Sunday, July 15, 2018

On Batman #50


If you've been reading Batman since it was relaunched with a new #1 as part of DC Comics' "Rebirth" initiative in 2016, then you know the comic book's writer Tom King has rekindled Batman and Catwoman's on-again, off-again decades-long romance, starting as early as his second story arc, "I Am Suicide." After reuniting the estranged pair, King had them referring to one another by pet names--"Bat" and "Cat," respectively--and having an ongoing argument over where and how they first met, whether it was on a boat (as in her very first appearance, 1940's Batman #1), or on the street (as in her post-Crisis first appearance, in the pages of the "Batman: Year One" story arc).

In 2017's Batman #24, King had Batman propose to Catwoman. In #32, he had him re-propose, and this time she says yes. So the marriage of the two characters has been on the minds of the characters and readers for quite some time now, about a year and some 500 pages worth of Batman comics.

DC Comics only magnified that promise of a wedding. While King slowly but surely plodded toward it in the pages of his comic, with stories about the pair telling Batman's other on-again, off-again criminal love interest Talia al Ghul the news and going on a double-date with Superman and Lois Lane and Catwoman's shopping for a wedding dress, DC promised a wedding in the pages of DC Universe #0, they published a suite of five one-shot comics under the umbrella title Batman: Prelude to The Wedding (which were advertised to comic shops and readers via a "save the date"-style flier), and, of course, the cover of the fiftieth issue not only featured a Batman kissing Catwoman wearing a wedding dress, but it had the words "The Wedding" emblazoned across the top of the cover, above the logo.

And then there were some odd, out-of-the-box sorts of promotion for the Batman/Catwoman wedding, like DC apparently encouraged comic shops to host wedding-themed celebrations (that would actually be kind of awesome), and Tom King went on an actual late night TV show to talk about it, the way actors show up on such programs to talk about their new movies and suchlike.

If you read the book, which shipped Wednesday July 4th, or if you read The New York Times story from a few days before that (or even just the Internet in the seconds after the NYT piece went up), then you know that there was not a wedding after all.

This made a lot of folks mad, for a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons are very good reasons, like DC going out of their way to promote Batman #50 as a book about the wedding of Batman and Catwoman, and encouraging retailers--who, remember, have to order and pay for these comics well in advance and then sell them to their customers at a later date--to sell the book as the wedding of Batman and Catwoman. Which, again, it was not.

Sure, it does revolve around their impending nuptials, and there are a few scenes involving the characters dressing up and then securing a judge and witnesses, but a wedding ceremony never takes place. Or even starts. It's...pretty shitty, actually. It's as pure a bait-and-switch as one could imagine, made particularly galling because of how much extra effort went into the baiting, and the fact that the publisher tried to enlist their retailers to engage in the baiting, making them complicit in something that could only serve to annoy fans.

Now, I read King's Batman #1-#49, and while I didn't like #50, it wasn't just because I showed up to see a wedding and got a not-a-wedding. I don't know how many readers, if any, saw the news on late night TV or read about it on the Internet or heard their friends talking about it and went to a comics shop specifically to buy the wedding issue, paid $5 and...go something different than what they were promised. But I suppose that would be pretty discouraging.

The thing about reading the book all along is that, while the characters have talked an awful lot about the wedding, it always seemed like something far off. In fact, King's handling of it was suspiciously light on detail. There was never a date set. There was never any talk of how billionaire Bruce Wayne was going to marry former mobster, super-villain and thief Selina Kyle, and how that might affect his reputation or endanger his secret identity. There was precious little discussion of how other characters in their orbit felt about the huge life change. And there was none of the fun stuff one might expect from a comic book superhero wedding, including who was in the bridal party, the bachelor's and bachelorette's party, and so on. Some of that stuff was covered, but not in King's Batman, but rather in the tie-ins written by Tim Seeley, and, amusingly enough, much of what was in that contradicted what was in Batman pretty directly (For example, in Nightwing Vs. Hush, Nightwing says Batman and Catwoman are getting married, rather than Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle which...well, how would that work, exactly...?).

So it would be pretty easy to apportion the blame for the disconnect in the marketing and the actual comic to DC, and excuse King himself, were it not for that interview he gave on TV, I guess. I didn't watch it, though, so I don't know if he was more equivocal in it than, say, the cover of Batman #50 or the existence of the Prelude To The Wedding comics were.

