Thursday, September 13, 2007

The One You Love Conclusion (DC)
Where: Catwoman #49 When: January 2006
Why: Will Pfeifer How: Pete Woods

Quick Fix...
So, we dared to touch upon the nasty subject of Amazons Attack [Wander Woman], a series that has done absolutely nothing for the otherwise rising star of writer, Will Pfeifer.

In light of that, I thought it was probably worth zooming in to check out some of Pfeifer's much better work, namely picking up the slack on Catwoman after fan favourite writers Darwyn Cooke and Ed Brubaker left the title reinvigorated. Tag neglecters might also like to backtrack to the only other entry from Pfeifer's catalogue, the first issue of Captain Atom: Armageddon, reviewed earlier in the year.

But back to Catwoman. For those not terribly interested in the character or the title, it's probably hard to appreciate the situation Pfeifer was put in. The pressure almost certainly didn't come from the company, as this was among several maneuvers that really positioned Pfeifer as one of the up-and-comers at DC, but for fans and an industry, this was potentially a recipe for disaster!

The title had languished in a decade of reality-defying purple bodysuits, and equally unfathomable boobs, the result of Frank Miller's Year One contribution decaying as it passed through filter, to filter. Such a prominent character was undeniably calling out for a revamp. Fortunately for all concerned, it was masters Darwyn Cooke and Ed Brubaker who ultimately answered in a series of short back-ups in the pages of Detective Comics.

The duo were able to steer Catwoman back to the light with a sexy and smart approach to the characterization, that was achieved through Cooke's fun, chic pencils, and an overall intelligent script. Likewise, fleshing the supporting cast out to include golden age Detective Comics character, Slam Bradley, was a stroke of genius, and the finishing touch to sustaining Catwoman as a property.

Cooke left the book, but Brubaker continued to enjoy success with the visually similar collaborations that followed, most prominently stories with Cameron Stewart. Fill-in writers and artists would follow, while the book ebbed and flowed after suffering War Games crossovers, marking the end of Brubaker's run (#37).
With Brubaker presumably fatigued, and Marvel-bound, the time had finally come to find a replacement on the sleeper-hit of the decade.

Enter: Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods.
Stand-ins filled the void, but it was with issue #45 that the next chapter in the renewed Catwoman's saga began. Pete Woods' visuals departed totally from the cartoony approach initiated by Cooke. Pfeifer represented a slightly less radical shift in the writing, but still delivered what could be described as a less cute, stylized approach to the character, opening her up more to the urban sprawl of Gotham's moving parts, and the super-elements of the Infinite Crisis Society.

It wasn't all about Catwoman, though, and Pfeifer did well to borrow and continue elements established by the previous creative teams.
In issue forty-nine, occasional Catwoman co-hort, Captain Cold, is perturbed to learn of Catwoman's apparent demise at the hands of Angle Man.

The Society quartet of Hammer, Angle Man, Hugo Strange and Cold see to the body's dismemberment, scattering it across Gotham City so as to reduce trace evidence. They are of course, completely unaware of Catwoman's gambit involving the calling in of a favour from a shape-shifter.

Content with a less brutal way of crime, Captain Cold opts out of maintaining his association with the villains, considering Catwoman's murder "unnecessary."
Displeased with Cold's dated consideration of the criminal fraternity, Strange sets his Russian super-solder on him.

Though far out of his weight-class, the seasoned Cold proves more than enough brain for the brawny Hammer. Reaching quickly for his ice-blasting gun, the Captain fires off a massive blast that encases Hammer from the waist-down, in solid ice.

Cold presses his seniority, taunting the super-powered Russian with the information that he chose to use the gun only on medium -- not enough to be lethal. The show of strength not only immobilizes the deadly Hammer, but punctuates a point that he is not a man to be meddled with.

With this first storyarc, the relatively untested Pfeifer quickly established himself as a man more than suitable for the job. Though broadly different from the more isolated adventures of the first twenty-five critically acclaimed issues, Pfeifer continued Catwoman's legacy appropriately, meeting the editorial requirements of a DC Universe becoming increasingly interconnected.

Woods maintained a visual style that complimented everything established previously, like the revamped Catsuit, while paying a respect to reality that also served characters like the villainous duo, Hammer and Sickle.
It would be the two Russian characters, who first appeared in Outsiders in 1986, that would continue to plague Catwoman in later issues, establishing the book as a conscious, on-going story in the same vein as projects such as Judd Winick's run on Batman, oft discussed here on the Secret Earth.

The Fix: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5
Winner: Captain Cold

[The existence of supporting characters, regular and cameo, continues to prove to be crucial to the on-going success of Catwoman as a series. Pfeifer does well here, highlighting his ability to handle just such a task. Not as isolated or stylistic as previous portions of the run, but still a very honorable continuation.]

Paperweight Part 1 (DC)
Where: Catwoman #63 When: March 2007
Why: Will Pfeifer How: David López

Quick Fix...
So, as you may have gathered, Will Pfeifer has remained on the book, continuing his run to now and beyond. Next week issue #71 hits stands, so if you're reading now and are getting jazzed up for Catwoman, rest assured that a familiar product is readily available. We are celebrating the better side of Pfeifer, but I'd also recommend the Brubaker/Cooke/Stewart trades, if you're in the market.

