Longbox Junk Catwoman #50

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July 2024




Longbox Junk - Catwoman #50

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Like it or lump it, comics in the 90s had a style of their own.  You can just LOOK at a comic book without knowing a thing about it and know that it's a 90s comic.  This is mostly because of Rob Liefeld and Company at Image Comics.  They DEFINITELY put a stamp on the 90s that the "Big Two" scrambled hard to keep up with.
And when you think of that 90s style, what comes to mind?  Pouches, right? Straps and belts? Gritted teeth? Tiny feet? Giant, weird guns? Yep. . .all of that, but one of the things that simply SCREAMS 90s to ME is characters getting a shiny new suit of armor.
I think maybe the most famous example of this is Batman, but there were MANY characters in the 90s who got an unfortunate makeover featuring a suit of armor.  Captain America, Daredevil, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Spider-Man. . .and more, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head.
And Catwoman.  Yep. . .DC put some armor on Catwoman, of all characters.  It didn't last long, so it's one of the more obscure 90s armor makeovers, but yeah. . .Catwoman.
Let's take a look, shall we?


DC (1997)

COVER: Jim Balent
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Jim Balent
INKS: Robert Campenella & Sal Buscema
Gritted teeth, tiny feet, armor. Yep. . .this is definitely a 90s comic.  You can tell without even opening it up.  That said, it's a pretty cool cover.  You can't really tell because gimmick covers are hard to scan, but the whole grey tone background is actually shiny silver ink with Catwoman, the title, and the splash on top.  It's a nice contrast.  The purple and yellow really goes well with the silver ink. 
 I'd go so far to say that this might be one of my favorite 90s gimmick covers.  It never makes any "Top Ten" lists, but in MY book it's a winner! Let's get inside this thing.
We begin our tale with Catwoman in her element, at night on a rooftop, on her way to steal some diamonds.  She thinks the caper is going to be a cakewalk. . .but what kind of comic book fun is THAT?
Out of nowhere, she's targeted by a missile that narrowly misses her!  The explosion briefly knocks Catwoman unconscious.  When she wakes, confused, she tries to find the source of the attack and fails.  As she's deciding whether or not to continue with the planned theft, she's attacked again!
Catwoman immediately recognizes her attacker. . .Cyber-Cat!  She'd recently had a run-in with her during a job at a Syntex lab (a few issues previously) and now it looked like Cyber-Cat was out for revenge!
Catwoman desperately fights for her life against her armored attacker, but it's definitely a one-sided battle as Cyber-Cat brutally beats on her, blaming Catwoman for humiliating her during their first encounter.  Catwoman knows there's no way she's winning the fight, and so she decides to run. . .
Catwoman manages to elude Cyber-Cat, who shouts that she's not going to stop hunting Catwoman until she has her revenge with the thief's death.  Catwoman knows that Cyber-Cat means it, and she won't be able to go back to business as usual until the armored menace is dealt with. . .but in her current state, that's not happening.
As Cyber-Cat leaves the scene, Catwoman carefully follows her. . .discovering her hidden base.  But at the moment, she's in no shape to do anything about it.
We cut away from Catwoman and Cybercat for a bit of exposition!
A Syntex scientist is being interrogated by two mysterious Men in Black.  We learn that Cyber-Cat is a former Syntex scientist as well, named Christina Chiles.  She left Syntex two weeks previously and took an experimental suit of Cortically Amplified Technid armor (C.A.T. Get it? Get it? GET IT!?) with her.
The armor was still in its testing phase and only matched to Chiles' brainwave patterns, so she was the only person who could use it.  The scientist being interrogated believes that Chiles is convinced she's still testing the armor and using her vendetta against Catwoman to do so.
Switching back to Catwoman, she makes her way to the mansion of one of her underworld contacts. . .a wealthy dwarf known as Zee.  She informs him that the job was a failure and that she's in some serious trouble that only a mutual acquaintance named Clutterbuck can help her with.  
Clutterbuck is Catwoman's go-to tech expert.  She tells him about Cyber-Cat and asks him to put something together to even the fight.  Clutterbuck agrees to take on the job, but it will take a couple of days. 
 Catwoman returns to her apartment to rest, recuperate from her wounds, and lay low as her alter-ego Selina Kyle while she's waiting for Clutterbuck to come through for her.
While Selina waits for Clutterbuck, she decides to work a bit on her budding relationship with Detective Morland McShane. . .a cop who is obsessed with taking down Catwoman and an unlikely choice of romantic partner.  Selina is unsure of whether or not to continue building the relationship. And if she does, will it be to stay close to her most persistent hunter, or to try to make an honest go of it?

Okay. . .character development over. Back to sexy supercrime action!  

