I love Catwoman. It’s not just her slick black costume with the pointy ears or her way with a whip, it’s her shades of gray. Catwoman is the most morally ambiguous of superhero characters. She’s a villain, a cat-burglar, yet she also has a strong sense of justice. Plus, Batman once loved her. What keeps the Cat and the Bat apart is a question of worldview; for Selina Kyle, raised on the streets, a superhero’s notion of good and evil is too simplistic. Ed Brubaker, one of the best writers in comics, has crafted a moving and brilliant story of Catwoman’s return to life after being presumed dead for years. Selina Kyle needs some time off. She’s not sure where she fits into the world anymore, and she doesn’t want to be controlled by the mask she wears. Yet she also yearns to give something back to the streets from which she escaped. Returning to a secret safe house she set up for young girls working the street, Selina learns that a murderer is praying on Gotham’s prostitutes. The police don’t consider these victims worth their time, and even Batman doesn’t have much sympathy for women who choose to break the law. If no one else will speak for them, maybe Catwoman can! Soon Selina is prowling the night in a new, more practical costume and tracking the serial killer. She’ll soon learn, however, that the monster she seeks has his own shades of gray.
I can’t say enough about The Dark End of the Street. The art is as good as the writing, if not better; Darwyn Cooke’s elegant, film-noir style is a little bit like the incomparable Powers but has a retro verve all its own (when I use this many adjectives, you know it’s got to be good!). Each panel adds to the nocturnal atmosphere of Catwoman’s world. While the story deals with prostitution and violence, nothing is graphic or explicit. Part superhero comic, part detective story, The Dark End of the Street is really the story of a woman making peace with herself.
Catwoman, vol. 1: The Dark End of the Street
by Ed Brubaker
Art by Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred, Cameron Stewart
DC Comics 2002