Catwoman Volume 1: The Game (DC Comics, $14.99)

Judd Winick (w) and Guillem March (a)

I guess it's appropriate, given the character, but I'm on the fence about Catwoman.

The latest incarnation of the Feline Fatale takes much of the best of what's been done with the character in recent years -- especially Ed Brubaker's run -- and turns it up a notch. We have always known that The Bat and The Cat have always had a "thing," but the first issue (famously) depicts them en flagrante delicto. (There was some controversy over this initially, but my attitude is that it's been implied for years that they occasionally have sex in an on-again/off-again relationship, so what's the  big deal?) Catwoman likes to live dangerously, and her actions in the first six issues of her The New 52 title puts her at odds with dirty cops, various mobs, a super-villainess and, eventually, the Dark Knight himself. Catwoman has always used her sex appeal in her favor, and she does so here a bit more aggressively. All of this rings true for the character, albeit -- as I said -- turned up a notch.

Some don't like this. To which I say: You don't like the character. This is who she is, who she's always been. It's been played more lightly before, and danced around, but Winick has dropped the pretense and showed what a character like this would necessarily be like, what she would necessarily do.

And since some of this is shown to have consequences -- a significant death -- I'm further on board. And her getting on the wrong side of Batman would necessarily happen, too. The question he asks her in their confrontation is a good one, and given her non-answer indicates that Winick "gets" Selina Kyle.

And for those who complain that Guillem March is treading a little too far on the cheesecake side of the line ... well, we're not talking Supergirl here. This is a grown-up woman who deliberately uses her sexuality to get what she wants. That's not always a pretty thing to witness.

On the other hand, some of those pluses are also minuses. The schism with Batman simply begs the question of why it hadn't happened long before. Catwoman vows not to put any more of her friends in danger after one is killed -- good -- but then sets up a partnership with another friend by the end (wait -- what?). Since this friend is in better shape than the other one, I'm assuming we'll see her in Spandex soon, and if so, that's a cliche I could live without. Ditto the handsome GCPD detective who is on her trail, but ends up helping her -- and, I'm sure, will develop quickly into a love interest. That's another cliche that will make me wince. And, yeah, I wish Guillem would tone down the gratuitous cleavage and butt shots, even if I agree with some naughtiness in principle.

So there's good and bad in Catwoman, just as there's good and bad in Catwoman. I'll give this series a little more rope -- or cat o' nine tails, if you prefer -- for at least another volume.

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I liked Catwoman Volumn 1, and I haven't liked Catwoman in a long time, but I really, really enjoyed this. Here's why. Yeah, I really liked it that Catwoman and Batman got it on. How many of us haven't fantasized about that (in great detail...). But that's not all. I like the art, even though at times it is pretty cheesecakey. But at the same time, even though Catwoman always looks sexy, sometimes she also looks a little goofy, and sometimes reminds me of classic Lucille Ball (wide-eyed and baffled.) But what I really like about this, is that I think it returns Catwoman to her origins. She's not trying to "save" anyone or defend her neighborhood. She's just out for herself and herself alone.

What Catwoman is is a street person who made it good. Her superpower is she is just a little bit smarter and a lot sexier than the other people she encounters. She uses her sexuality as a weapon, but I don't judge her for that. Batman is rich, well-educated and has very expensive toys. All Catwoman has is her own smarts and the body that God gave her. And she works puts it to work for all it's worth.

Batman himself is brought to his knees by her. There's a great scene in the first issue where Batman shows up at Catwoman's hotel room, after her apartment was firebombed. He is ostensibly just checking on her to make sure she's alright, but they end up making love--even though Batman, that inveterate moralist, protests tiresomely before giving in to his baser instincts. (We find out from Catwoman's inner monologue, that this is nothing new. They get together from time to time and he always "seems angry," but that doesn't stop them.)

One thing that strikes me about this relationship is that Batman is the poser. He's the rich man who slums it now and then. He likes to think that he knows life on the streets, but Catwoman actually does. In my opinion, she is actually more powerful than he is because she walks into dangerous situations all the time with no weapon other than her own body and her smarts. Batman has a whole R&D department making all his weapons and toys. What does Catwoman have other than a whip, her looks and apparently some kick-ass acrobatic skills?

I will continue to read Catwoman as long as Judd Winick keeps writing her like this. She's no hero. Catwoman is just a woman trying to come out on top in a world where everything is stacked against her. I'm pulling for her. And, I just want to see more sex with Batman. I know I'm not alone.

Y'know, I didn't read any other incarnation of the Catwoman title, but I am reading and liking this one. I can't say what's so different about this version that I actually want to read it when I didn't much care before ... maybe it's that I started with issue #1 (which, I gather, is why DC and Marvel pump out so many #1s).

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