“Part One: Monday”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Tim Sale (p&i), Dave Stewart (c)
Spinning off out of Loeb & Sale’s “Batman: The Long Hallowe’en” series, “Catwoman: When in Rome” puts Selina Kyle centre stage and sends her on a mysterious visit to Rome. Loeb’s knowledge of the characters shines through, and although he plays to Catwoman’s femininity when necessary, he also introduces more insecure elements to the character, with the opening dream sequence giving us some insight into her relationship with Batman and her fear or the Falcone empire. Self-confident on the surface, with a neat line in witty banter (“I hope you speak English - my Italian starts at ‘Armani’ and ends at ‘Gucci’”), Selina is definitely a character to root for – but Loeb introduces the promise of a deeper insight into the character. Let’s hope this remains a key component of future issues. Supporting character include the Riddler (underused here as a meek foil for Catwoman’s confident sexuality, but sure to become more significant in future issues) and, apparently, the Joker. It’ll be interesting to see how the clown interacts with the cat and as of yet there are few clues as to exactly how or why he’s involved – but it’s enough of a cliffhanger to keep the reader interested.
In art terms, it’s difficult to imagine Tim Sale improving: but here, he has. It may be down to Dave Stewart’s lush colours, but the watercolour effect has been taken to a new height here, with almost every panel frameable as a piece of work in its own right. However, Sale never sacrifices his storytelling for the sake of a good visual, as each page keeps the story moving with a fair momentum, even if it doesn’t really go anywhere this issue. If the sultry cover sets the tone for a hot, steamy opener which doesn’t shy away from the sexual elements of the Catwoman character, then this is mirrored with a lot of the sensual scenes that Sale renders for Selina, whether it’s a relaxing bath or a leather-clad rooftop romp. The artist also manages to capture the best elements of the writing – the dreamlike quality of the opening pages, the flirtatious relationship between Selina and “The Blond” – proving yet again why these two creators are so well-suited for each other.
It’s a lovely-looking book, with great production values in terms of printing and paper stock, but let’s hope the story picks up enough to make it worth it. With the long shadow of the team’s previous Batman work hanging over them it’s going to be hard to live up to expectation, but this is a solid opener which puts a few pieces in place for a good mystery, whilst not really revealing much. One to watch.
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