Catwoman Annual 2021 #1 – Ram V, Writer; Kyle Hotz, Fernando Blanco, Juan Ferreyra, Artists; David Baron, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: One of the best things about Ram V’s Catwoman run so far is just how much work he puts into every supporting character—including his villains. The serial killer Father Valley has been lurking around the fringes of this book from the start, and he takes center stage in an annual that follows directly up on last issue’s murderous cliffhanger. While his victim clings to life and Selina seeks revenge, Valley retreats to his inner sanctum and engages in some twisted self-flagellation. He always gave off the impression of being an eccentric religious fanatic and his name led me in one direction—a link to Jean-Paul Valley, aka Azrael, and the cult known as the Church of St. Dumas. But the truth turns out to be more complicated than that.
While Fernando Blanco draws the framing segments, horror-accented artists Kyle Hotz and Juan Ferreyra handle the flashbacks, as the twisted tale of Father Valley is revealed. It’s the story of Ludovic Valley—a ruthless assassin for the Church of St. Dumas and the father of Jean-Paul (who doesn’t appear in this story), and his protege and close friend Karl. The two clearly have a strong bond despite the Church discouraging personal connections, but when Ludovic’s master discovers evidence of a mole in the organization, he orders his assassin to do what he does best—liquidate the threat and eliminate anyone who might be the mole, no matter how much innocent life is lost.
What ensues is essentially a Shakespearean tragedy filtered through the profile of an assassin thriller. By the time Father Valley’s origin and identity are fully revealed and we understand his motivation a little more, the character becomes much more interesting. The three artists, while all very different, fit perfectly in the tone of the story. I do think this maybe would have been a bit stronger if it didn’t try to be both an extended flashback and a regular issue, with the main timeline segments feeling a bit out of place amid the very involved origin story. But this continues to be one of the most underrated runs at DC at the moment and a great step up for Catwoman and her rogues’ gallery.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.