Sunday Fun Day: Where’s Waldo, Jim Balent Catwoman Style (Week Fifteen)

I think the week numbering on these posts is now shot, other than as a way of keeping them organized, but I am going to try to make up for it (key word try) by doing a double set of posts in one day, starting with a special one that only covers one issue. Only one issue you say (that I say)? Yep, only the one issue because I’ve already posted the other three issues of that arc (and there are two additional ones in it that are not a part of Catwoman’s own comic) and because this first issue of the arc has some great interactions between Catwoman and a major player from Catwoman: Year One. So, head below the cut to find out who it is and to get some great character bits with, and information about, our hero.

By which I mean, somebody please please find where the heck the cat is at on this one!!

Nope. Not it. But this does lead into another Catwoman-in-an-unwilling-team-up story. And I do need to get back to burning off unsolved covers in this spot. Catwoman #28 (1996).

To start off with, since this is still a hidden cover cat post, here’s the cover for Catwoman #33, 1996, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by, of course, Jim Balent:

And by rival I mean Hellhound was a terrible student and got mad that their teacher liked Catwoman better.  With emphasis on the woman part. Yeeaaah.

This one is … oddly, uncomfortably sexual looking to me for some reason. The face still seems to be fierce, personality-filled early Jim Balent (if with a colour job/quality to the colours that makes it look a little less expressive), but I think the torso, and the colour work on it, is where it goes wrong. Somehow it just creates an off-note to what should be Catwoman fiercely, pissed off-edly fighting against her rival from her training days.

In case “rival from her training days” and the dog-ish looking costume (never ever tell him you can’t tell it’s meant to be a dog) weren’t enough of a tip off, the special returning guest here, and for the remainder of the long arc, is Hellhound. Hellhound is … actually kind of awesome in a really terrible way, in that he’s actually a pretty darn great antagonist for Catwoman and one that can carry over to her present-day adventures … and terrible in that he’s basically the really grudgy, angry, misogynistic rival who can’t admit and accept that Catwoman was (and is) better than him and that their sensei had ‘very’ legitimate reasons for dropping him and favouring her.

Which I think is a key part of this Catwoman and drawing 'and' writing her well. She's not easily impressed by anything or anyone but she will also manage to have a blast if at all possible.

I really love this opening page, art and story title and lettering combined. And the name of the brand on Catwoman’s method of transport and the number of subtle “claws” on it. Also that she is both having an absolute blast and terrifically bored and blase.

The story actually goes on for quite a while and Hellhound phases in and out of it (and it turns into a weird, slightly Indiana Jones-style deal for a bit and then gets dragged over into Detective Comics and then into Robin), but this issue is great on its own for the sheer fun and character exploration of tossing Hellhound and Catwoman back together at an older age and in the “present time” of the Catwoman comic. He is roping her into a longer contract/situation she can’t get out of but I think you could almost treat this as a standalone in terms of them fighting and it reaching a conclusion with her recapture and being given the deal. Especially if you, like me, eventually reach a point of frustration with really long story arcs that get dragged over into other books and have other heavy hitters thrown in (honestly, I could pass on Bane and anyone else being thrown in – I really just wanted to see the Hellhound/Catwoman conflict play out as they try to accomplish the mission together).

I'm getting this specific because the issue does have some hiccups. But it's still not like the late era Balent Catwoman.

Can you tell I love her inner monologues as done in this series (at least in the earlier parts of it)? And this is some of what I mean by Balent’s personality filled faces when I compare the earlier and later art in his run. This page is still great. And I think also manages a pretty darn okay pose, given what Catwoman’s standing on and how ‘that’s’ angled.

So, without further ado, a few more pages from the issue (I really just want to post them all, but that’s not an option 🙂 ), which special emphasis on great dialogue bits or other neatness. 🙂

I'm really trying not to say knifealicious too many times but sometimes you just have to coin a term. :P

Devildog makes him sound like a specialty hot dog from a hot dog stand, which I think was largely her goal. Also, did I mention he’s kind of overdramatic and overserious? And at first I thought he’d cut down on the number of knives on his outfit since they were younger but … nope. Trust me. He’s just as bad now.

