Catwoman: When In Rome

This particular Catwoman trade, another collaboration by Loeb and Sale, tells the story originally teased in Dark Victory, of Selina Kyle’s time spent in Italy.  Here we learn not only why she traveled to Rome, but what all transpired there as well.

The long and the short of it is this: Selina goes to Rome to learn more about Carmine Falcone, the now-deceased head of the Falcone crime family and the man she believes to be her father.  She has engaged Edward Nigma, aka the Riddler, to help her on her journey.

This is not a simple open and shut “let’s learn about the character’s past” type of story.  Selina attempts to learn more about where she came from and tries to find evidence that she is actually Falcone’s daughter.  While doing so though, she is plagued by a number of nightmares and hallucinations, all featuring Batman:

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More than once she refers to Batman as “Bruce” in her dreams, hinting at a subconscious knowledge of her love/hate relationship with him.  These dreams grow increasingly violent, with Batman often rescuing and then trying to kill Catwoman.  She always wakes up dazed and unsure of what has caused such bizarre nightmares.

As the story progresses we see a number of the now-familiar Batman villains pop up, and learn that Selina’s nightmares are a result of Scarecrow’s fear toxin.  Realizing this, Selina is able to overcome the fears and overpowers her adversaries.

Truth be told, I didn’t love this portion of the story.  I didn’t dislike it in any way, but I just didn’t feel drawn to the multitude of criminals parading around Rome.

What I did love about this story was how Selina is characterized:  as a strong, fierce woman, with a hidden desire to learn where she came from.  Making her an orphan was a rather brilliant move on Loeb’s part, increasing the similarities and by extension, the bond between Catwoman and Batman.  She cracks jokes, she has weaknesses, and she ultimately feels very real, making her a more compelling and sympathetic character than just about any of the other villains.

I found the format of this particular story a bit odd, as though Dark Victory was written well before this story was ever even thought of.  The “big reveal” at the end of Victory tells the reader that Selina believes she is Falcone’s daughter.  This was a great reveal for Victory, but it left the story in this trade a litle lackluster.  It was still written as though the reader doesn’t know why Selina was in Italy, leaving hints and having the characters make coy, mysterious comments, skirting around the details that the reader already knows.

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This brief scene, in which Selina visits Carmine Falcone’s grave and remarks that he is her father, was included at the end of Dark Victory as well as this trade.  After reading both, I almost wonder if it would be better for this trade to go before Dark Victory on “the shelf”.  Technically some scenes in Victory take place before this collection, but by reading this story first the reader would get Catwoman’s whole story without having the “reveal” spoiled beforehand.  That’s just my opinion, and I still certainly defer to Mistah J’s expert opinion on the matter of continuity.  I just think I would have liked this story even more had I not known going in that Selina is Falcone’s daughter (the story leaves it open-ended, but I’ve chosen to believe it’s true.)

Despite the slight spoiler I received beforehand, I still think this is a great story.  Selina acts as a unique link between the mob world and the “freak” villains, having a connection to both but not fully belonging to either.  Her wit, her strength, her sexuality, and above all her imperfections make Catwoman a thoroughly compelling character, and one I can’t wait to read more of.

-Jess

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