Now that it's over, the one thing I wonder about is why DC bothered with the extra promotion. It is not like Batman needs it. The book is the publisher's reigning grand champion, and that didn't change any when Scott Snyder left as writer and King took over; Batman by King continued to out-sell Snyder's All-Star Batman, proving that it wasn't just Snyder or Snyder-on-Batman, but the comic book Batman itself that sold so dang well. Batman #50 was always going to do gangbusters, by virtue of being another issue of Batman, in addition to being an anniversary issue...and having a huge array of guest-artists drawing splash pages throught out it...and resolving the long-running marriage plot line.

Perhaps all the PR work did boost sales a couple thousand units, but is that really worth it if it will cost you a couple thousand units in the extremely near future, as all the folks who showed up for the wedding don't pick up the next issue and some of the folks who read the first fifty issues feel burned and drop it, and perhaps some of the more vocally hurt (or just irritated) retailers decide not to invest as heavily in future issues of Batman....?


Despite my kvetching about these, I ended up buying and reading all of them...and reviewing almost all of them on the site, I think. What was weird about the books, all of which were written by Tim Seeley and formed a loose, continuing narrative that was really more of a prelude to Batman #48 and #49 than the wedding (or the "wedding"), is that all of the little, interesting bits about the possibility of Batman and Catwoman marrying here handled in these, not the pages of Batman.

From Batman: Prelude To The Wedding: Robin Vs. Ra's al Ghul #1 by Tim Seeley, Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, et al
In the first, Selina Kyle takes Damian to the tailor to get his wedding outfit**, Damian once again battles his grandfather Ra's al Ghul (whose whole deal for the longest time was that he wanted Batman to marry his daughter Talia), Selina goes to her bachelorette party, and then Damian and Selina have a serious discussion about whether or not she plans to have kids with Bruce Wayne.
From Batman: Prelude To The Wedding: Nightwing Vs. Hush #1 by Tim Seeley, Travis Moore, Tamra Bonvillain, et al.
In the second, Nightwing and Superman take Batman out for his very, very boring bachelor's party, but it gets interrupted by a villain attack, and Bruce Wayne rather reluctantly tells Dick Grayson that he's going to have Superman be his best man. This is also the issue where Nightwing explains that Batman and Catwoman are getting married, not Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (at which point I kinda wondered why they were getting married at all; can't they just keep living together? What's the point of their marriage if its a secret one between their secret identities, that aren't even real people? Surely that's not legally binding...)

In the fourth, we see Selina Kyle's bachelorette party.

Throughout the five of them, the fact that Batman and Catwoman are marrying is treated as common knowledge about Batman's allies (Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and Red Hood) and villains (Ra's,Hush, The Riddler, Anarky, Harley Quinn and The Joker). And it is suggested that a wedding has been planned, with a particular date set that all of Batman's family seems to know about and think they might be attending. In the pages of Batman, though, that's clearly not true at all, as we'll get to.

I ended up liking these an awful lot--even if Batgirl Vs. The Riddler is a bit icky, and I loathe The Red Hood--and I imagine they will all be collected in Batman: Prelude To The Wedding, but they are so at odds with Batman that it's pretty unclear whether or not Seeley had any idea what King was up to.


There are 38-pages in this special $4.99 issue, but only 20 pages of them are really comics. These are all drawn by Mikel Janin. The remaining 18 pages are...well, here's the thing about this book. Often times in anniversary issues, a publisher will have a bunch of big-name artists contribute pin-ups, which generally run as a gallery at the back of the book. This is a way of demonstrating that the issues is special, that the publisher considers it a big enough deal that they got Todd McFarlane to draw The Sandman or whatever.

Here though, the pin-ups are incorporated into the story itself. There is sparing text over those pin-ups, so at first glance of flip-through,, they seem to act like splash pages, but when you read them, you see the images generally have nothing at all to do with the content. They are just drawings of Batman and Catwoman together, the participating artists apparently just drawing whatever the hell they want, so long as it includes those two characters.

It's extremely awkward, and frustrating.

Oh, and those words? They are the text of Bat's letter to Cat and Cat's letter to Bat, mirroring the climax of "I Am Suicide," where an entire issue is devoted to excerpts from letters running in narration boxes over 20 or so pages of Mikel Janin drawing an unrelated action scene. The letters are...also frustrating. You could lose every single one of those pages, pictures and words, and lose nothing at all from the story. The two characters write to one another in parallel ways to demonstrate to the reader how much they think alike, and they talk about one another's eyes and how they first met and what they think of one another.

