Review by Woodrow Phoenix
No Easy Way Down is the second super-sized volume collecting what was previously collected in three smaller trade paperbacks: Crooked Little Town, Relentless and Wild Ride. The first of these three story arcs is the very aptly-titled ‘Relentless’. Selina Kyle has forged a new life as the champion of the downtrodden in the East side of Gotham. She’s interfered with the operations of criminal gangs and the crooked cops who work with them, she’s rescued her friends from danger and exploitation and she’s inspiring her local community to clean up the East side. But cutting into the profits of gangland was never going to go unchallenged for long. A very powerful enemy strikes at her through her weakest point: her past, and the people who are her ties to it.
In one of the most violent episodes of the series, Selina’s enemies take brutal revenge on her. The horrific sadistic games of crime-lord Black Mask are unpleasant enough to make you wonder what kind of audience Ed Brubaker thinks he’s writing for. It’s all designed to make you hate the villain and cheer his eventual downfall, of course, but feels manipulative and unnecessarily extreme. Selina, Holly, and Slam have to deal with the shellshock from their terrible experiences in the three-part ‘No Easy Way Down’. This is more of a character piece, putting us inside each characters’ heads as they try to make sense of what they’ve been through in their own ways. From Selina trying to distract herself with Slam, to his finding relief in action, to Holly’s connection with her girlfriend Karon, every emotional turn reveals more about their personalities. The final story arc ‘Wild Ride’, has Selina taking Holly on a road trip to leave their troubles behind them for a while. It’s full of guest stars – Wildcat teaches Holly to box, Selina teams up with Captain Cold, Selina and Holly come across a robbery in a diner before they end up the city of Saint Roch. And what are Catwoman and Hawkgirl going to do about the Ninjas that are following them around?
‘No Easy Way Down’ explores the extremes of Brubaker’s run on Catwoman from goofy fun to grimly unpleasant fare. Cameron Stewart is an excellent partner on the art, echoing Darwyn Cooke but adding his own personality to the mix. The other artists contributing here keep the noir vibe going and this is a great collection. The series continues with Under Pressure.