’s left-over magic is enough to pull this out of the shitter.

      • It seems like Snyder’s approach with these crossovers is pretty hands-off. Writers have very few things they have to do, which gives them a LOT of free reign to write however they tend to write. Other events (like H’el on Earth and Rise of the Third Army) are way more plot-driven, to such a degree that it’s clear that writers are receiving plot points, if not entire stories that they simply write the dialogue around. Nocenti’s shortcomings may not have been such an important factor if she were in that situation, but given the freedom to write whatever she wanted (including opting out of the event altogether), this is the issue she chose to write. Tough to defend her instincts on that.

  6. It’s hilarious how much you all hate this. I’m almost glad this garbage made it to print. It gives us all the chance to read your hate. Your beautiful, beautiful hate.

    • I don’t normally shred a comic with so much glee, but this thing was just asking for it. It would be different if there previous issue hadn’t been similarly terrible, but the whole thing is just a heap.

      • It really is perplexing that this ever made it to print. This feels more like a four-year-old’s fever dream than the product of a team of coherent adults. You remember that video of that woman on some local news broadcast where she just couldn’t form words (this one)? This is like that, only produced by many people, and not live.

        • Where should I start? No seriously, the best thing about this issue for me was that when I finished it I thought “ah shit, one more month and I’m through”. Imagine my joy when I double checked and realised that Catwoman 15 wasn’t part of DotF! That was the last call for me, DC, if you don’t want everybody to HATE Catwoman as a character forever, how about a writer that doesn’t SUCK for this title in the very near future (or in the past, if you can retcon Catwoman 1-14 out of existence that would be pretty fucking sweet).

        • Well, plenty of beloved characters have been mishandled throughout the years but no writer, no matter how bad will ever make me hate characters that I love. It just makes me hate that writer even more! There is something about comic book characters that make them so damn resilient no matter how much damage they may take.

        • My thoughts exactly, Gino. As the Batgirl Annual proved, Catwoman in the New52 CAN be a compelling character. All you need to do is put her in the hands of a writer that can fabricate a plot that is reasonable and comprehensible and an artist that can draw a scene that readers can make sense of. Not too much to ask for, I don’t think.

          I was definitely going to pick up Katana but after her disastrous run on Green Arrow (or so I hear, I didn’t read it myself) and the shit she’s been serving up with Catwoman I am having second thoughts. I guess I will get the #1 and see what she does with it.

        • We’re pretty generous about reading new #1s in the New 52, but I think we’re skipping Katana all together.

          I’m not trying to defend either Nocenti or Winick’s work with this character over that last year and half, but I think Catwoman may actually be one of the harder DC characters to write. She’s a delicate balance of strong and vulnerable, selfish but heroic, dark but still sorta carefree, sexy but in an empowering way. Shelby and I went through a little phase where we were pitching Catwoman ideas (just for funsies) and it’s tough.

        • A lot of New 52 series have been thrown in at the deep end, since the reboot started. Characters like Voodoo, Grifter, Mr. Terrific, Static Shock and so on passed from being unknown to the 99 % of comics fan to having their own solo title. Of course they lacked the bases to avoid failure.
          Also, DC didn’t advertise them enough: for example, when I read that Mr. Terrific was among the first New 52 cancelled titles, I didn’t even know who he was.
          The same thing is happening for characters like Katana and Vibe. DC definitely didn’t learn from their mistakes.
          Anyway, I will try Katana. Miss Nocenti’s work on Green Arrow is atrocious, but I loved her run on Daredevil, as I love anything concerning Japan.

  7. Yesterday I had a long and intriguing conversation with a comic blogger. I’ll make a copy and paste of the most interesting parts:
    Blogger: “Who do you think is going to get the axe in the Dead in the Family arc?”
    Me: “Each character involved in the Death of the Family story arc has a best seller series dedicated to him/her, so I don’t think someone will get discarded. If so, Harley Quinn and Red Robin are the easiest targets, because Nightwing can’t exist without Dick Grayson, Catwoman can’t exist without Selina Kyle, while Suicide Squad can survive even if it loses a member, as the Teen Titans could go on without Tim, even if he’s their leader. My only concern is that Nightwing won’t be hurt too much: he’s one of the greatest comic book characters ever, DC must handle him with care. Anyway, after decades as a reader, I learned not to worry about deaths in comics, because the 99 % of them are temporary.”
    Blogger: “I agree completely with what you’ve said. But as we’ve all come to expect, deaths are either quite temporary or the shoes become filled by another character. And then of course there are series’ like Marvel: The End, where virtually every character dies, and expectedly so.
    I’ve checked out a few message boards since I’ve been out of reading the Batman universe consistently for some time, and the popular consensus is that DC has it out for Alfred. What do you think?”
    Me: “I didn’t think that Alfred could be the one. He’s so much behind the scenes that you don’t even take him into account, when you think about a radical change concerning the Batman world.
    Anyway, he’s an easy target as well, for the same reason of the other 2 characters I put on the chopping block, but I still believe that Harley Quinn and Red Robin are more probable victims. Their fan base is less solid and large than Alfred’s one, so their death would be accepted by readers more easily.
    Alfred could die only if DC wanted to raise interest around Batman – but it’s already the most sold comic book of the entire U.S., so why should they do that? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”: I think that DC perfectly knows this proverb.
    Why are you so sure that a Batman related character is going to die? Because of the title of the story arc?”
    Blogger: “I’m actually not sure about a character being killed off in the arc. I’ve mostly been reading the message boards that readers have been posting to, discussing how they feel the arc is lining up for a few major ends. I’m not sure if this was the exact discussion I originally found, but there’s lots of boards like this one: http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?432681-POLL-Who-Will-Not-Survive-The-Joker-s-Wrath-in-quot-Death-of-the-Family-quot”

