Friday, December 30, 2005

Now, It's Personal

Catwoman #50

(Spoilers abound, here. Consider yourself forewarned.)

Given the speculation on various message boards, fairly detailed advanced solicitations, and DC's use of and Wizard magazine as conduits of information, I pretty much already knew what would happen in this comic book before I purchased it. That it greatly entertained me in spite of this important fact is a testament to how well the comic's being written.

I scanned any interviews or articles with Will Pfeifer, Catwoman's writer, before reading them carefully, hoping to avoid definitive statments as to whether Catwoman/Selina Kyle had been mindwiped by the Justice League. However, in a seemingly innocuous article in Wizard #172 about the future line-up of the JLA, Brad Meltzer came out and spilled it. When asked if Catwoman would be up for membership in the reborn JLA, Meltzer's simple reply was: "Not after they messed with her brain."

My thinking on mind-wipes has changed. I had no problem when Dr. Light was mindwiped after raping Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis. I thought this was a questionable, though understandable move. Light was, after all, a raping bastard who had learned the JLA's secret identities, and was itching to do even more damage. When Batman's memory was altered to assure that Light's mind-wipe would occur, I thought, this is clearly not ideal, but if you want to eat an omelette you're going to have to break a few eggs. I did flinch upon learning in "Crisis of Conscience" that Zatanna's mindwipe of Star Sapphire had left the super-villainess comatose, and in the care of warders who ominously discussed the tempatation to peek under her bedsheets (viewers of Kill Bill vol. 1 will get the full implications of this reference). I actually cheered for Despero (an intergalactic telepathic super-tyrant!) when he appeared at Sapphire's bedside to revive her.

So I knew prior to reading the issue that Selina Kyle had been mindwiped. (I'll save a discussion over whether this is a welcome or problematic plot development for the series for another post.) And, as I've said, I knew what I thought about the JLA's resorting to the procedure. What I didn't expect was how seeing a character I like and identify with subjected to the process would really piss me off.

CW #50 makes clear that Zatanna is pretty much carrying out the will of stronger characters (with Hawkman being the main heavy) in mind-wiping Selina. However, what makes it difficult to excuse Zatanna's part in this is the fact that she clearly recognizes that the mind-wipe is at its core a violent and damaging act. It's all made even worse because Zatanna inflicts this violent mojo on someone who has already been subdued and captured. Now, I'm not saying that Zatanna beat Selina with a rubber hose until she promised to be good. But something similar in principle (though different in scale) did happen. Zatanna believed that the end (a "good" Selina) justified the means (using magic to fry parts of Selina's brain), and the writers of CW and Identity Crisis have definitely forced us to deal with an unsavory side of Zatanna's character.

To her credit, the last thing Zatanna says to Selina before inflicting the backwards-spoken mojo on her is "And believe it or not ... I'm sorry." I like Zatanna. Coming clean to Selina and undoing the mind-wipe is a step towards redemption for her. However, I also couldn't help thinking that Selina's throwing her out of the nearest window once the spell was removed was the absolute right thing to happen. Pfeifer lets us see Selina's thoughts, here:
I don't know who I am. I don't know what to do.

But that's not what scares me.

What scares me is what I do know. I know what a villain would do.

The stakes are high all 'round: Zatanna survives her fall, but Selina didn't know this would happen when she threw her out the window. The "good" Selina was made privy to all sorts of juicy secret knowledge about Batman and the JLA; will she keep these secrets? What's more, several other plot developments moved forward in the issue, assuring that reading Catwoman will be interesting in the months to come.

Okay, now I'm tempted to start picking this one up again.
I'm a recent returnee to the title; Brubaker's departure was followed by some pretty bad patches. The Pfeifer/Woods team is definitely putting out good stuff now, I think.
In my mind, Catwoman is THE book to watch right now. Pfeifer and Woods have made the book dynamic and exciting. The ladies of the DCU are really coming into their own and it's about darn time!
I've recently started reading this as well. And I have the say that I'm really enjoying it. Even if this issue made me sick to my stomach. I'm very concerned about what will come of this. It should be an interesting ride nonetheless...
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