Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Catwoman (volume 2) #53, which was published by DC and is cover dated May 2006. Enjoy!
You’ll recall that in 2006, DC abruptly moved all their titles head one year in the cleverly-named “One Year Later” event (note the first caption box on this page). I don’t know – it had something to do with 52 or Final Infinite Identity Crisis or some shit – I wasn’t keeping track, I was just reading my favorite DC books and trying to ignore the major machinations. All I knew was that abruptly, we jumped a year, and writers had to fill in the back story a little bit. So what did Will Pfeifer do on Catwoman? Well, I’ll get to that.
Selina really lays it on thick in Panel 1 that it’s been a “whole year” since she stood on a balcony covered in someone else’s blood (or, as readers of the series would put it, “last issue”), but I suppose Danny D. really wanted to emphasize that a year has passed, so we get that awkward introduction (given what Selina is doing at this time, remembering exactly what she was doing a year ago seems unlikely) and then we can move on. I don’t know how many other DC books used this jump to change the status quo, but Pfeifer did, as Selina notes that she’s moved out of the East End (its newspaper even asked plaintively “Where Is She?” in Panel 3) and into downtown. She hints around that something has happened, because the East End wasn’t safe anymore for her, and she also implies that she was perhaps a bit out of control (which gets back to the blood all over her in Panel 1). She makes the joke about downtown Gotham not being much safer as we reach the end of the page, where we see the hospital and the word balloon implying some violence being done, as it’s definitely a scream and Pfeifer links it to the “not safer” line. Jared K. Fletcher, lettering like a fiend, gives us lots of underlines and lower-case letters, implying that Selina is writing this in a journal or something similar. There’s no indication that she is, but at this point, twenty years of lettering like this in Batman-related books had conditioned readers into thinking that. It’s one of those things that new readers might miss, but it’s encoded into the comic for long-time readers. I guess it’s handy.
David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez are your new pencil-and-ink team (and I believe they stayed on the book for something like 30 consecutive issues), and Lopez (David, that is) gives us a standard cinematic opening, with not a lot of craziness but, like Pfeifer, a lot of scene-setting. Panel 1 shows a rooftop view of the East End, linking it to Selina standing on a balcony, and Jeromy Cox tinges it with brown in the dusk, which also helps make it look a bit more old-fashioned and dirty. Down on the street level, Lopez shows us an East End that, frankly, doesn’t look all that crappy. I imagine that Lopez drew graffiti on the mailbox as shorthand for “This place sucks,” but if we discount that, everything looks clean and the trees are even blooming nicely and there’s that dude sitting on his stoop. Sure, it might not be downtown, but it doesn’t look too shitty. I’m not sure what’s going on in Panel 3 – it looks like an empty space with openings that don’t appear to have windows, although I suppose they could have glass. They also look awfully close to the floor. The placement of the newspaper is nicely done, but I have no idea what that space is. Maybe I have to go back and look at the earlier issues. Is it Selina’s old apartment? Beats me.
Lopez transitions us to night, which helps make downtown look sleeker and more modern in the blue of the dusk. It’s a clever device – the twilight tinged the East End brown, but the night colors downtown a more modern and cool blue, so we get the sense of Selina moving up in the world. Lopez chooses to draw Gotham in a slightly Art Deco style, which I like – it not only works with the coloring, but Art Deco is a style that implies both modernity and a strange ancient baroque-ness as well, which works for Gotham. Finally, in Panel 5, Lopez shows us the hospital, and we get the vertiginous point of view to link us back to the height in the first panel – we seem to be floating over the city, and now we’re flying downward to the hospital room.
Pfeifer, as I mentioned, implies that violence is occurring, but it’s a fake-out – Selina is giving birth, which at least accounts for some of what she’s been doing in the “lost year.” This was a pretty big plot point for the rest of the run, actually. I imagine that no one has brought it up in the DCnU – who knows if the new Selina even had a kid.
This run by Pfeifer, Pete Woods, and David Lopez on Catwoman is really good, but it gets ignored because of the talent that began this run (Brubaker, Cooke, and others). That’s too bad, but at least we can check out this first page! That’s something!
Next: MORE John Byrne? Sure, why not? Find more of your favorite crazy Canadian comic creator in the archives!
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