    What do you think about it?

    • I still think the question of “who will die in Death of the Family?” is based on a misreading of the event’s name. Obviously this is a reference to Death in the Family, which famously killed Jason Todd. But the preposition “of,” coupled with the Joker’s stated MO suggests that he’s more interested in dissolving the Bat-family because they make Batman himself less fun to play with. He doesn’t have a beef against the individual members of the family, but he’d rather they not have this relationship that anchors them. At the risk of presuming to know what Joker wants: he just wants to be able to play this game with Batman at the highest level possible.

      Look for the family to break apart, but I doubt anyone actually dies.

      • I hope you’re right. Anyway, Snyder couldn’t have chosen a better title, since it raised an incredibly huge hype. Thank you for your reply and for the link! : )

        • Another thing that makes me think that Alfred HAS to make it through this alive is that he’s not just instrumental in the operations of Batman, he’s also so integral to our popular mythology about Batman. You know what I mean? No matter how many times these characters get re-booted or freshly represented (movies, TV, comics), there are a few elements of the characters that will never change. And Alfred is one of those things – he’s part of that Platonic idea of Batman.

        • Alfred never got discarded because he’s part of the spirit of the Batman universe. Each writer gave a different version of the character (someone made him a lovely friend having care of Bruce as if he were his biological son, someone made him a sarcastic geezer, and so on), but no one dared to erase him, because they knew that fans wouldn’t have forgiven that to anyone, not even to Frank Miller in his glorious days. Snyder is at the top of his career, why should he ruin everything with such a senseless decision? And most of all, why DC should let him ruin himself? I agree with you, it doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, but it doesn’t make sense.

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  9. @ mikyzptlk, I exagerated to make my point, I still like Catwoman enough from other comics and Batman the Animated Series to keep her a spot in my heart, but a) it still pisses me off that she sucks so much in the DCnU and b) new readers who don’t come into the new 52 with an established fondness for Selina Kyle may wind up writing her off for real.

    @ wwayne: check the comments on the Death of the Family event page, I started a similar debate there and we got quite a few opinions. To answer concisely, I think your suspects are plausible, but I’m not convinced DC has the stones to actually “off” anyone for real. Also, I’m not sure why so many people speculate that Harley will die; it isn’t impossible by any means but it doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose in Joker’s scheme of ridding Batman of his help to make him stronger.

    • “I’m not convinced DC has the stones to actually “off” anyone for real”: If proved right, your theory would make me breathe a sigh of relief: any departure would make me feel sad. Anyway, I admit that the Batman family has become too wide.
      At the beginning, the story was simple: there was Batman and his sidekick Robin. Then Nightwing raised: it was a great move, and most of all it was a justified move, since he was covering a Gotham zone Batman couldn’t care enough of (Bludhaven).
      Then a lot of other vigilantes (and sidekicks) came after Dick, but, as far as I know, DC never told us WHY they were necessary for Batman and for Gotham. Unlike Nightwing, they just peeped out without a reason. In some cases it was a good thing (for example, I’m not a regular Batwoman reader, but I couldn’t imagine Gotham without her now), but generally speaking I would have appreciated their introduction more, if it had been justified somehow. Thank you for your reply! : )

    • Haha. No, we’re dropping this title like a sack of dead cats. As much fun as it is to totally eviscerate bad comics, we’d much rather spend our time and energy (and money!) on stuff that’s actually worth reading. Catwoman does NOT meet that standard.

      • Also, just for the record, Catwoman’s never been on our regular pull list. As a resident of Gotham, she gets wrapped up in a lot of events that we are compelled to cover – hence the occasional coverage. We can be completions when it comes to events, but ultimately: life’s too short for bad comics.

  10. Hey, so is Catwoman’s identity a secret or what? I would think it’s a matter of public record, but if she’s uncomfortable with the Joker knowing it, maybe not. Still, I don’t think her identity is nearly as secretive as Bruce’s.

    • Selina’s prints aren’t in GCPD’s database (she’s covered via Batman’s sneakiness). So I’d guess the cops don’t know who she is. But I always got the impression that the criminals know who she is. Why do I think that?

  11. I decided to play along with the “Death of the Family” crossover, and this was the first Catwoman I’ve read. I’m happy I’m not alone in judging it as both incomprehensible and salacious trash. Yeesh …

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