I'm not afraid to give creators another chance, so even though Ann Nocenti's take on "Green Arrow" is leaving me cold, her taking over "Catwoman" with Rafa Sandoval sounded like it had some potential. Based on this issue, I'm intrigued.
There are really two different stories interwoven here; there's a tie-in to the upcoming "Death of the Family" event in the Batman family of comics, and also a new heist for Catwoman involving a massive chess game being played across all of Gotham City. I suspect people are going to buy it for the former, but it's the latter that is much more interesting.
The "Death of the Family" tie-in plot feels a bit weak, with (presumably) the Joker taunting Catwoman by attaching toys of a deceased friend of Catwoman's to helium balloons and floating them up next to her. If you think this sounds ridiculous, trust me: it is. In a comic company's line that revels in the fantastical, this still somehow feels absurd in its execution, and on multiple levels. None of it holds together, and it doesn't fit in well with the rest of the story.
That plot, where Catwoman's been hired to move the chess pieces of her employer's opponent so he'll lose the game, is also a little nutty but here it's fun. I like the larger than life aspect of the game, and I'll give Nocenti credit that I didn't see the 11th hour twist of what else was at stake in the game even though it now seems obvious. It's a nice shift away from the normal "Catwoman steals jewels or artifacts" story that you see running rampant in stories about the character, and it's an imaginative step forward that makes me curious to see what else Nocenti has in her bag of tricks.
Sandoval's pencils are a good match for "Catwoman" with their curvy but energetic nature. Watching Catwoman climb up the side of a building or leap through the air feels alive, and even a twisted shadow on the wall ends up looking intriguing. Sandoval is good at backgrounds, too; every page is bursting with them from the skyline of Gotham to curls of smoke and glass going everywhere. Guillem March's art defined the first year of "Catwoman" but it's Sandoval that I'm finding myself far more intrigued by if he can keep this level of detail up.
"Catwoman" #13 feels like a good start to the pairing of Nocenti and Sandoval. Uninspired crossover plot thread aside, this feels like a nice direction for the book, with an inventive main story that avoids the same old stuff. I'll be back next month for more.