Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown's "Catwoman" #36 is their second issue on the title, and the book continues to show a lot of promise. Spinning out of developments in "Batman Eternal," Selina Kyle's rise to taking over one of Gotham's crime families is an interesting premise, but this book also feels like it's operating at a slow burn for now.
In many ways, "Catwoman" #36 continues to set up conflicts and plots yet to come. Selina's still working her way through negotiations and hard decisions with the different families, even as others start to move against her. A lot of these conflicts are still simmering, though; Valentine is playing a long game, letting us get to know those in Selina's orbit even as she struggles with the various decisions that come with her new position. It's a good tactic, letting us learn alongside her.
At the same time, some elements introduced last issue already start to come to a head here. Black Mask's arrival on the scene is quickly encroaching on Selina's doorstep, and in a good way. Black Mask's presence in the book makes sense; he's not a high-powered character, but he's carrying such a level of menace around him that he instantly feels like a worthy opponent for Selina. (He'd worked well in the old "Catwoman" series years ago for that very reason, and he feels just as dangerous this time around.)
More surprising, the new Catwoman's identity is already revealed in this issue, something that one could have just as easily expected to be drawn out for months on end. With Selina having (for now) given up the costume, it's nice that there's still a Catwoman within Gotham City, even if it's a figure that Selina herself wishes had gone away. There are several different routes that Valentine could take with the new Catwoman, but for now I'm more than content to sit back and wait.
In many ways, "sit back and wait" is the core of the new "Catwoman" though. As said before, the book's moving at a slow burn. It's very clear that decisions that are made in early issues will come back to haunt Selina before too long. But for the time being, we have to inch our way forward towards that moment. It feels like Valentine is taking the novel approach to "Catwoman," with each issue being a chapter in a larger work. It does mean that there aren't quite as many short-term payoffs, but down the line it should hopefully all click together perfectly.
Brown's art is good, capturing the dark, moody side of Gotham's underbelly. There's an interesting texture on people's faces, reminding me a lot of early art from Tommy Lee Edwards with the angles and shadows on their features. Brown pays a lot of attention to the backgrounds here, something that I'm always in favor of. Art galleries and building architecture alike are carefully brought to life, and even something as simple as a shadow from a multi-paned window is carefully followed across the page in a way that shows a lot of patience. The final page with Black Mask and his captive is particularly effective, using lots of shadows to make Black Mask and the other figure pop out of the darkness.
"Catwoman" #36 is the sort of comic where I feel like with each new chapter, I'll appreciate what's being done here that much more. Even on its own, though, it's a solid, good comic; that's something that poor Catwoman's not had for quite some time. Valentine and Brown are off to a good start, two issues into their run, and I'm curious to see where it leads from here. Color me intrigued enough to stick around.