In Genevieve Valentine David Messina, Lee Loughridge and Travis Lanham’s “Catwoman” #41, Selina Kyle is in prime position to mold the allegiances of the crime families in Gotham City as the head of the Calabrese Family.Other heads of organized crime, like Oswald Cobblepot and the Black Mask, also pass through these pages.
Valentine plays a throughline under the main story, dropping reference to Lucrezia Borgia and drawing parallels between the Borgias and the Calabreses. Readers don’t need to be well versed in opera or even history, real or Gotham-based, to dive right into “Catwoman” #41. Valentine defines the characters and their situations either directly or by building dialogue around their station. She makes this comic an intellectual challenge and packs it full of gang war melodrama, though it’s more a war of words than deeds at this point. At points, Valentine pours so much description into the characters and their jockeying for allegiance and position that the story seems as though it could be stripped from a novel or a procedural television show.
Visually injecting inspiration from Denys Cowan, Messina gives characters and settings rough-hewn edges but polishes much of the visuals with ample line work and finessed detail. While he uses a nice range of expression on his characters, Messina uses shadow and body language to describe emotions and attitudes more effectively, changing the pitch and pacing of “Catwoman” #41 with an upward glance, a shot from behind the characters in motion or a collaborative moment with colorist Lee Loughridge, who hits transitions so completely with bold color choices by swapping background for foreground or washing out one or the other. Loughridge’s palette is filled with bold, warm colors, underscoring the anxiety and amplifying the less attractive qualities in humanity as criminal masterminds plot against and with one another, threading in double crosses and secret activities.
Selina Kyle is at the heart of it all, as befits a titular character. “Catwoman” #41 gives readers a complete definition of Kyle’s deeds, both as the head of the Calabreses and as Catwoman. Revelations in this comic cement her status, elevate the risk and offer plenty of opportunities for dynamic stories filled with physical and mental conflict. Catwoman isn’t gaining many allies here; she’s finding few answers and even fewer happy endings, which makes for plenty of great drama.