I wasn't really sure what to expect upon picking up this collection. I have been enjoying Ed Brubaker's writing on Batman lately and am really looking forward to Gotham Central (his new book with fellow scribe Greg Rucka), so I decided to give this series a shot. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, and I hope that DC gives us more collections of this series. This trade collects the "Slam Bradley: Trail Of The Catwoman" story that appeared as a back up in Detective Comics #759-762 and the first four issues of the newly relaunched Catwoman series.
Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke have really breathed new life into this character. No longer relying on big-breasted, cheesecake art to draw fanboy attention, Brubaker and Cooke have instead crafted a mature, believable (and naturally proportioned) female character that you wouldn't be ashamed to show your wife or girlfriend. Both the writing and the art play an important role in getting the idea across that this book is nothing like its previous incarnation.
Sure this book may have a character that dresses up in a black, leather cat costume, but Brubaker has turned this into a crime comic with strong noirish sensibilities. I don't think that I have seen that tough, cynical attitude be more evident in a comic than it is in the opening Slam Bradley stories. In these short chapters, Brubaker sets the tone for the series to come as Slam, a private investigator, is hired to find Selina Kyle. Along with Slam, we learn a little about the character of Selina and just what makes her such an intriguing woman. In the following issues, Brubaker continues to explore and define what makes Catwoman tick. I don't think this is so much a reimagining of the character as it is a return to her roots. This is the Catwoman we were introduced to in Frank Miller's excellent "Batman: Year One." Brubaker gives her a purpose and direction that could really keep this title going for a long time.
Handling the art in this book is Darwyn Cooke with Cameron Stewart inking the Slam stories and Mike Allred inking the Catwoman issues. Similar to another ëcrime' comic, (the amazing) "Powers," this book has that Bruce Timm-influenced, animated style to it. I never really cared that much for this style outside the field of animation, but with these two books I am growing to appreciate it more and more. In fact, I think that it really serves an important function with regards to this book. As I said earlier, this book no longer relies on the babe-o-rama factor to generate sales. Instead, Cooke gives us clear and energetic art that simply serves to tell the story. What more could you ask for? I would even say that the art works towards making Catwoman a more legitimate character by putting the focus on the story and no appearances. When reading the book, there are clear differences between the Slam stories and the Catwoman issues. I don't know if it is just the difference in inkers or what, but I enjoyed the art in the Slam stories more. There is just a density to it that the later half of the book is missing.
All in all, this is definitely a trade and series that I would recommend (for both the guys and the gals). Ed Brubaker has made Catwoman interesting by giving her a purpose and exploring some of the darker aspects of Gotham City.
As always, you all are welcome to share your opinion. To let me know what you think of the reviews and recommendations, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.