Review – Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1: The Cat’s Meow

Comic Books DC This Week
Catwoman 80th Anniversary cover, via DC Comics.

Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 – Paul Dini, Ann Nocenti, Tom King, Jeff Parker, Liam Sharp, Mindy Newell, Chuck Dixon, Will Pfeifer, Ram V, Ed Brubaker, Writers; Emanuela Lupacchino/Mick Gray, Robson Rocha/Daniel Henriques, Mikel Janin, Jonathan Case, Liam Sharp, Lee Garbett, Kelley Jones/Danny Miki, Pia Guerra, Fernando Blanco, Cameron Stewart, Artists; Laura Allred, Alejandro Sanchez, Jordie Bellaire, Alex Sinclair, Steve Oliff, John Kalisz, FCO Plascencia, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: As the next wave of anniversary super-specials arrive, celebrating characters from around the DCU who don’t have titles or whose titles aren’t suited for giant anniversary numbers, the focus shifts to Catwoman. The #1 femme fatale in Gotham has had a title pretty consistently since the early 1990s, with a lot of elite creative teams, but it’s surprising who’s not in this issue – namely, two of the most prominent women to ever write the character, Genvieve Valentine and Joelle Jones (the latter having just finished her run). But we do have ten elite creative teams with some surprises along the way.

It starts with a tale from iconic Gotham City Sirens writer Paul Dini and artist Emanuela Lupacchino, involving Selina tracking down a group of missing big cats from local zoos. This leads her to a particularly disturbing new villain, The Taxidermist, with sick plans for exotic animals and a desire to make Selina his top trophy. It’s dark, and anyone who’s sensitive to seeing animals harmed should probably stay away. But it’s highly satisfying to watch Selina get her revenge on this sicko, and this is a good take on Dini’s darker Catwoman from back when she was skirting the line between heroism and crime.

Next up are Ann Nocenti and Robson Rocha, telling a fairly timeless tale of Catwoman going up against the corruption of Gotham City. When a bored guard on security detail sees Selina robbing his detail, he takes the opportunity to try to cut a deal – and Selina wonders if having a man on the inside would be a good thing. But things quickly go south, and we see the two corrupt schemers go up against each other. It’s an amusing tale, with a bit of a fun twist ending, but it doesn’t make a big impression.

Batcat Baby. Via DC Comics.

Next up is the story everyone is talking about, by Tom King and Mikel Janin. The two got everyone talking with a shot of Batman and a heavily pregnant Catwoman on the rooftops, and this years-spanning tale seems to be a prequel to their upcoming Batman/Catwoman run. It’s a VERY King story, dialogue-heavy and taking place in individual page snapshots of Batman and Catwoman’s journey to parenthood. The dialogue is King at his best, although it stretches belief that Selina would be chasing down Gotham rogues in late-stage pregnancy (although Joker’s reaction is worth it). The flash-forward gut punch ties the story in with one of King’s annuals, and is a highlight for the issue.

Another highlight for the volume is Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case’s Batman ‘66 story, focusing on Catwoman being rudely interrupted in one of her heists by the arrival of some old-timey aliens. They plan to invade and rename Earth after enslaving its people, but Catwoman doesn’t go quietly and finds their retro machinery – including zap-rays and a giant robot – surprisingly easy to dismantle. Also not very hard to dismantle – their sexist society, which leads to her getting an unexpected ally in a young alien girl. It’s a perfect follow-up to Parker and Case’s work on the long-running comic tie-in.

60s variant cover, via DC Comics.

Liam Sharp goes solo on the fifth story, a three-page tale where Selina is confronted mid-heist by an unfortunate security guard armed with a gun. He’s determined to do his job and keep her from getting away, so she proceeds to psych him out by telling him nine ways this confrontation could play out – one for each life. They range from routine to morbid to surprisingly hilarious, with a clever twist ending that finds a tenth way out of it for the cat. Sharp continues to establish himself as one of the DCU’s best double-threats.

Mindy Newell and Lee Garbett take Selina back to the Miller era for a gritty tale that looks at her childhood and the one theft she would give anything to undo. Focused on a priceless family mezuzah belonging to an elderly Holocaust survivor – who was one of Selina’s many foster parents as a child – it’s a strong look at Selina’s darker earlier days and the tense relationship between her and Batman, while reminding us that she had some good in her even at the start. Always great to see respectful Jewish representation in the comics as well!

Next up is a possible vault tale from Chuck Dixon and Kelley Jones, pitting Selina against Clayface for a giant emerald aboard a merchant ship. While Selina is looking to get in and out, Clayface has begun massacring the crew and is more than willing to kill his competition. The characterization of Clayface as an unrepentant monster makes this story feel VERY retro, and Jones’ art is good on the monster but not so good on Selina, who looks very exaggerated and cheesecake-y in his style. It’s not Jones’ usual inker, and it shows. This is probably the book’s one weak link.

Will Pfeifer’s run on Catwoman’s solo title isn’t the most buzzed-about, but he and Pia Guerra have a strong story set at “Bat-Con”, where Selina finds herself in a surreal world where she, Bruce, and all the Bat-villains are guests at a convention to talk about the comics they supposedly star in. But odd things at the con start cluing Selina in that something is very wrong, and she follows a trail of clues to a showdown with a major-league DC villain. It’s an inventive, clever story with a TON of callbacks to all different eras of the character, and some nice meta commentary about the many changes she’s been through.

Escape from Villa Hermosa. Via DC Comics.

Next up is a story by the incoming Catwoman creative team, Ram V and Fernando Blanco. Picking up from the end of the Jones run, it’s a fast-paced story that finds Selina and her semi-catatonic sister Maggie hitchhiking across the country on their way back to Gotham. This mostly seems to be about getting Maggie back into a place where she can be a character rather than a plot device, and even if the story is ambiguous about the how, I’m happy. She’s been left in limbo long enough, and the entire story has a fun, energetic vibe that seems like it’ll fit Selina’s world well.

The volume ends with one of the biggest surprises in a DC book in a while – a story by the iconic Catwoman creative team of Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart (who replaced the late, great Darwyn Cooke on the title back in the day). A tense, taut thriller that follows Selina as she chases a car holding precious cargo through Gotham, it’s interspliced with a gripping tale of Selina’s early years and how she picked her first lock. It’s a great spotlight for the core trio of Selina, Holly Robinson, and Slam Bradley, with brilliant kinetic art. Brubaker is long-retired from work-for-hire comics and currently exclusive at Image Comics, so I suspect this is a vault story – but it’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

Overall, another strong anniversary spotlight for one of DC’s longest-running characters, with a few stories that are destined to be classics. Next up, Joker and Green Lantern.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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