Back in September, I wrote an article about how 2022 was Catwoman’s best year ever. It was a pretty good article and, if I do say so myself, worth a read if you’re feeling so inclined (check it out here). If you’re not the clicking type, I basically said that it was one of the most complete years for the character, with a great on-screen portrayal, a new omnibus featuring one of the character’s most beloved stories, and two on-going high profile runs by some of the top talents in the industry finishing up. But what really set the year over the top for Selina was the first three issues (issue 4 hadn’t come out at the time of the article) of Cliff Chiang’s brilliant Catwoman: Lonely City. In my review, I claimed that Lonely City was already the best Catwoman story and we still had one last issue to go to resolve the series. On that (then) upcoming issue, I said this:
With the last issue coming in August, the big elephant in the room is if this story doesn’t stick
the landing, this article looks really silly. I’m liable to get this article quote tweeted with some
type of pithy comment or a cringey line from issue 4. That should tell you, though, just how
good this series has been so far. Heck, if it ended unresolved right now, I still might give it the
crown. Cliff Chiang has proved time and time again that he’s one of the powerhouses of the
industry, and I’m willing to put whatever minor internet reputation I have on the line to call the
match now. I’m not afraid at all of this book going off the rails with issue 4.
On October 25th , Catwoman: Lonely City #4 finally released. After months of anticipation we finally got to see Chiang’s conclusion and find out if this goes down as the Greatest Catwoman Story Ever. So . . . did it stick the landing? Did it hold onto the title belt? In honor of the Hardcover releasing today, I wanted to revisit Cliff’s Lonely version of Gotham. First though, let’s talk about that last issue. (If you’re not interested in issue 4 and just want to know about the book as a whole, feel free to skip down to the IS THIS THE GREATEST CATWOMAN STORY EVER? Section below)
Without spoilers, issue 4 is by far the most action-packed issue of the series. Whereas the rest of the run has been about building out this new version of Gotham and the older denizens that live there, issue 4 is all about the central heist everything has been leading up to and a climactic confrontation over the mysterious Orpheus project that got teased way back in issue 1. It’s definitely a change of pace, a much more narrowly focused issue than the 3 that preceded it. Where the previous issues had taken us all over Gotham, (and sometimes even farther than that) issue 4 spends most of the time pretty concentrated on one high-profile location. (Again, this is a spoiler free recap, but if you’ve read any of the previous issues, you can probably guess where this is. Heck, even if you haven’t you’ve probably got a
50/50 shot of guessing right). Because of these changes, issue 4 feels a little bit like an outlier, though not necessarily in a bad way.
Personally, it was my least favorite issue. Least favorite is important phrasing here, this is still a
great issue, it’s just of all four of these issues, some of my favorites of the year, this one happens to be the least. This isn’t really a reflection on the issue itself though, more of what it needed to be in order to pay off on the series as a whole. When the first three issue got to show us varied locales and characters, it did this as planning and prep for the heist that’s central to the plot. Eventually, the prep has to stop and the plan has to be put in motion. Cliff’s (he retweeted my last article, I get to call him Cliff) linework and colors are brilliant as always and it’s great watching the action unfold, first with the break-in itself followed by the inevitable climactic showdown that every good heist story needs. Tonally, it’s a shift from the rest of the series, but it’s also what the series has been working towards. Can’t have just appetizers without eventually plopping the entrée down on the table. This issue (and the heist specifically) is the catch of the day that the other three issues were getting us ready for.
