Thursday, October 9, 2008

Selina's Big Score by Darwyn Cooke

There are lots of sequences made up of close-ups of faces in this book: sequences carried by little details changing from panel-to-panel - eyes shifting slightly, a poker face turning into a grin. It's a dangerous tack to take in a book like this - that is, a straightforward, almost classical action/adventure/crime story - and it takes a cartoonist as expressive as Cooke to pull it off. I think that Cooke's art is nice to look at, but it's his skill as a storyteller that makes him more than just a retro stylist.

What Cooke is trying to do here - weave Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman into a Donald E. Westlake a.k.a. Richard Stark-style heist story - isn't completely successful. Cooke lacks Westlake's black comic sense of humor, which, in the Parker novels, manifests as a brutal slapstick and a razor-sharp ironic p.o.v. towards all flavors of self-delusion. Cooke also doesn't have Westlake's flair for clockwork precise plotting. Without those things, its easy for that kind of story to turn into an overly romantic take on the independent, self-sufficient outlaw, which is more-or-less what happens here. "Less" only in that (a) we have two outlaws and (b) they turn out to be not as self-sufficient as they'd like to think they are.

Not surprisingly, it's part (b) that is one of the major themes of the Catwoman series proper, but Cooke isn't able to do much more than hint at it here.

So the pleasures to be had here are mostly in Cooke's cartooning: in the great "acting" of the close-up sequences and the staging of the elaborate heist scenes.

As a possible spiritual sequel to this book, I'd like to see Cooke draw a properBatman vs. Parker story from a Westlake script. (And if Westlake won't do it get Steven Grant or Mike Baron).

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