Reading Catwoman #8 gave the impression that Judd Winick is trying to accomplish two things for this series: 1) Turn back the clock and make it as much of a T&A comic as it was when Jim Balent drew it, and 2) Try to cover any criticism that he’s making Catwoman into a Jim Balent T&A comic by throwing in a half-hearted plot about Catwoman protecting prostitutes, which ties in to the Night of the Owls crossover that’s going to run through all the Batman titles.
Neither goal is helped by the first page of this issue: after sneaking into a mansion through a pool grate, Catwoman and her accomplice step out of the water, clad in bathing suits. She narrates to us, the readers, that she’s “a cat that doesn’t mind getting wet.” In case you were wondering, the word “wet” is boldfaced in case you didn’t get the double entendre. That defeats the second mission of Winick’s comic automatically, because no matter how hard he tries to pull that “Sympathy for Prostitutes” card in the latter half, all that my mind could come back to was that line. The first goal is also sabotaged this time around, since Adriana Melo’s art (taking over for Guillem March) has a waxy, dead look to it that calls to mind Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture films The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol, with their vacant eyes, doll-like physiques, and oh my god, what is going on with Catwoman’s lips!? Colorist Tomeu Morey doesn’t do her art any favors, either, choosing the dull pallete of browns, grays, and blues that’s served as default for many of DC’s New 52 titles, offset by ruby red lipstick for Catwoman that just looks…wrong. Like it was rubber-stamped from another comic entirely. Probably Voodoo, another DC title that has had outrage over its risque elements, since it matches the brighter colors used on that comic. Too bad it couldn’t also take a piece of Ron Marz’s storytelling, which used the lead character, a manipulative alien spy, as meta-commentary on the male gaze. Not that I want Winick doing the same thing, just that I wish this comic wasn’t so vapid and crass.
Despite the spin control by DC, Winick, and some of the comic press, there really hasn’t been a “controversy” surrounding this title. At least, not in regards to the inclusion of the now-infamous sex scene between Batman and Catwoman. What did cause an outrage was how it was portrayed: many fans of the character have been angry at the regression of the comic to its mid-90′s softcore schtick that was so skillfully exorcised by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke over a decade ago, turning Catwoman into a DCU crime comic that explored Selina Kyle’s complicated relationship with the law and her thrill-seeking nature. Winick pretends to keep those themes in the title, but this is nothing more than a cynical ploy: in Catwoman #1, Winick switched Selina’s personality around so that she could be drawn in provacative poses no matter the context, and continues to do so this issue, with Selina oscillating between free-spirited, an all business pro, and needing a man to save the day, sometimes within a scene. It’s not that these elements by themselves are bad, necessarily (though why would you want to write Catwoman as a distressed damsel?), it’s that Winick can’t stick to any one characterization of Catwoman because doing so doesn’t give him opportunity to meet his gratuitous butt or breast shot quota. It’s the complete opposite of Voodoo. Ironic that DC gave Marz the ax, while Winick, whose most complicated thought in this comic was that lame first page joke, got to stay on this.