For me though, the most important part of the issue isn’t all the action sequences and big face-
offs, it was Selina’s realization that her mission almost had her as lost as the city itself and pulling back from that. So much of what this series has been is about the preservation of unique culture within the threat of stifling banality. In issue 1, Selina returns to a city that is trying to kill off its old ways and with it all the beauty and eccentricity that were so central to Gotham. So much of this series has been her fight both to prove that she (and other outsiders to society) can still matter even as the power structures and culture of the city have been shifting away from that. There’s a moment towards the end of the last issue where Selina is face to face with those forces of change, and for a moment she looks like she’s about to
be pulled into this fight and ultimately become one of the forces she’s fighting against. Thankfully, Cliff never forgets what book he’s writing, and Selina doesn’t forget herself. I’m happy to report that despite the uptick in action, Selina stays true to her character and the Gotham City I’ve gotten to love over the last few issues is better for it.
So then, here’s the question. Did the series ending land, IS THIS THE GREATEST CATWOMAN STORY EVER? Well, if you’re asking me (and I’m the one writing this article, so there’s no one else here to ask) . . . ABSOLUTELY. Everything I wrote about the first three issues remains true for issue 4, even in the face of the most outlying issue. So much of this series has been about the beautiful struggle of Gotham’s old time residents battling against the forces of banality and individualism stifling. Issue 4 is a departure and at times feels like it’s going off the tracks of the theme it has established previously, but it never strays too far from what made the series great.
In ways that Selina’s Big Score (the story I think most people would point to as Catwoman’s best) never did, Lonely City makes me care not only about The Catwoman, but most importantly Selina Kyle. This Selina is definitely my favorite version of the character, with aches in her knees and regrets that still haunt her, but importantly this makes me appreciate the character as a whole more. This story makes me care about both Catwoman and the woman within. It makes me care about the rest of the Batman rogue’s gallery and provides my absolutely favorite version Killer Croc ever. This is really what gives Lonely City the leg up on Selina’s Big Score, giving depth and backstory that only could come from Catwoman. In Selina’s Big Score, Cooke shies away from Selina’s past with the Bats of Gotham and
instead explores a new backstory with a character that is pretty obviously Parker from Richard Stark’s famous crime novels (heck, Cooke names the character Stark, he’s not trying to hide it). It makes for an interesting story, but doesn’t necessarily do anything to me to endear Catwoman to me. This character that we’re shown could have just as easily been a new creation without the story missing a beat. Cooke eschews Catwoman’s costumed past in his tale, Chiang celebrates it in his. That matters to me.
Additionally, everything I wrote about in the last article about the beauty of this series is still true. This new Gotham City, stuck between eras, is one of the most interesting portrayals of the city and one I would love to see more of. Here’s some of what I said for the last issue:
With his flowing lines, stylized outlines, and contrasting color scheme, this Gotham is a place I
want to return to time and time again. Selina’s story may be concluded after issue 4, but that
doesn’t mean I’m done. I want to drop on into Ma Hunkel’s bar for a few rounds with some
former caped villains while they reminisce about the old days. I want to hit up the next Batforce
1 drop at OGBEAST’s spot and just kick it. In just 3 issues, Chiang has created a living, breathing Gotham that doesn’t belong to The Bat, The Cat, The Joker, or anyone else. This is a city that no one man, woman, or symbol can claim. It belongs to everybody. It belongs to no one.
What was true of the first three issues continued to be true in the fourth, this is consistent through the whole series. Grab the Hardcover and you’ve got one of the most interesting depictions of Gotham. But regardless whether you agree with me or not about Lonely City being THE GREATEST CATWOMAN STORY EVER, I will not hear any arguments that this book was anything short of incredible.
Whether or not this is your choice for the best Catwoman story, it’s almost assuredly going to be among
your top. Additionally, I think Catwoman: Lonely City was probably the best comic I read this year. Not
best Bat-book, not best Big 2 comic, best comic of the year. I knew Cliff Chiang was going to knock it out
of the park with the artwork on this series, I was completely blown away by how great of a writer/plotter
he was. Regardless of your personal Catwoman rankings, you owe it to yourself to check this book out.
It’s. That. Dang. Good. If you haven’t read this yet, the Hardcover (out today at your Local Comic Shop
and Direct Market online retailers) is a . . . steal at just $29.99. Get on it.