So, Pete Woods departs after the first chunk, paving the way for David López to step in. Like Stewart to Cooke, or Allred, the shfit between Woods and López is minimal, making for a smooth reading experience as Pfeifer continues his story across the issues.

It's probably worth noting the fantastic covers the series has enjoyed post the minimalist approach of the earlier issues. Adam Hughes' efforts on covers have ranged everywhere from action packed stills, insinuative story previews, and super-sexy pin-ups that just scream Catwoman.

Among my favourites would have to be the recent red-background simple cover to #70; the panda-eyes of #51; and the sheer menace of #45, complete with Deathstroke, the character who was believed to have killed Catwoman by the end of her previous series, disguised as on-again-off-again love interest, Batman!

Of particular note on these covers, Catwoman's voluptuous figure, that represents the sexy, sassy confidence of the character, but also manages to portray her as something resembling a real woman. Absent are, dare I quote myself, 'the defiant hips of a fifteen year old,' regularly showcased on inhumanly busty characters suched as everyone's favourite, Powergirl.

One Year Later, life is beginning to crunch on Selina Kyle, who has taken a most unlikely path over the missing year. Now a mother; Kyle's young protégé has represented the mantle of Catwoman while the original take time to recover.
Unfortunately, things get hairy for this young Catwoman as she becomes wanted for a murder commited by her predecessor, and gets caught-up in the pressure of increasing unrest in the unified criminal underworld.
Back in action, Kyle tackles these problems head-on.

Hoping to protect herself and her ward, Catwoman reaches out to The Calculator, the brilliant hacker crucial in facilitating the unification of villainous efforts. She opts for his services in erasing police data, rather than enlist the aid of former Batgirl, Oracle, in an effort to avoid revealing her part in a murder to Batman.

The Calculator, apparently displeased over Catwoman's wavering allegiance, offers her up to a trio of young criminals hoping to put their new genetic enhancements to the test in the name of bigger fish. He diabolically pits the Triple Threat against an unsuspecting Catwoman, as a test of initiation.

The trio catch Catwoman unawares as she swings toward the Calculator's digs on the assumption he will help her with her problem.

The team-leader snatches Catwoman up and uses his powers of flight to take her airborne with the presumed intent of dropping her from a great height - but things go south, quickly.

Resorting to a less than graceful out, Catwoman throws her leg up, striking the unprotected crotch sufficiently enough to send them earth-bound. She offers some friendly costume advice, recommending padding.

Landing in the snowy ground with the agility of a cat; Selina is again taken by surprise by the super-strong member of the trio. He wraps her up in a sleeper hold, proposing they test her reflexes to see if they're as quick as her wit, holding her for his fellow who sparks with electrical energy.

Once again the Catwoman's feet do the majority of talking for her.
She uses the hold to swing both her feet up, knocking the electrically charged villain's hands up to narrowly avoid being blasted with raw electricity.

Tired of the amateur assault, Catwoman opts to pull out all the stops.
She snags the lightning-shooting threatster's hand in a scissor lock, again using the leverage afforded by the hold of the other villain, to lift her entire body into snapping the newbie's wrist.

With two of the three down, she makes a confident insinuation, prompting the final of the super-powered upstarts to run for his life.

In light of the message of our last feature [Wander Woman], it's perhaps some kind of irony that Catwoman represents the morally grey area. Unlike a Wonder Woman, Selina Kyle has enjoyed success in the modern age without any real characterization hiccups or restraints. Her status as neither hero nor villain has certainly contributed to this success, but I think overall she's managed to remain an interesting character through the mounting developments made over the years.

I think it's almost fair to say it took until 2001 for the character to finally be honed to perfection. Brubaker and Cooke refined the character down to it's strongest parts, which has benefitted many-a story since, including tangential tales like Jeph Loeb's Hush. A clearer definition of the character in contemporary continuity made for a thoroughly interesting and successful affair between long-time rivals, Catwoman and Batman.

I think it's fair to say Pfeifer's work on the character has waned slightly in more recent stories. Such may be the nature of the project as it becomes something of a Daredevil style book, to the DC Universe. I'd like to think even at it's lowest points, Pfeifer has earned his place among the "young" guns of comics writers.

Before we wrap this one up, I have to shoot-out a thank you to the ever-so relevant When Fangirls Attack, who have again included one of our features in their regular reference lists. Theirs is a support that is always greatly welcomed, and I hope those of you visiting the site for the first time might get something out of it, and continue to return for more of our fist-shaking antics.

Lots of stuff going on, but we'll be back for the usual Friday hits, with a little bit of a twist for the break while Bahlactus takes a couple of weeks off. Be here!

DARWYN COOKE's Catwoman: Sexy, confident, and stylish!The Fix: 4.5 The Issue: 4
Winner: Catwoman

[Despite the questionable efforts of Amazons Attack, Pfeifer continues his run on Catwoman with relative success. Characters Hammer and Sickle continue to be of relevance as he builds on the reality of Gotham's East End through the tried-and-true method of continuing stories, and recurring themes and characters.]

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