Saturday, October 22, 2011

Catwoman: When in Rome

If you dig comic books there are certain creative tandems that conjure up images of greatness.  Kirby & Lee.  Morrison & Quitely.  Azzarello & Risso.  Brubaker & Phillips.

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have made a name for themselves by crafting stories set in the past of icons.  For Marvel they had the "color" series.  For DC their stories revolved around the calendar.  The Long Halloween and Dark Victory are heralded as classics.  They followed up those Batman tales with Catwoman: When in Rome.

It's a story that runs concurrently with  Dark Victory, so in that regard it's pretty cool.  Characters leave When in Rome and show up in Dark Victory.  But most of the action in this story occurs in Rome, where Catwoman is on a mission to discover the identity of her father, with The Riddler coming along for the ride.

The book features some of Sales best looking art ever.  The ink washed art looks amazing, stunning even.  The way he conveys motion is electric and some of the poses look good enough to be blown up and mounted.  It's a visually compelling book.

The actual story leaves a bit to be desired.  There's a bit of a heist and some romance.  There are a couple of murky mysteries one being Selina's parentage and the other being why she's losing her grip on reality.  But the story really feels sort of flat.  Both Dark Victory and The Long Halloween were longer stories which build to a conclusion.  When in Rome feels like a bit of a cast off and like it could have been a much better story if it weren't forced and had a bit more time in the conceiving stage.

Honestly, When in Rome is the least enjoyable pairing between Loeb and Sale that I've ever read.  And I love Selina as a character.  There's also the fact that it seems like sort of a retcon to lay the seeds within the continuity for The Riddler's obsession with Batman's secret identity.

I wanted to like this book so much more than I actually did.  It's got Loeb & Sale returning to the early days of the Bat-verse in a story focusing on Catwoman.  what's not to love?

Sadly, there's more than enough not to love.

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