Despite being a massive Selina Kyle/Catwoman fan, I’ve never been a fan of any of the character’s “origin stories” as they’ve all be relatively cliche as far as I’m concerned. They’ve also never seemed well considered enough for what a character of Catwoman’s caliber deserves. That said, this blend of origins — taking her orphan/foster home thing, the Tim Burton revived by cats after pushed from a window/roof thing and adding a secret Russian identity thing (what?) — is a horrible mess that makes no sense. It’s a nearly offensive blend of nothing good combining into something even worse.
I have trouble blaming Ann Nocenti for this nightmare. As a brand new writer for the series, it’s hard to imagine Nocenti had much control over something as big as Catwoman’s New 52 origin. However, the writing here is not particularly strong either. The plotting is terribly confusing as the book unnecessarily jumps back and forth in time, and Selina’s characterization is dreadful. This is not a Selina I recognize in any way shape or form. She cries constantly, which seems decidedly un-Selina. Repeatedly in this issue, men are her only guidance and inspiration as she tries to develop into a competent thief and con artist. It just feels wrong on every level.
Adriana Melo’s art does not help. It’s far too cartoonish for the story being told and it’s wildly inconsistent from panel to panel and page to page. Selina, who truthfully doesn’t look like any version of the character I’ve ever seen, only remotely resembles herself when fully in costume at the end of the issue. She also alternates between looking about 20 and 45 years old, neither of which seem like the correct age. Both the action and the character acting are frequently laughable and tonally at odds, and the storytelling is hard to follow throughout.
However, the inconsistencies and lack of precise details in the art aren’t the biggest problem, especially with Nocenti’s script bouncing back and forth in time as it does. It’s hard to know not only “when” we are, but also who all these random characters are. There are multiple blonde men in the book who I believe are all supposed to be different characters, but are completely interchangeable and thus leave me unsure.
I’ve been excited about a new creative team on this book, and since Melo is not going to be the ongoing artist, I suppose I will give issue #13 a chance to see if Nocenti can do something with present day Selina, but this is a really bad start. I shudder to think of someone that enjoyed Christopher Nolan and Anne Hathaway’s great take on Selina in “The Dark Knight Rises” picking up this issue in the hopes of finding a good jumping on point. I can’t imagine that person ever picking up a Catwoman comic ever again if this was their first taste.