Catwoman #1 (1993) (Jo Duffy, Jim Balent, Dick Giordano)
Back in the 90s, when a comic book villain became popular enough he would grow a conscience and be awarded his own ongoing series. Over at Marvel we had Deadpool and Venom, and at the DC end of the spectrum we had Catwoman!
When I pulled Catwoman #1 out of the long box, two things caught my eye and set off great big whoop-whoop warning signals: The cover is embossed (a hallmark of terrible 90s gimmickry) and the art was by Jim Balent. Now, my only exposure to Jim Balent is through the annotations of Tarot provided by the one and only Chris Sims’ Invincible Super-Blog (warning: his Tarot annotations not for kids... or anyone, really). So you can imagine that I was fairly nervous as to what would be contained inside Catwoman #1. Even with DC’s mainstream titles being fully safe-for-work, I was prepared for some monumentally bad artwork.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only was the art not-terrible, Jim Balent was actually a really great visual storyteller. Check out the one page recap of Bane’s back-story.
That's great stuff. As for Jo Duffy's plot, Bane has taken over the criminal enterprises in Gotham City, and has Catwoman stealing gems for him. After a successful museum heist, she meets her handler (Leopold) and and unwelcome guest (Bird). I’m assuming Bird is just there to facilitate the terrible “what cats do to birds” line, and to display his luxurious 90s-tastic mullet:
Eventually we learn that Catwoman has been skimming off of Bane’s heists to dress her cats in jewellery. and Bane is growing suspicious. Decides to take care of Catwoman by tricking an assassin that’s already after Bane into going after Catwoman. All, the while, everyone berates Leopold for smoking:
Oh, come on, Bane. Getting super solder drugs injected into your spinal column is awesome but smoking isn’t? Oh, the 1990s. Recycling, neon, and mullets were cool, and smoking was un-cool. It was like some sort of bizarre, anti-Noir.
Besides a few things that were more a product of it’s decade than anything else, I actually enjoyed Catwoman #1. Maybe Balent is like Greg Land. His pencils were great in the beginning of his career, but as he moved from pencils to digital the art suffered, and now it’s just a mess of traced porn and copy-pasted wolf heads.