Fear State arrives and adds another layer to the chaos and destruction and loss that has befallen Selina Kyle’s life and Alleytown as a whole. As the clock ticks down closer to the final issue of this stellar sure to be classic run, everyone involved continues to put everything into creating one of the best books on the stands right now.
Heavy and uneasy is the head that wears the crown. For most of the last year, Selina Kyle has fought hard in order to become the undisputed queen over Alleytown in Gotham. That rule was shaken by the attacks of Father Valley and is now fully under attack as Fear State spreads across all realms of Gotham.
Catwoman’s quest was always an uphill battle and now it seems even more daunting as the machinations of Father Valley, the Magistrate, Scarecrow, and even Penguin and Riddler are all coming to roost at the same time.
Truly the journey that began in Catwoman #25 from Ram V, Fernando Blanco, Juan E. Ferreyra, John Paul Leon, FCO Plascencia, and Tom Napolitano has continued to be one of the best runs the feline-themed thief has had over 80 years of existence. With the recent news that the run is set to come to an end in December, it adds even more weight to each issue that we have left.
Not only does Ram V have an intrinsic handle on character work, his mastery of this particular genre of story and in overall storytelling period is clear with every single page. Comic books are very often no more than the lower end of the 20s in page count numbers. There are times where those pages can feel like they have been packed too tightly where nothing has room to breathe, and then other times there might be issues that feel like there is very little that is stretched to fill the pages.
Catwoman is not one of those series. Every issue feels like there is a ton packed into the pages from plot moments to character moments to lots of expository moments but it never feels overwhelming or packed in too tight. There is a flow to it that makes it feel so smooth and welcoming. It’s that favorite piece of well-worn clothing or that place you’ve been a million times or insert other references to things that are welcoming and comfortable.
Every emotion is felt here, as even the loss of characters who have only been around a short time is heavily felt by the reader because of the toll this is taking on Selina. There is a level of care that is put into each character and each point of the story that is top-tier not only in this industry but in any form of storytelling. There is little doubt that when fans talk about Catwoman in the future this will be one of those definitive runs that are named each and every time.
This consistency that helps the book is felt on all levels. Often an art change of any kind can either somewhat change a tone of a book or be noticeable because styles differ, but not with those chosen to come onto this book. Previously Jordie Bellaire’s addition replacing Plascencia maintained and even elevated the noir mood of this book, and the change from Blanco to Nina Vakueva feels very much the same. Not a step is lost as the aforementioned noir aspect of the book continues as the visuals and bold bright colors of Alleytown as it burns and is under siege just stand out so much.
Not to mention there are a whole bunch of just dynamically gorgeous action sequences later in the issue, one with Catwoman and Cheshire Cat that stands out a lot. These are just like all the pages where the staging of paneling thinks outside of the box. There are panels of a variety of shapes and positions, sometimes overlapping one another. This return to really moving beyond what some think of as standard panel layout is forever a welcome one.
There is just such a stark realism to the moments as the physical and emotional toll this storyline is taking not just on each character but the city itself is clear on every panel. This isn’t a story where we’re told things are bad but it’s not actually showing that. Selina, strong and defiant as usual, is visibly battered and broken in many ways as she moves through the issue. Bellaire uses a variety of color palates across each issue to effectively showcase the given mood while making sure each issue looks the same without looking exactly the same.
There are striking uses of reds and oranges and purpose that dominate the scenes and really ratchet up any emotions that are meant to be evoked by the pages. Especially the vivid red of the flashback style panels, making them stand out more and befit in a way how memories can be in our heads. This stands alongside the greens for Riddler pages and blues for Penguin pages, making the setting of panels take on character-defining aspects. Some would say that jumping from bright dominating colors like that is odd or shouldn’t work, but it does work and works beautifully.
Napolitano brings his own flavor to the series with his lettering, always making the effort to give little flares either in font or bubble style for various characters, giving all the dialogue a bit of character. The same goes for the caption boxes that quickly shift in color/appearance depending on who or what they are tied to, rather than being mostly the same color or style across various characters. Even the way that he handles Selina’s bubbles has increasingly shown the exhaustion and fumes that she’s running on alongside what the other art is showing. Catwoman #35 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.