The pin-up/splash pages are from everyone who has drawn part of Finch's run (David Finch, Joelle Jnes, Lee Weeks, Clay Mann, Mitch Gerards) and artists who had previously drawn the character in previous volumes of the series (Becky Cloonan, Jason Fabok, Neal Adams, Tony S. Daniel, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, Greg Capullo) and artists who have drawn Batman elsewhere, and/or are just people that it is nice to see drawing Batman and Catwoman (Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Frank Miller, Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Rafael Albuquerque, Ty Templeton).

Splitting the difference between the guest-drawn pin-up pages and the story pages drawn by Janin is a spread of two, multi-panel pages drawn by guest-artists: A four-panel page drawn by Tim Sale, immediately followed by a three-panel page drawn by Paul Pope (and both colored by Jose Villarrubia).

I would have liked to see Kelley Jones (I'd always like to see Kelley Jones!), Guillem March, Riley Rossmo and Sean Murphy, but they didn't ask me. (They never ask me!)

Most of the artists--eleven of them--draw some version of the Darwyn Cooke-designed Catwoman costume, with only minor variations here and there, which is what Catwoman has been wearing since 2002. It was one of the few costumes to survive the New 52 redesign process unscathed. Garcia-Lopez and Kubert both draw the one with the purple dress and green cape. Fabok opts for the Jim Balent-designed purple costume with thigh-high boots. And then there are a couple more idiosyncratic ones. Miller draws what looks a lot like her "Batman: Year One" costume, but it is colored purple instead of gray; Sale and Pope follow suit, although their version has a tail. Jones draws the desert costume Catwoman wore in the first Jones-drawn arc of Batman, Templeton's costume is a unique one, combining elements of her two Batman: The Animated Series costumes with a new mask, and, finally, Weeks costume looks like it could be some version of her "Year One" costume or perhaps her new costume, but the coloring is so spare it's difficult to tell.

Batman, meanwhile, is drawn in a variety of costumes, and these generally match the ones he would have been wearing when Catwoman was wearing the one she's pictured in. This would, of course, be weird, given that fact that a lot of those costumes supposedly never existed in the current, post-Flashpoint continuity, but King's Batman has been operating as if Flashpoint changed nothing but the color of Jim Gordon's hair, so it's not like this is the first time the book seems to contradict the extremely malleable and fluid history of the DC Universe.

The pictures are, of course, nice, although the paragraphs of text filling them kind of make them difficult to enjoy. Because they are almost always completely disconnected from one another, the pages don't flow the way they might normally when one reads a comic, and has to read words and pictures subconsciously simultaneously; rather here one has to look at--not read, just look at--a picture, while reading a story unrelated to it.
So, for example, the text on this page is Batman describing the events of 1940's Batman #1 to Catwoman, but rather than drawing a pin-up reflecting that story or that era to align with the text on the page, artist Jason Fabok's image depicts the two characters as they would have been dressed in the early 1990s (In current continuity, that's Catwoman's Year One costume and Batman never wore that costume, by the way). 
It got to the point that while I was reading it I began to question to what degree this comic book was really a comic book, and if the pin-ups with words part of it counted as comics as not. Ultimately I realized that if one thinks of the splashes as implied panels, then it's still technically comics, it just doesn't work like comics should.

This is a long, roundabout way of saying that this is an extremely bizarre, hard-to-read and ultimately bad comic book, which is weird given how many talented people are involved in it.

(And this is a common complaint of mine about King's writing. He's a good writer who writes bad comics, generally by focusing too much on formal tricks that rarely serve the story.)


Batman and Catwoman are fighting Kite-Man--something they apparently do about once a month now*--and they decide, spur of the moment, to just do it tonight. Batman says he can get a judge, and they will each need two witnesses; he suggest they each bring one. It's to be at dawn, atop the very building--Finger Tower, a caption reveals, making it the first of many, many place names in captions that refer to Batman creators--that they just beat up Kite-Man on.

Their letters to one another begin on the next page, and these are interspersed throughout the rest of the book, with every page or two worth of comics story interrupted by two pages of the letters over art.

