Best Shots Review: Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular (4/10)

(Image credit: DC)

Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1
Written by Paul Dini, Ann Nocenti, Tom King, Jeff Parker, Liam Sharp, Mindy Newell, Chuck Dixon, Will Pfeifer, Ram V., and Ed Brubaker
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Mick Gray, Laura Allred, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Alejandro Sanchez, Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire, Jonathan Case, Liam Sharp, Lee Garbett, Alex Sinclair, Kelley Jones, Danny Miki, Steve Oliff, Pia Guerra, John Kalisz, Fernando Blanco, Fco Plascencia and Cameron Stewart
Pinup Art by Babs Tarr, Ty Templeton, Steve Rude, Matt Hollingsworth, Tula Lotay, Tim Sale, Brennan Wagner, Jim Balent, Jae Lee, and June Chung
Lettering by Wes Abbott, Saida Temofonte, Clayton Cowles, Jonathan Case, Tom Napolitano, Tom Orzechowski, Steve Wands, Gabriela Downie, and Cameron Stewart
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Selina Kyle receives a less than purrr-fect anniversary annual in Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1. Though chock full of creatives (some of them even women!) this latest Anniversary Special from DC lacks a cohesive structure or weight. Without the use of strong theme or a compelling framing device like the Detective and Action Comics #1,000 Specials used to great effect, this 100-page special amounts to little more than a forgettable anthology. Despite it having some truly impressive artwork and occasionally beautiful story twists, the Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular fails to honor the Cat properly.

(Image credit: DC)

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Starting with the good — this Super Spectacular occasionally looks pretty solid. Peppered throughout the stand-alone stories are more commissioned pinups, something that’s becoming something of a hallmark of these oversized annuals. Thankfully, pretty much all of these are really stunning, better still they are fantastic in character snapshots of Selina while standing as wonderful showings of the styles of each artist. In particular, Babs Tarr’s entry as well as Jae Lee and June Chung’s offering stand as ready-made poster shots of Catwoman that capture her charm, deadliness, and grace all in a static pose.

But it’s with the actual reading that this Super Spectacular starts to come apart. With little to no editorial cohesion or mandate seemingly beyond “write a Catwoman story,” each creative team does precisely that, sticking loosely to the “decade” each story inhabits. But the results are just so-so with the occasional story daring to be “just okay.” If there is one out and out “winner” here it is Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart’s “The Art of Picking a Lock,” a thrilling two-handed team up between Catwoman and Holly supported by Slam Bradley, reuniting the late Darwyn Cooke’s collaborators with a story that truly sparkles.

(Image credit: DC)

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And sparkle this story does, recapturing the clean action and expressive mood of that run in just a few short pages. Unfortunately, in order to get there, readers will have to slog through other more ho-hum tales like Chuck Dixon and Kelley Jones’ rushed-looking and groan-inducing “Born to Kiln” which pits the Catwoman against Clayface just… because. Meanwhile, Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case’ “The Catwoman of Earth” brings some groovy ‘60s-inspired flair to the issue, but it’s story of the ‘66 Catwoman fighting sexist space aliens that saps the energy right out of the impressive art.

Even some of the better stories don’t amount to much, nor are they particularly memorable. Liam Sharp’s “A Cat of Nine Tales” gets pretty close, focusing on the more menacing and bloodthirsty times in Catwoman’s life which is rendered in Sharp’s stony, cinematic artwork. Batman flagship title alums Tom King, Mikel Janin, and Jordie Bellaire also reteam for a fun, heartwarming look at Selina’s pregnancy and life as a mother in “Helena.” Will Pfeifer, Pia Guerra, and John Kalisz even have a bit of fun with Selina’s complicated history and continuity in “Conventional Wisdom,” which finds the Cat attending a bizarre comic convention that seems based around her many nine lives.

But unfortunately, none of it really sticks beyond the sure-thing of seeing Brubaker return to Gotham once again. Had each of these stories made more of a meal of the eras and specific characterization of Selina they were exploring, it might have read differently, but instead the Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular simply looks pretty in parts but has nothing really to say about the woman it is supposed to be celebrating.

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