Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The last great Catwoman caper?

Catwoman: Selina's Big Score (DC Comics, 2005)
Writer and Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

I loved the Catwoman comic book as it was in the 1990s... Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) was a super-thief and her adventures, mostly, were heist/caper-tales. As the new millenium dawned, that aspect of the series gave way to grittiness and "defender of the down-trodden"-type stories, starting with Selina being tossed in the clink and almost driven mad by Harley Quinn.

Well, I stopped reading "Catwoman" (returning briefly to sample the title when a favorite artist of mine was doing a brief turn on the book... but the stories were still not to my liking), and it wasn't until recently that a browsing trip to a rarely-visited comic shop saw "Selina's Big Score" catch my eye.

In "Selina's Big Score", Selina Kyle returns to Gotham City to rob a massive shipment of mob drug money, seed capital that will allow her a fresh start. She assembles a team of top-notch thieves--including her old mentor, Stark--concocts the perfect break-in and and an even better get-away. It's the perfect plan, and nothing can go wrong. Except, of course, it does... with deadly results.

"Selina's Big Score" is one of the best Catwoman adventures ever published, and it is definately worthy of the graphic novel format. The story Cooke weaves is both dramatic and funny, partly poking fun at the tropes of noir and heist tales (such as a section narrated by Slam Bradley, a private detective who enters onto the scene as complication to Selina's well-made plans), but also deploying them with great skill and using them to their fullest possible effect. The character of Stark is also an interesting one, a man who lives and dies an enigma to all. (There is last possible twist to Stark's character that bothers me, and it might be that I'm reading too much into a single panel because of waaay too much knowledge of Batman comics from the 80s and 90s. However, since I'm unclear what Cooke was intending, I won't hold it against him or the book.)

Cooke's line-work reminds me a little of Alex Toth--it's more cartoony, but it has a similar quality to it... and he's a perfect fit for this kind of story. His dialogue could use a bit of work, as a couple characters use the same unusual phrasings (and I think it's the writer shining through, and not spending enough time seperating the characters), but in general he does a good job. The exchanges between Selina and Stark are particularly well-written.

"Selina's Big Score" is a great graphic novel. If you enjoy well-done comic books, if you enjoy a great heist tale, or if you're just looking for a damn good read, then you need to get a copy of it.

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