Batman goes to Porky's (remember Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1? That place) and approaches Judge Wolfman. Later, Batman tells Alfred "Judge Wolfman will preside. To avoid risking the Wayne identity, the marriage has to be secret from the public. By Dawn, Wolfman'll be too drunk to remember what he said or signed." (Again, I wonder what the point of the marriage is, exactly, in-story.)

Catwoman springs Holly Robinson from Arkham Asylum so she can be her witness, and she sneaks her into Wayne Manor, where Holly helps her put on the wedding dress she had previously stolen. Holly Robinson's continuity is...complicated, and I've completely lost track of it after the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot. She was present when Selina Kyle first met Batman in "Batman: Year One," and has appeared off and on in the following decades; she was even briefly Catwoman for a while when Selina took time off from Catwoman-ing to have a baby. She's played a role in King's Batman run previously, particularly in "I Am Suicide" and "The Rules of Engagement."

While the two talk in "The Englehart Bedroom," Holly mentions in passing that Batman's never been happy before and, further, "He always seemed to need his misery, y'know...Like it was how he did what he did." To this, Catwoman replies, "What?"
Mikel Janin
In "The Conway Bedroom," Bruce asks Alfred to be his witness (Superman, Dick, Hush, Joker, you're all out of the running).

On the ride to the rooftop, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle tell Alfred and HOlly about the letters they are writing one another. At one point, Bruce asks Alfred, "Can I be...happy?" And Alfred, responds, "Don't you have to be?"

Selina sits alone atop a rooftop in Kane Plaza, crying and thinking about the letter she left on Batman's computer. She tosses her veil aside and jumps off the rooftop. Meanwhile, on the roof of Finger Tower, Alfred, Judge Wolfman and Bruce Wayne all stand around, waiting. Bruce is thinking about his letter, which he left on the bed for Catwoman. Bruce takes off his tight, and then jumps off the roof top in his tuxedo.

Back in Arkham Asylum, Holly walks to a lower level, kneels before Bane, sho sits atop a pile of skulls, and reports back to him, telling him how Selina is, and that she doesn't know how Batman is.

"Do not...worry," Bane says. "I know. He is...what I have made him. The bat is...broken."
To Bane's right we see The Psycho Pirate ("I Am Suicide"), The Joker*** ("The War of Jokes and Riddles," "The Best Man"), and The Riddler ("The War of Jokes and Riddles"). TO Bane's left we see Gotham Girl ("I Am Gotham," "Night of The Monster Men"), Scarface and The Ventriloquist ("I Am Suicide"), The Flashpoint Batman, Dr. Thomas Wayne ("The Button") and Dr. Hugo Strange ("The Night of The Monster Men). Oh, and Skeets ("The Gift") is on the floor, but it's unclear if he's just bet set there, or if Janin drew him on the floor rather than flying because he ran out of room while drawing the panel; I would assume he's deactivated and not there of his own free will, but who can say).

In other words, the primary villains and/or some characters who may feel used by and or aggrieved against Batman from throughout the previous 49 issues are all standing around like the court to king Bane.

The end.


And so, Batman Bruce Wayne and Catwoman Selina Kyle did not, in fact, get married. Instead, Selina decided to write him a Dear Bat letter apparently breaking up with him and then ghosting The World's Greatest Detective.

That DC Comics would decide not to make such a big, life change in the status quo of their most prominent character and reliable cash chow might seem obvious to a lot of readers, but then, they also decided to kill off Robin Jason Todd, break Batman's spine and confine him to a wheelchair, resurrect the long-dead Jason Todd, introduce Batman's biological son and even kill Batman off. Repeatedly.

As far as changes to Batman's status quo go, marrying Catwoman would have been kind of small potatoes, and extremely easily reversed at any point, with a lot less effort and/or cosmic shenanigans than any of the above, some of which were reversed and some of which weren't.

What is most disappointing about Catwoman's decision to not marry Batman--and to apparently not just not marry him, but to leave him altogether--is that King has her arriving at it for the extremely dubious and most all-around laziest, generic reasoning possible.

After Holly plants the idea in Selina's head that Batman needs to feel bad constantly in order to effectively be Batman, her letter changes directions.

