Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Joseph Cooper and Arancia Studio
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Release Date: November 30th, 2022
Debuting way back in 1940, Cat-Man’s origin was in Crash Comics #4, and after various incarnations with various companies through the years, Dynamite Comics acquired the Cat-Man (as well as his sidekick Kitten) and used the characters via flashbacks in their Project Superpowers: Chapter Two Prelude one-shot. Cat-Man and Kitten #1 is a one-shot set firmly in 1948, where David Merrywether (Cat-Man’s secret identity) works as a private detective with his ward Katie (AKA Kitten). It’s a blast of Golden Age goodness, as Cat-Man and Kitten encounter ace pilot Skyman and the sorcerer Marvelo, go into action with ace reporter Lindy, and try to solve the mystery of a missing Mayan artifact and the shadowy figure (wielding a Flash Gordon-style ray gun) who may have stolen it.
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Cat-Man and Kitten #1 delivers a whirlwind story that’s good both for fans of the characters and those who are seeing them for the first time. Kicking off with a swanky cocktail party at a mansion that’s soon raided by The Lavender Mob (a group of thieves decked out in lavender-colored suits and domino masks, who wouldn’t be out of place on the old Batman ’66 show), Cat-Man leaps into action, taking out the group of thugs but discovering that a Mayan relic has been stolen from the mansion’s collection of artifacts.
What follows is an adventure that takes Cat-Man and Kitten, along with reporter Lindy (she’s very much like Lois Lane but with a blonde Amelia Earhart-style haircut), across the city and eventually to the wilds of Mexico in search of the stolen relic. Cat-Man and Kitten themselves are mildly interesting but in their mannerisms and dialogue, they seem very much like Batman and Robin from the ’66 Batman TV show. Kitten even has her trademark exclamations. Where Robin had “Holy ____!”, Kitten occasionally tosses out a “Mee-Yow!” when she’s shocked by something. Throughout the issue, we start to learn there’s more to Cat-Man than just being a cowled gymnast and fighter, he’s evolving, and I hope we get more stories with the duo to continue his story.
The thing I enjoyed most about the book were the supporting characters who pop up throughout the book, specifically Skyman and Marvelo. Skyman is a Blackhawk-style aviator with his own custom-built futuristic-looking plane. His appearance in the book is brief, but he has an encounter with his arch-nemesis The Time Raider that’s incredibly fun, but which sadly we don’t get to see play out because after all, the book stars Cat-Man and Kitten, right? I’d love to see a Skyman one-shot or mini-series in the future.
Marvelo is a Sargon the Sorcerer-type character, a mystic conjurer (complete with a cape and turban embedded with a huge jewel) who can summon beings from the “other world”. He also makes a frustratingly brief appearance. These characters expand the universe Cat-Man and Kitten live in, making it feel like a deeper and richer world. Hopefully, if the duo get a mini-series or regular series, we’ll see more of these supporting characters and more of this post-World War 2 world where magic and technology both are on the rise. The issue climaxes with a great showdown in the Mexican jungle and we get a couple of great plot twists before the ending.
Joseph Cooper and Arancia Studio’s art on Cat-Man and Kitten #1 captures the Golden Age feel the book is shooting for. The characters are drawn in great proportion, with Cat-Man’s barrel chest and Lindy’s scrappy but petite frame. The design of Skyman’s plane and the main villain’s ray gun capture that Flash Gordon feel of how futuristic machinery and weaponry was envisioned back in the 40’s. All the characters and the world are drawn in a way that looks like an old movie serial, simultaneously old-fashioned and modern.
Cat-Man and Kitten #1 is a good spotlight for the heroic duo, giving them a grand adventure filled with exotic locations and action. On the down side, the supporting characters are more interesting than Cat-Man and Kitten themselves, but we do get some hints that there’s more to Cat-Man than what we think, and I hope we get future stories with Cat-Man and Kitten to see how Cat-Man evolves over time.