Today, 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?
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.
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.
Granted, 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.
The 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.
Nevermind 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?