With two pencilers, one inker and one penciler/inker, writer Ann Nocenti’s story in “Catwoman” #20 gets a bit muddled. The general thrust of it, however, is that Catwoman has found a way to aggravate the Penguin. That in and of itself should be enough to propel this story forward and provide a basis for interesting character interaction, except Nocenti throws in a demon-possessed thug in the Penguin’s employ.
Nocenti places too much trust in the caption boxes to move the story along which neutralizes a fair amount of the action and also emphasizes the shortcomings of the art squad. Further complicating matters, the caption boxes relevant to Joe Pazzo (the aforementioned demon-possessed thug) and those of Catwoman are very similar in appearance. Pazzo’s boxes also jump between first and third person, which almost works once the demonic reveal is complete. Until then, it just seems awkward.
Speaking of awkward, the art team, while dynamically sound in their depiction of the characters present in “Catwoman” #20, leaves a lot to be desired in terms of complete storytelling. The backgrounds evolve throughout the opening scene, which is set in a cemetery near a crypt. It appears as though the Penguin is in a building, but before long, the characters in play are entwined in a crazy, crawling vine or root system as the background gains more detail and seems to change. Another scene that is supposed to portray the battle between mortal host and demon is constructed very oddly. Joe Pazzo allegedly strikes his daughter, but the storytelling around it doesn’t complete the tale. Finally, the climactic scene that ends the issue, placing a stunning amount of guilt on Catwoman, happens in three panels that contain the worst example of storytelling I’ve seen in a long time. Catwoman may or may not deliver a lethal blow, but there really is no visual evidence that she does.
I haven’t been reading “Catwoman” since the first issue of this series in September of 2011. Admittedly, I may not be the most well informed reader of this series, but I do know incomplete storytelling when I see it. The coloring duo of Sonia Oback and Guy Major do a decent job of holding the visuals together around the similar styles the three pencilers deliver, but the visual panel-to-panel of “Catwoman” #20 leaves me tremendously disappointed. I expected mirthful mayhem and maybe some oddball fisticuffs between Catwoman and Penguin, but got none of that. If this is what I can expect from “Catwoman,” I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking another twenty-issue break from this title.