Shiny Shelf

Catwoman: When in Rome #1

By Eddie Robson on 11 October 2004

Amongst other things, I recently placed an order for ‘Catwoman’ with my local dealer and he assumed (not illogically by any means) that I would want any specials that came along. As I tend to follow writers rather than characters, this is not actually the case, but upon finding a copy of ‘When in Rome’ #1 reserved for me, I decided to buy it anyway, partly because I was interested to read it but mainly because I dislike confrontations in shops. As it happens, it’s well worth the slightly inflated cover price and not just because the paper is quite glossy.

As regular readers might have noticed, we’re not too enamoured of the regular ‘Catwoman’ title since Paul Gulacy took over from the excellent Cameron Stewart: it looks tacky and the action sequences are stiff, and just when you thought it couldn’t get worse it turns out that Brubaker (whose scripts have only got marginally weaker since he started working with Gulacy) is leaving and Scott Morse, a man who can’t actually write at all, is taking over. How baffling and awful it all is, dear reader.

‘When in Rome’ therefore has the benefit of being strikingly competent in all areas. Tim Sale’s painted artwork restores a much-needed touch of class (and appearance of perspective) to Selina Kyle. This Catwoman slots into Year Three (or is it Year Two? Whatever) as this series is supposed to, whilst not seeming unfamiliar to readers of the Brubaker run: her motives are ambiguous and she even purchases something akin to the Darwyn Cooke-designed costume whilst in Rome.

Loeb, meanwhile, demonstrates his remarkable grasp of every character in the DCU. I’m starting to believe that he could even make ‘Wonder Woman’ work, although naturally writing ‘Wonder Woman’ is not a fate I would wish on anybody.

Selina Kyle is very well realised here: so many writers, when faced with the task of making a female character tough, merely give her masculine characteristics, but Loeb’s Selina achieves her toughness by being smart and composed, giving the impression that she is more than capable of (and willing to) carry out her threats. Appropriately for such a noirish story, she is the femme-fatale-as-heroine: the reader is aligned with her, rather than any of her male victims.

I’m not going to explain the story to you, because I don’t have much idea what it is yet. It’s that kind of book. But it’s very, very easily the best ‘Catwoman’ comic this year, and as I’ve actually grown quite fond of the character over Brubaker’s run, it’s nice to see her being done well again.

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By Eddie Robson

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