I'm going to quote it at some length now:

You are still a child, Bruce. A hurt child... But what you do with that hurt-- I saw teh hero it mad eyou. And if to prove what I saw... Booster. A world in horror because you're content. Joker. Knowing if you were settled you couldn't stop him. You are an engine that turns pain into hope. If we're happy...If I help that lonely boy, with the lonely eyes. I kill that engine. I kill Batman. I kill the person who saves everyone. And how can I do that?

I have honestly lost count of how often this story has played out throughout Batman history--or even superhero history in general, in comics and film.

It was, in part, why supeheroes were, for the first twenty years or so of their existence, always, always single, keeping their secret identities from their love interests, who they might date, but could never marry. Even throughout the Silver Age and into the late eighties and early nineties, married superheroes like Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman or The Elongated Man and Sue Dibny, were exceptions to the rule.

This has almost always been the case with Batman, who has never really had a significant other the way Superman has--er, unless you want to count his first Robin Dick Grayson, which a lot of people do--but a string of one-time love interests over the years. Sometimes, something terrible happens to them shortly after they learn his secret identity, which takes care of the problem of having a new character know his secret while also reaffirming his status as a bachelor and providing an additional source of pain to make him a better Batman by fridging a love interest (In fact, it happens so often, chances are you might have forgotten some of those love interests, like the lady who was introduced in specifically to be killed off within that very arc!).

In the 1940s and 1950s, Batman's bachelorhood was sold as a virtue of his dedication to crime-fighting; the only woman for him was Lady Justice and all that. Sometimes some version of that story still appears, with Batman finding himself having to choose between being happy with a lady as Bruce Wayne or continuing to devote himself to his war on crime with the laser focus of a celibate monk. But in the 1980s, when the idea of Batman as a broken crazy-person began to take, the idea was that the core tragedy of his origin story is what drove him to be Batman, and the pain of that single childhood trauma kept him an effective crime-fighter.

It's basically bullshit.

So let me say that firstly, the thing that annoyed me about this decision was that it is the same basic read on the dilemma of Batman and romance I have seen over and over and over again, as recently as Scott Snyder's run on Batman--that is, the one that immediately preceded King's--when the temporarily amnesiac Bruce Wayne rekindled his relationship with Julie Madison, grew a beard, and left the problem of fighting crime while dressed as a bat to new Batman James Gordon.

Secondly, there's the view that one always has to choose between one's vocation and one's happiness, that Batman has to be in a state of constant hurt in order to fight crime. I know this is an argument that Batman creators have had over the years, and I can see both sides of it--whether Batman is basically a broken, crazy-person whose transformed his own problems into making him the world's greatest non-super superhero or whether he's actually the sanest person in the world and that's what makes him so good at being a superhero.

Personally, I think I currently lean towards the Batman is obviously super-sane, and even if his reaction to a childhood trauma was a childish one--that is, to become a superhero or, in-story to become his own version of Zorro--he's still a pretty damn healthy and well-adjusted person capable of smiling, laughing, having friends and kissing ladies. That seems to have been the most prominent mode of Batman's mental state since Grant Morrison's run on the character; certainly it was Snyder's (so much so that "Death of The Family" was about trying to cut Batman off from his huge support system, and that only worked briefly).

Call me crazy, but, as a grown-up, I like to think that one can be married and be pretty good at a very demanding job. If just about every single one of the presidents of the United States have been able to do that job and be married at the same time without sucking so bad that they destroyed the country--so far! The current one still has two more years to fuck up badly enough to destroy America--then I'm pretty sure Batman can continue to dress up as a Bat and punch out the criminally insane on a regular basis.

Thirdly, if any character can handle being a superhero protecting a particular city from crime and super-villains and being married, it's Batman. In the DC Universe at the moment, Superman and Aquaman are the only currently-married superheroes, but there have been married couples in the DCU for decades. Most of the in-story arguments against married superheroes are inherently chauvinist and/or dumb--the spouse will be in danger, the hero won't be able to do their hero-job and be a successful spouse simultaneously--are pretty easily demonstrated to be silly by the success of most of those other marriages.

But Batman is a literal billionaire.

He has an army of fellow crime-fighters he works closely with. I'm behind on Detective Comics, so I may not be 100% up-to-date on who Batman is currently on the outs with or who is temporarily operating out of town or in semi-retirement, but Batman's got Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, The Signal, Batwing, Azrael, Orphan, Spoiler, Bluebird, The Huntress and Black Canary and maybe a few others. Oh, and Catwoman. And the out-of-town members of Batman, Inc/The Club of Heroes. Plus he's in The Justice League.

