Selina visits her sister, Magdalene “Maggie” Kyle, who is catatonic, not having spoken or moved in years. She apologizes for not having visited for awhile – she'd gotten caught up in a few things – and she promises not to let it happen again. She compliments Maggie on the haircut they’ve given her at the facility she is at, and then tells her that she’s trying to get used to Maggie’s new city, because everything seems so strange there – especially the people, who she is having a hard time understanding. She tells her that if she’s being honest with herself, she’s never really understood people, but the one thing that she does want to understand is them, and everything that happened to them, starting from the abusive situation that they had grown up in with a perpetually angry father to everything else.
The second flashback goes back to Maggie’s time as a nun, when Selina had visited dressed as Catwoman. Selina explains to Maggie that the suit isn’t just a costume, it’s something more – something happens to her when she puts it on, and she feels a lot more power – like Catwoman can stand and take all the things that Selina Kyle can’t. The action then shifts to a few years later, after Maggie has left the convent behind and married a man named Simon. Selina and Maggie reconnect, start improving their relationship, but things are ruined by the Black Mask, who tortures Simon and Maggie, while Selina couldn’t stop him.
In the present, Selina asks Maggie if she can hear her, and then tells her that she doesn’t know if the visits are helping, but after having lost everyone – Holly, Bruce – Maggie is all that she has left, a lot like how it was when they were kids.
Selina then flashes back to a Halloween night from years and years ago, where she runs out a costume shop with a couple of costumes for herself and Maggie. Selina hands Maggie an angel costume, and Maggie asks if Selina paid for it, and Selina explains that the guy in the shop could borrow them as long as they were returned the next day. Maggie tries to see what else is in the bag, but Selina, slipping into a cat costume, tells her not the worry about it. They manage to have a fun time until they come across a couple of kids picking on another one, stealing his Halloween candy. Never one to let someone in a less fortunate situation lose, Selina follows the bullies as they get away, coming to a construction site, with Maggie and the bullied boy in tow. The bullied kid tries to get his candy back, but when the situation gets too dangerous, Selina pulls a gun out from the bag she’d been carrying all night and shoots a round into the air, garnering everyone’s attention. Selina tells the bullies to leave the other kid alone, but when one of the bullies challenges Selina – saying that she won’t really fire at them – she asks if they want to find out, and then refuses to simply hand over her gun. The bullies leave, their leader promising to find Selina again – and once they’re gone, Maggie asks Selina where she’d gotten the gun from. Selina confesses to having stolen the costumes, which angers Maggie, causing her to tell Selina that her help always gets them into trouble, and she asks why Selina always ruins everything that is good in their lives.
Back in the present, Selina is in tears. She blames herself for much of what Maggie has gone through or suffered through, especially with what happened at the hands of the Black Mask, the trauma of which rendered Maggie entirely catatonic. She hears someone at the door to Maggie’s room and hides up near the ceiling, watching as a nurse enters with Dr. Finick – the same Dr. Finick that works for Raina Creel. While the nurse doesn’t understand why Finick needs to see Maggie so urgently, he explains that he was hired by a trust of the Creel family and is unable to discuss details with a nurse. The nurse leaves them after he explains that he’s spoken to Maggie’s doctors, and once she’s gone, he pulls out a syringe, promising that what he’s about to give her will make her feel like a whole new person. From above, Selina’s eyes narrow in anger...
As the series progresses, what becomes clearer and clearer is the fact that instead of a simple action-filled heist book like some of the previous series have been, this is a character study into the mind and life of Selina Kyle, and that is absolutely one of the book’s strengths. A consummate, nearly untouchable cat burglar and hero, we already know what Selina is capable of as Catwoman, and while that can be fun, it’s all the more interesting getting to know Selina and learn how she sees herself when she’s not playing the role of Catwoman, of a socialite, or of anything else. Here, she is utterly emotionally stripped down and honest in front of her sister, and it’s a fascinating peek into her psychology. One wouldn’t ever think that Selina – who can at times be so warm and nurturing with the people she allows herself to love, who is so adept at playing people and manipulating them when she needs to – would be someone who had difficulty understanding other people, and it’s an interesting confession. It’s also one of the first times in recent years that someone draws that sort of line between Selina Kyle and Catwoman, because Selina’s personality doesn’t generally change when she puts on the cowl, the way such circumstances change for other characters. But as it turns out, the mask is a shield for Selina, allowing her to deal with things that Selina herself can’t. It’s a personality twist that should definitely be fleshed out and explored further as the series continues.
The audience also finally learns what version of Selina Kyle we’re dealing with in this series. Given the multiple retcons and reboots that the DC Universe and Selina Kyle have gone through over the last decade, there was no telling what this Selina’s past was, and now it’s confirmed that this Selina greatly shares a past with the one from the Brubaker run instead of the New 52 incarnation. Gone is all of the Calabrese stuff, amongst other things, and instead the Selina we have is more of the classic one who has elements of the Her Sister’s Keeper storyline in her background, as well as Brubaker’s run, including the horrors Black Mask visited upon Selina’s family. (What seems to be gone is that awful twist where Maggie became a costumed villain who called herself Sister Zero and was intent on exorcising a cat demon from Selina and saving her sister’s soul. Whether that’s a story that Jones plans on revisiting isn’t clear, but if she does, hopefully it’s done in a better manner.)
If the issue falters anywhere, it’s in the prolonged flashback for that one Halloween night, because it’s a fairly predictable story, but it’s also one that solidifies exactly when Maggie started resenting the decisions that Selina made, and probably where their paths in life truly started diverging. The twist that the Creels know that Maggie is in town and are clearly going to use her to get to Selina – as the Black Mask did – is awful to behold, but unlike last time, this time Selina is right in the room, and there’s little doubt that she’s going to pounce down to her sister’s rescue. They’ve both been through a lot, of course, and Selina clearly doesn’t want Maggie to go through anything more.
The art duties are split between Joelle Jones and Laura Allred (present) and Fernando Blanco and John Kalisz (past), and it definitely works. Jones has given Selina and her world a very specific look – sharp, angular, very realistic – and the contrasting art for the past works well against it. Blanco’s pages are smoother, less angular, which lends a soft-lensed flashback quality to the story, which really works. What’s also commendable is how adept he is at calling back to the art styles used by JJ Birch in the Her Sister’s Keeper storyline and the art done by Cameron Stewart for Brubaker’s run. It’s not that the pencils are carbon copies of the artists’ work, but the details he puts in, like the styling of Selina’s hair from the Brubaker run, which was of a very specific style compared to other styles. It really helps placing the flashbacks into a greater contextual background for Selina, and that’s a wonderful thing. Jones herself is a master at allowing Selina to have her emotions, and she absolutely draws one of the best renditions of Selina that we’ve had in years. Similarly, Allred’s colours differ from Kalisz’s, but they complement each other’s well. While the palette doesn’t change too much between their pages, what’s different is how Kalisz’s colors are more classic comic book in terms of mood and texture – flat, shaded, suffused with light – while Allred’s pages are more infused with texture and a sort of realistic grit that allows the now to be separate from the then. It was a good calling having the two different art teams because it adds something extra to the book, and the end result is wonderful.
Despite the fact that most of the issue takes place in the form of a series of flashbacks, Jones writes a compelling character study about the woman beneath Catwoman's cowl, pushing both Selina and the story forward in a way that only makes this already complex character all the more interesting. This issue comes highly recommended.
Catwoman #4: Her Sister’s Relentless Keeper
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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