But first, I'd just like to point out that, while Jim Balent is one of the better DC 90s artists, he can't draw cats. . .which would seem to be sort of a bad thing in a CATWOMAN comic.  
After several pages of out-of-costume character development and setup for conflict in issues to come, Selina returns to Clutterbuck to take a look at what he's come up with to even the odds against Cyber-Cat.
It's a shiny new high-tech suit of 90s armor, of course!  
Now THAT'S 90s!
Catwoman isn't so sure about the idea, but Clutterbuck manages to convince her.  After all, it was rush job, built in two days on a shoestring budget by a weirdo living in a junkyard. What could possibly go wrong?
So Selina pays Clutterbuck and takes the armor out for some practice. . .including an obligatory "Knightfall Era" reference to Batman's new armor.  She figures if it works for him, it will probably work for her.
Once she's got the feel for her shiny new 90s makeover, Catwoman decides to forget about her usual stealth and cunning and goes for a full frontal attack on Cyber-Cat's hidden base!  
Once inside, Catwoman finds the warehouse empty, but as she investigates, she triggers a trap and is attacked by two remote mini-robotic tanks!  Catwoman tries to escape, but eventually finds herself cornered and desperately fighting against the heavily-armed robots.  She manages to destroy them, but is confronted by Cyber-Cat. . .
Cyber-Cat is enraged by Catwoman's destruction of her expensive robotic guards.  But, at the same time, is happy that instead of having to hunt Catwoman again, she's come to her.  
Catwoman tries to talk to Cyber-Cat, but she's not having it. . .the fight is ON!  DING-DING-DING!
Over the course of the next seven pages, Catwoman and Cyber-Cat engage in brutal battle. . .trading the advantage back and forth several times as they both use every trick in their armor suits to gain the upper hand.
The battle rages back and forth until Catwoman finally deals Cyber-Cat a crippling blow. . .a massive explosion that sets Cyber-Cat on fire and causes her systems to eject her burning armor, leaving the woman inside. . .Christina Chiles, exposed to the victorious Catwoman!

With Chiles no longer being Cyber-Cat, but a sobbing and exposed woman denied her revenge, Catwoman tells her to never come after her again or she'll finish the job.  She leaves the scene of the fight just as the mysterious men in black arrive to take Chiles into custody.

Catwoman returns to Clutterbuck, telling him to destroy the armor.  It evened the odds in the fight against Cyber-Cat, but it just isn't who Catwoman is.  She'd rather face the night on her own terms than try to be something she's not.
The End.
And there you have it!  One of the shortest 90s armor makeovers out there.  Just one issue.
Let's break it on down!
I've said it before. . .Doug Moench isn't my favorite comic writer.  THAT SAID. . .he's a good comic writer and you can always count on him putting his own mark on any character he writes.  I'm not much of a Catwoman fan, so I can't speak for his writing on the series in general, but I can definitely see the trademark Doug Moench touch in this issue.
On the surface, this is just an action-packed Catwoman issue that can be easily read as a stand-alone adventure.  Not much to it.  But if you look deeper and get into that Doug Moench touch, you can see that this is ACTUALLY a bit of a meta commentary on all the 90s makeovers surrounding it.
Moench first makes Catwoman buy into the whole thing. . .after all, it worked for Batman, right?  But then has her decline the new look after trying it out for only one issue.  It just isn't her, and she can stand on her own without the gimmicks. 
This whole story is basically Doug Moench flipping the bird at the prevailing trends of the 90s to make characters darker, grittier, and much more pouchy (or armored) just to try and grab readers by copycatting certain popular art styles (namely Image's art style) instead of writing cool comic book stories.  It's like Moench is saying he CAN put Catwoman into a suit of armor and still make it a decent story, but does he really NEED to?
When I realized what I was reading between the lines, this otherwise throwaway story suddenly gave me a big smile!  RIGHT in the middle of a huge shakeup of comic books, here was a writer that was giving readers a quiet and understated "No thank you".
On the art side of things. . .
I have to admit that I really like the look of Catwoman's armor.  I'm wondering if Moench and Balent didn't decide to purposely create something really cool-looking that fans might have actually been on board with, just to help drive home the point of Catwoman rejecting it in favor of just being herself.  
Despite not being able to draw cats very well, Jim Balent really gives the art in this issue a great flow, with interesting panels and "camera" angles that give the action scenes a very nice sense of motion across the page.  Yeah, it's about as 90s as 90s art can get outside of an Image comic, but it's the GOOD kind of 90s art.
  There are a few pages here and there that really shine and showcase Balent's talent. . .the first splash page and the last page (both scanned above) come directly to mind as examples.  I've never been much of a Catwoman fan, but I wouldn't mind getting my eyes on some more of Jim Balent's art.  I think I'll keep my eye out for some more Catwoman issues in the bargain bins.


This is it.  Catwoman's 90s makeover lasted exactly ONE issue and we wouldn't get another taste of Catwoman in armor again. . .unless you count DC's science fiction themed "1,000,000" series of annual issues from 1998, where we got a far future version of Catwoman sporting some shiny 90s armor.
But this time, with a GUN!
But other than that?  DC let Catwoman stay in spandex.  How much Doug Moench's gentle prod of a story in this issue had to do with that, I don't know.  I like to think that it had something to do with it, and thinking about one writer standing up to the prevailing trends of 90s comics trying to chase Image's success makes me a bit happy.
For the underlying story alone, I'll heartily recommend this issue for those who are interested in what was going on in comics during the 90s.  It seems like there was a little bit of creative pushback.  I've seen it in some other comics as well, but this one has a certain understated touch on the subject that makes it stand out a little bit.
But even the story between the lines aside, this is a pretty good issue.  It has a solid, straightforward, action-packed story that doesn't lean too heavily on continuity (aside from a few pages of out of costume character development), so it can be enjoyed on its own.  The story is backed up with some pretty good (and even great in a couple of spots) 90s-style art. . .but the good kind of 90s art.
All in all, not a bad issue.  I'm not sure if it's been collected or not, but this issue can be found pretty easily in the bargain bins.  I come across it fairly often, so if you like your 90s comics, keep an eye out for this one and give it a read.
Up Next. . .
How about a retro review?
Let's head back to the swingin' 60s for a Longbox Junk look at a science fiction superhero made for the atomic age. . .I'm talkin' about DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM!
Be there or be square.
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