Crooked Little Town
by Ed Brubaker, various artists
(DC Comics, 2003)
Writer Ed Brubaker continues to develop the new, fresh Catwoman in her second story arc, Crooked Little Town. Still in her new garb and bearing a new attitude towards crime -- she's against it, when innocents in her community, Gotham's working-class East End, are the victims -- Selina Kyle takes to the streets and rooftops as the city's newest champion.
Her targets include the street-level dealers and upper-level suits who pull their strings in Gotham's thriving drug trade. But she often finds herself at odds with the police; Gotham's finest are rife with corruption, and Selina is pulled into one far-reaching plot when two bad cops murder an undercover officer, then try to pin it on the sole witness to the event: Selena's best pal and eyes-on-the-street, Holly.
The story is intricately plotted and strongly drawn, with solid characters that leap from the page. Even the dirty cops rise above the thuggish, two-dimensional portrayal to which we've all become accustomed.
Fans of the Batman-Catwoman romance option will enjoy some low-grade flirtation between the two, in both their costumed and civilian guises. It doesn't go very far, however, and for once, readers get the impression that Selina, not Bruce, is in control. Also included in this collected volume are a one-shot story showing Selina's loyalty to an old friend in bad trouble -- and her willingness to break the law in what she considers a good cause -- and a stand-alone Secret Files story that retells Catwoman's background story (in the current continuity, anyway) through Holly's eyes.
By this point in the series, it's clear Catwoman's new costume is a hit with the readers, as is her toned-down sexuality, her amped-up romance with Batman and her new outlook on life. Far from the only villain-to-hero transformation in comics' history, it is by far one of the most successful -- leaving fans to wonder why the recent Catwoman movie with Halle Berry ignored the character's rich potential and went with a completely unrelated concept. Either way, Catwoman is secure in her own ongoing series, and Crooked Little Town is a fine sample of her recent developments.
by Tom Knapp