Ayame Blackburn, All Grown Up
God, this cover is stunning. This is easily some of March at his very best, EXTRAORDINARY colors bring this amazing level of creepiness to life. Catwoman holding the presumably dead presumably prostitute is a fairly powerful image by itself, but standing with the city at a weird angle beneath her would ruin it; if not for Dollhouse above everyone, his/her cape outstretched like an angel's wings. Gripping, powerful, soul-chilling.
In fact, this cover is so much great Guillem March, that it's actually a shame the interior art is Adriana Melo. Melo's artwork this time certainly is far more her own, but I think that made me like it less. I was never a huge fan of Melo when I first saw her work on Birds of Prey, and I enjoyed it well enough here when she was emulating March. The fight at the beginning has some NICE momentum, but overall the facial expressions are sort of uncanny and it's just such a painful clash from what March was doing.
The opening fight has some AMAZING somewhat subtle sexual imagery in it, but it's pretty clear that it's much more credit to Winick's script than Melo's pencils. And let's talk about that sexual imagery shall we? I'm not talking about 'Oh look, it's Catwoman partially nude! This is a shameful exploitation book HURR HURR DURR.' NO. If you think that, gtfo, I don't even want to look at you. Catwoman's sexual atmosphere goes far beyond mere nudity and carnal pleasure; it's the deeper connotation of adrenaline in it's purest form. I went into a lot more detail in earlier issues, but here it's clear that on a deeper level of consciousness, she knows how strong the connection is between sex and violence. She's so easily able to equate the noises of a fight with the sounds of sex. She knows how to keep the flow going in both, and mix when she needs to. This is even more evident in an otherwise throwaway joke when she accidentally whips Spark.
Meanwhile, Spark thinks he's got her on the ropes because he thinks like the idiots who disregard this series. He thinks he's got Catwoman's sex drive all figured out. He's a dopey, arrogant, and loves to mouth his opinions of what Catwoman SHOULD be doing. In fact, I'm willing to forgive his stupidly obvious double cross in progress if I can imagine he's a 'take that' to the close minded whiners. He thinks he can have all of Catwoman's secrets with a smile and a wink, and some sex. He thinks that that's as deep as Catwoman gets, so it won't be long before he gets her secrets out of her via sex. He's an idiot, and he means nothing to her; even if Catwoman herself doesn't fully realize it.
Meanwhile, Dollhouse continues to wipe Dollmaker from my mind. Dollhouse expresses some childlike personality quirks that terrified me deep down to my soul. He/she harvests people for their organs, but then places them in elegant life sized dollhouses, taking care of the taxidermied bodies. HOLY SHIT! DOLLHOUSE IS LIKE CURTS BLACKBURN BUT WITHOUT THE RAPE. (Anyone who gets that reference on their own is instantly my friend forever.) When a prisoner dies, it's hard to tell if DOllhouse is concerned about the organs for harvesting, or the doll for the house. And then he/she starts shaking and huddles in a corner. This is the kind of seriously sociopathic shit I absolutely love and am unnerved by. It's the uncanny valley of human, twisted recognizably, that is the most frightening. Because if you can see the real human pieces, it seems like a real disturbed human being. The reveal of what's under the hood is annoyingly a bit of a second mask, but it works in line with what we see in this issue so well that I really can't complain.
In Conclusion: 4/5
Adriana Melo is either not on her A-Game here, not a good fit, or just not my style. That REALLY dampened the experience; but Winick's script was so amazingly strong, it carried the deep, intense, psychological experience through any weaker portions or awkward art. With March this would've been a 5/5 hands down. Haters gonna hate, I'm a little distraught to hear Winick's off the series in October.