Review: Catwoman #23 (2018)

Enter: Snowflame!

Written by Sean Murphy & Blake Northcott, Pencils by Cian Tormey, Inks by Cian Tormey and Colored by FCO Plascencia.

A week or so ago (at the time of writing this, that is) I was just browsing the internet when suddenly I came across something so utterly surprising that I still can't really believe it. Snowflame has returned. Who is Snowflame you might ask? Well, he's quite possibly the most (in)famous obscure supervillain DC comics has featured in one of their books. Debuting in 1988's New Guardians #2, Snowflame was the leader of a cartel of drug dealers operating out of Colombia. Even though that one issue was his only appearance in DC comics for over 30 years, Snowflame was far from forgotten. Quite the opposite actually, the character became somewhat of a legendary figure amongst DC comic fans. I myself got introduced to the character through AtoptheFourthWall where he's somewhat of a recurring joke. He even got his own fan-created webcomic back in 2012. What was it that made this one appearance of the character so memorable? Well, it's because he obtained his superhuman powers, the ability to conjure up flames, from inhaling ridiculous amounts of cocaine.

That's right folks, the higher Snowflame gets, the more powerful Snowflame becomes. That's not even all of it, because upon getting high as a kite, Snowflame would make longwinded speeches about how cocaine was his god, screaming them from at the top of his lunges. It was both glorious and utterly ridiculous. Even with Snowflame becoming somewhat famous amongst many DC comic fans, his entire stick and the fact that he got blown up at the end of New Guardians #2 would surely keep DC from ever letting him appear again. So, imagine my mouth hanging open and my brain coming to a screeching halt when I learned that Snowflame made his grandiose return in the pages of the latest issue of Catwoman. It's an even so unlikely that I just have to talk about it. Is his return worthy of the reputation the character got? Is the issue even good to begin with? Yes and Yes.


The plot of the issue isn't all that complicated. Catwoman, Selina Kyle, travels to Isla Nevada where a supervillain auction is being held. While on the flight to the way there, she hears from a fellow passenger and local of the island that local cartel is having some trouble. They didn't take one of the place's myths seriously until it started killing them. It just so happens that the myth involves a giant cat as well. When Selina steps of the airport, she's picked up by her 'personal chauffeur', organizer of the auction and leader of the cartel: Snowflame. At the auction, or to be more precise the party on the eve before the auction, Selina has a 'friendly' chat with another old 'friend' Jeannie Torkelson an information broker who covers up her criminal activities through her status as a famous influencer. Just like Snowflame, she pries Selina for the reason why she has come to the auction but she doesn't give in. When Snowflame's welcome speech is cut short by his men, Selina can't help but wonder what's going on, suits up and follows.

Let's not beat around the bush here: how's Snowflame? The character has been updated in the 30 odd years that we last saw him. He no longer wears a costume and doesn't shout out memorable one-liners like 'cocaine is god'. Instead, Snowflame (whose real name is now given as Stefan) looks like he just ended his shoots on the set of Miami Vice and stepped straight into a time machine to the present afterwards. He's still chatty and is unapologetic about his 'love for the powder' but he's also considerably less of an all-out maniac and more 'suave' here. While modernized, the character the core of the character still runs true to what it was back in 1988. Fans of Snowflame, those who have enjoyed the countless jokes and parodies that have been shared over the internet over the years won't be disappointed by this different, yet familiar, take.

Just look at that entrance! If you don't see Miami Vice and/or the 80's in all of this, you're just lying to yourself.

How's the rest of the book though? How's the issue for those who aren't in on the joke that is Snowflame? Well, while I came for Snowflame, I stuck around for the rest. Catwoman #23 just is a good and enjoyable comic. It has an interesting premise: Catwoman going to this super-villain auction while the reader is left in the dark why exactly, what's she's there for. This might've become a bit annoying if not for the good writing at play here. I can't say that I'm that familiar with Catwoman, but from what I've read her character is portrayed here better than in most other works. The writing also manages to sneak in multiple jokes and references without them really feeling out of place, so props there and even though they're quite a lot of text the issue reads easily. The artwork is nothing to scoff at either. It's not the most imaginative nor dynamic here, in most part due to a lack of action, but that's definitely not saying it's bad. The facial expressions are especially well done though I do think that the old suit Catwoman uses in the issue doesn't really fit anymore. It's better than the tight leather suits she tends to get these days I admit, but I still think it's a bit out of place with the style of the rest of the book.

I don't really have much to complain here, the book doesn't really have any obvious flaws, except I do think that the character of Jeannie is a bit much. She's pretty in your face with her whole 'I'm a supervillain influencer stick' and whenever she opens her mouth I just get annoyed. With how much time the issue spends on her, the introduction her chat with Catwoman etc., Jeannie is sticking around for a while I can tell. I wouldn't be surprised if the reason that Selina came to the auction has something to do with her, but only time will tell.

Conclusion

Catwoman #23 biggest drawing point for readers is (if you're in on it) the grand and glorious return of DC's most (in)famous obscure villain: Snowflame. Even if you've never heard of the character though, the issue is still worth a consideration. The book has an interesting premise, which is utilized very nicely, and the story is told in a well-paced and satisfying manner. Every aspect of the book is done well, from the artwork to the writing and everything in between while also setting up plenty of intrigue that will surely pay off later in the story arc. The book is interesting and enjoyable and is worth picking up.

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