Batman could probably just suit up to fight The Joker exclusively and Gotham City would still have the most costumed crime-fighters-to-population ratio in the whole dang DC Universe.

If anyone could pull off being married and being a superhero, it's Batman.

Oh, and then there's the fact that this isn't a normal, "civilian" wife we're talking about, as if he had married Julie Madison or Silver St. Cloud or Vicki Vale or Vesper Midnight or Shondra Kinsolving or whoever. This is Catwoman, a highly-trained fellow vigilante who Batman has regularly been fighting crime side-by-side with on a regular basis for months. And, off-and-on, for years. In that respect, Catwoman is his perfect partner, because Batman would never have to choose between her and being Batman, as she is already thoroughly ingrained in all parts of his life.

That was what struck me as so unusual about Catwoman's decision. They have apparently been living together and she has essentially replaced the role traditionally played by Robin in the pages of Batman. King's entire run from "I Am Suicide" on has been an argument for the effective-ness of a Batman/Catwoman relationship, whether they simply continue sharing a bed at Wayne Manor or officially tie the knot or not.

And I suppose that's the worst thing about Catwoman deciding not to marry Batman. There's been nothing within the pages of King's Batman to indicate that Batman's effectiveness as Batman is dependent on him being a broken, hurt little boy, and that his being in a relationship with Catwoman might at all blunt that effectiveness. Or to suggest that Catwoman might think that; literally all we as readers or she as a character have to base that on is a panel's worth of dialogue provided by Holly Robinson.

In fact, Batman #1-49 suggest the exact opposite; that Batman is better off fighting crime with Catwoman.

Look at the story arcs in that run and, specifically the ones Selina mentions in her letter: "[T]he desert, the boy. Superman, Wonder Woman, Ivy" and then she mentions the events of both "The Gift" and "The Best Man."

So Batman's plan to take down Bane and Psycho-Pirate in "I Am Suicide." During "I Am Bane," in which Bane specifically targeted and took down Nightwing, Red Hood and Robin, Catwoman rescued Bane's prisoners and took down his lieutenants. She helped him fight a variety of low-level villains, including Dr. X, Kite-Man, Zebra Man and so on. In "Rules of Engagement," she fought hordes of assassins with Batman and beat Talia in a sword fight. In "Superfriends," Catwoman saved Batman and Wonder Woman years, perhaps decades, of fighting in a weird, alternate dimension. In "Everyone Loves Ivy," she and Batman were the only two people on Earthy not under Ivy's mind-control, and they worked together to defeat her and save the world. In "The Best Man," she saved Batman's life and defeated The herself.

If King's run has demonstrated anything about the possibility of a Batman/Catwoman partnership, it's that she makes an excellent crime-fighting partner for Batman.

I'm not sure why Catwoman found The Joker's argument that a married Batman wouldn't be able to stop him compelling, since in that story a Batman-who-is-living-with-his-girlfriend failed to stop him and said girlfriend was needed to stop him (Additionally, The Joker is a literal madman, so I'm not sure how much stock one should put in his word, Selina).

As for that other example, "Booster," that is a weird one. The suggestion of "The Gift" is that if Batman's parents hadn't died, Gotham City would be hell on Earth, and The Joker would have taken over and/or killed every single superhero on Earth. King doesn't really follow the dominoes falling to get to that point which...well, okay, whatever. But the idea is that if Bruce Wayne were happy--i.e. his parents weren't dead--he wouldn't become Batman, and therefore Catwoman would be a barely-human, feral serial killer. How does that track? I don't know, but it's weird Catwoman herself would accept that as inevitable, that she lacks such agency in her own life's story that the only thing separating her from being who she is verses an animalistic serial killer is the fact that The Waynes got gunned down in Crime Alley twenty-some years ago.


As that last panel showed, King has apparently been working toward this whole story about how Bane decided to break Batman's heart instead of his spine story for a while now, and it is apparently an ongoing story, as there will surely be follow-ups. I've heard King describe this as the middle of a 100-issue story.

That may be, but I think it's pretty safe to say that the 100-issue story will not, in fact, end with Catwoman and Batman getting married, because if that was the plan, well, DC probably shouldn't have marketed this as the wedding issue, huh?

