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Comic Book Reviews: Runaways and Catwoman

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image CC2K's comics expert Joey Esposito has written and reviewed two of his favorite titles, with extremely mixed results. Read on!

Runaways #29 Review by Joey Esposito

Writer – Joss Whedon

Pencils – Michael Ryan

Inks – Rick Ketcham & Andrew Hennessy

Colors – Christina Strain

Letters – VC's Joe Caramagna

Cover – Jo Chen

I'm going to be honest. I love Runaways. I really, really do. But when I opened this book, I had no memory of what the hell was going on. I know Joss Whedon had taken the reigns from creator Brian K. Vaughan and I know that he had sent the team into the past where a lot of double crossing and homophobia occurs. I even read the recap page. It took me until I finished the issue to remember what was happening. Don't get me wrong; this issue is pretty good, and my memory loss is due more to a late schedule than anything. But, compared to Vaughan, Whedon just isn't the successor I hoped he would be. 

I think part of the problem is it feels as though Whedon has chosen to focus this issue on the wrong group of characters. The previous issue had revealed a shocking villain that pertains to the entire group and the deep feeling of loss they feel over the death of a certain bespectacled team member, and yet these villains appear for maybe two panels. Basically my issue is that Whedon setup a great potential for maximum emotional punch, but instead barely helps me to remember why I love these characters so much. That sounds harsh, but in the grand scheme of things, seeing a writer sidetrack our characters with a plethora of new ones that don't really add to the development of the over reaching story (or so it seems) is frustrating. But, given his track record, I'm going to give Whedon the benefit of the doubt and hope that this first arc is leading somewhere.

At least through all of this uncertainty, we get the amazing pencils of Michael Ryan and vivid colors of Christina Strain to tell the story visually. Most panels are intensely detailed and full of activity, but Strain's colors and the inks of Rick Ketcham and Andrew Hennessy keep things clear and focused. Even in a double splash page of a gigantic brawl, it is easy to pick out characters and see what each is doing without getting lost in a jungle of arms and legs.

Again, the progression here is puzzling, but I have faith that it's all coming around to something. Unfortunately, "writing for the arc" isn't something I condone; every issue of an arc should still be enjoyable enough on its own without having to rely on the outcome of the arc. 

Runaways #29: 2 out of 5. 

Catwoman #76 Review by Joey Esposito

Writer – Will Pfeifer

Pencils – David Lopez

Inks – Alvaro Lopez

Colors – Jeromy Cox

Letters – Jared K. Fletcher

Cover – Adam Hughes

So first of all, right off the bat (no pun intended), let's just say that you need to be reading this book. While #76 isn't the best entry into Will Pfeifer's amazing run on Catwoman, the book certainly should not be going overlooked by anyone. Issue #76 picks up the "Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Universe" story arc that sees Selina shipped off by the Suicide Squad to the Hell Planet along with all the other super villains of the DC Universe (via Salvation Run). I must admit, when the cliffhanger ending of issue #74 came that suggested Selina Kyle's role in that concept, I was, at best, agitated. For 30+ issues now Pfeifer has kept us on the edge of our seats with creative stories and a different set of bad guys for Catwoman to square off with, effortlessly moving from witty dialogue to dramatic tension, to balls to the wall action. Not to mention, in DC's post-Infinite Crisis "One Year Later" jump, this book is the only one that gave readers something new, a new direction for the characters that lasted beyond that initial first "One Year Later" arc. From that point on Selina Kyle had kind of kept to herself and her own little world in the East End of Gotham, even while losing supporting character Holly Robinson to the epic tale that is Countdown to Final Crisis. Her own little world, at least, until she was swept up by the Suicide Squad.

What concerned me is that the book would start to falter from it's character-centric stories to something less personal. Instead, amongst all of the craziness of Salvation Run going on around her, Pfeifer is able to further Selina's personal demons, by trapping her inside what is essentially a world of her own creation. This device lets us see some of the glaring faults of our heroine, drawn with the usual tact of David Lopez, whose work is clearly defined by the lines of inker Alvaro Lopez. My favorite thing about these guys' work is their willingness to slow down the action to deliver those moments so familiar to us from action films: the hero is in the heat of battle when suddenly he or she notices something their opponent does not. The action stops, if only for our protagonist; beat. Our hero uses their enemy's ignorance to their advantage, and ends the battle quite abruptly. Pfeifer's story pacing and Lopez's panel structures capture this perfectly. 

Unfortunately, though, the book isn't quite perfect. My one real complaint with the art on Catwoman (sometimes, anyway), is the backgrounds often lack distinction or detail. Lopez has a penchant for close-ups in panels that often render the background useless, and there is nothing but gray matter. Simply stated, often times the backgrounds are painfully stale. As for the writing, the Selina's inner monologue can sometimes serve as a "previously on…" segment which, for someone that's been reading this book as long as I have, gets annoying real fast. I think that it's ultimately better than a recap page, but for someone as talented as Pfeifer, I'd bet that he is able to find a way to throw in exposition without making it as obvious as "Ok, Selina. Let's sort this out.", followed by a list of what is essentially the last couple of issues. 

Catwoman #76:    3.5 out of 5.