Or falling over. Or anything really.

I had to give a close-up of this first, because wow did he ever ‘not’ cut down on the number of knives on his costume. I think he changed the colour palette and design, but someone is incapable of safely sitting down.

I can't think of anything else to say about this. Other than - how does his costume stay so knifetastic if he's throwing them all the time??

I think he’s sprouting knives.

Basically, Hellhound is the person who wants to learn how to make a huge fire without learning how to make a tiny one safely. And who also thinks you always need a big one.

I think Hellhound just got what they call “burned.” Also – yes, some of this is Catwoman’s ego (and a very Catwoman style bolstering herself up without losing her cool .. and her humour), but I honestly think she’s telling the truth here. Catwoman is and was moral grey most definitely but she was also the more level-headed and willing to learn (or wait on or not get to learn) student between her and Hellhound and it shows.

Basically he's just mad. And his mad starts with the fact that she's a woman. Seriously. His part of Catwoman: Year One is really heavily angry at girl cooties touching things and then getting to be trained by 'his' sensei. And turning out to be a better pupil and fighter than him.

Also, if you can find and read this issue (and others in the arc), Hellhound really ‘really’ likes telling Catwoman her jokes are wasted on him. Again, overserious and severe and I think also maybe a bit mad that she’s better than him (and was favoured by their sensei) and has that playful, humorous, joyous aspect to her personality ‘and’ has it in combat too.

And, since I ‘really’ need to wrap up how many pages I’m including (and give you all the answer to the cover!), here are two more pages. One a parallel/call back (if unintentional) to something from Catwoman’s long origin story (I thought it was Year One, but that starts in her late teens and follows her for what is supposed to be a year) and another showing Hellhound without his cowl because, well, holy 90s bad boy hair!

Seriously. I'm really quite fond of Catwoman: Year One. And of this Catwoman's complex origin story as a whole.

I really like this page, especially the last panel. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but this isn’t the first time Catwoman has almost drowned. In the adolescence/teens part of her origin story, she finds out the abusive head of the juvenile home she’s locked up in has been doing illegal things with the facility’s funds and confronts her about it. The director then tries to drown her in a bag like a cat. This seems like a callback/nod to that, although I don’t think we’re going to see Catwoman show up in Hellhound’s office dripping with water and holding a belt that she uses as her first improvised whip.

Also, wow, is that an awkward ass shot in the bottom left panel.

Hellhound, you’re a jerk. Also put your cowl back on. You’re not 90s Superboy. Although I guess points for taking away her gloves, boots, and backpack. Even if maybe you were guessing and didn’t realize the gloves and boots have retractable blades in them.

And now before I forget I can only share so many full pages of this issue with you, here’s the solution to this post’s hidden cat on the cover! 🙂

That gorilla one was terrible. Terrible.

This time the cat is made up of cracks in the brick wall above Hellhound’s head. Not easy but also not as terrible as Balent can get when hiding the cats.

And as a special bonus to the existing bonuses, here are the last two pages of Catwoman: Year One. 🙂

Of course, this is a character who doesn't kill, but she can at least give him a taste of defeat the next time they see each other.

That first panel is actually a callback to the very first page of this issue, showing that Selina has learned from her experiences and is going to do things right this time (including being a thief). Also note the dialogue about Hellhound.

Do 'not' mess with the people she cares about. They are few, but she genuinely loves them.

And the very last page, and the last time Selina sees her sensei. Really touching, and also a really good indication of how much Hellhound showing back up in Catwoman #33+ and calling her nekho-chan and saying that their sensei is dead would upset and distress her.

And that’s it for this post. 🙂 As always, all images belong to their respective copyright holders and are used for fun review purposes only. 🙂 And next up is Catwoman: Year Two, which I’ve kind of been avoiding but which can also all go into its own post now thanks to doing issue #33 all on its own. 🙂

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