Their marriage would have made for a pretty radical shift in Batman's status quo, sure (although, not that radical, given that they appear to have been living and working so closely together for the past few months of DCU time). But it also would have been different than the present...which is another way of saying interesting.

All those past changes in Batman's status quo, the killing off of Robin Jason Todd, the breaking of Batman's spine, the introduction of his long-lost son Damian, the killing off of Batman himself...? Those all lead to a lot of interesting and, in some cases, great stories. Personally, I would have been opposed to pretty much all of them. I wasn't reading comics back then, but if you asked me if DC should have had The Joker kill off Jason Todd, I would have said hell no...but then we would have missed out on Robin Tim Drake, a character I loved and who was central to a lot of great comics.

I didn't like the idea of The World's Greatest Detective having conceived a son ten years ago and never having known the first thing about it when Morrison first introduced Damian, but I've grown to love that character (even though his presence supplanted Tim as Batman's Robin, and DC has struggled to find a good place for Tim ever since).

Similarly, I wouldn't have thought marrying Batman and Catwoman was a very good idea, but King's run has convinced me that it would work out just fine, and a married Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle would have opened all sorts of new territory for future Batman comics that couldn't have previously been written. And in five years time, they could always get a divorce or annulment or one of them could get temporarily killed off or whatever; marriages are a lot easier to undo than things like broken spines or babies, status quo changes the pair had experienced individually before.

In other words, King set his characters up with a set of two options to go in, a choice between "I do" and "I can't," and he had one of them choose the less interesting of the two, while failing to make the choice convincing.

So, what happens next? Well, instead of a comic book story about Batman and Catwoman's honeymoon, Batman #51 will feature Batman fighting villain Mr. Freeze yet again, while Catwoman will get her own series again, after a two-year hiatus following the cancellation of her 2011 series.

It's Batman vs. Mister Freeze, a match-up we haven't seen since at least March of last year!
In other words, it looks like we're back to business as usual, with on caveat:The price of  Batman is going up from $2.99 to $3.99 starting with Batman #51. Seems like a good time to go ahead and drop the series then, huh...?

*One of the many things about "The War of Jokes and Riddles" that felt off to me was that Batman kept fighting and defeating his villains, but none of them ever got arrested or otherwise taken out of the conflict. It was as if he was just beating them into unconsciousness, waking them up with smelling salts, and telling them he hopes they learned their lesson and swinging away. Kite-Man has appeared in just about every arc King has written so far. I can only assume Batman either never bothers to let the police know which rooftop Kite-Man is laying unconscious atop after their encounters, or Arkham Asylum has yet to fortify itself against kite-based escapes.

**Oh man, how pissed is Damian going to be that he went to the trouble of going to a tailor to get a special wedding thawb made for his father's wedding--a tailor who, it turned out, was actually an agent of his grandfather Ra's al Ghul's who then pricked him with a special psychoactive drug making him believe he was engaged in deadly combat with the evil son of Batman and Catwoman, who had traveled back in time to battle him--only to find out that his dad didn't even bother to invite him to the ceremony?

***So apparently The Joker is not only not-dead, as Batman #49 seemed to imply, but he is totally and completely fine after Catwoman tore open his throat with her claws and he lie bleeding to death for hours, ultimately lapsing into unconsciousness before the injured Catwoman and Batman. And I guess he then escaped them, and broke into Arkham? What a weird fucking story "The Best Man" was...made all the weirder by the complete and total lack of follow-up to a story in which Batman's fiancee Catwoman attempts to tear out The Joker's throat...


Jose Gregorio Bencomo Gomez said...

Three Jokers.

I'm assuming the Joker who was brutally attacked by Catwoman isn't the same Joker we then see as part of Bane's court. What really strikes me as weird from this scene is no version of Joker ever is happy playing second fiddle to another villain, and almost no villain (but Luthor, who knows how to handle Joker better than anyone, arguably even better than Batman) expects anything but a betrayal from Joker, so they never bother inviting him (again, any version of him, unless we're talking about the Silver Age) to their meetings.

David said...

Why are Catwoman's boobs so shiny?

David page said...

well i dunno about you but i am hopping to trades now for this. I wanna know the deal with skeets is he mr mind again, is he evil, is this bad writing i must know

Kevin McHugh said...

Excellent stuff, Caleb. thorough and insightful.