When most people envision Batman, they see him alone on a gargoyle surveying Gotham under a full moon. Or perhaps they picture the Dark Knight tirelessly working by himself on evidence in the Batcave, ignoring Alfred Pennyworth’s constant advice to eat and sleep. Maybe they even picture this man with no superhuman abilities surrounded by the most powerful men and women on our planet, and each of them deferring to the guy with the pointy-eared cowl.
Batman is a powerful, independent, intelligent man who instills fear in those that are on the wrong side of justice. He also instills that same fear in most of his closest allies. It isn’t very often that we see the other aspects of Batman’s personality.
Which is what makes this current stretch of Batman so enjoyable.
To set the stage, Batman asked Catwoman to marry her, and she said yes. Well, actually, Bruce Wayne popped the question to Selina Kyle in this excellent exchange from Batman #32 (December 2017).
Many times in comics, relationships are simply fodder for writers to be able to put a hero’s loved one in danger so they have someone to save. I call it the Lois Lane Maneuver, and it is a plot device almost as old as comics themselves.
However, Catwoman is no damsel in distress. She can easily get herself OUT of difficult situations (she also gets herself INTO those difficult situations, but that is another story for another day). Instead, this engagement has allowed writer Tom King to do some really interesting things with the Dark Knight.
Over the recent issues of Batman, King, along with artists Clay Mann, Travis Moore, Joelle Jones, and Michael Lark, is exploring sides of the man behind the mask that we have never seen before. That is saying a lot since he has been around since the original Detective Comics #27 (May 1939).
Here are some examples:
In Batman #36 (February 2018) while Batman and Catwoman are following a lead on a recent case, we see Batman’s anxiety about talking to Superman about the engagement as well as his unwavering pride because he insists that Superman should be the one to reach out first to say congratulations.
Batman #37 (also February 2018) is an amusing story called “Double Date” where Bruce & Selina attend a carnival with Clark Kent & Lois Lane to celebrate the engagement. It is a superhero-themed carnival where everyone has to cosplay, so the men switch super-suits and Lois dresses as Catwoman. Selina just wears Lois’s dress, but she has a way with men, so still gets past the doorman. It is a fun visual, especially with Batman’s patented glare hovering above the “S” on his chest (and Clark wearing his superfluous glasses over the Bat-mask).
This issue shows us Bruce’s “fun” side (well, as fun as he can get), as well as his competitive nature and indestructible ego when facing off against Clark in the batting cage.
Batman #38 (March 2018) is a fill-in issue, but it tells the story of a young boy whose parents are murdered. This one shows the nurturing side of Bruce Wayne as he tries to console the boy, but also his deductive side as Batman figures out the case despite evidence purposely leading him the wrong way.
Issues #39 (also March 2018) and Batman #40 (April 2018) show the vulnerable side of Batman as he is tempted by arguably the most perfect female specimen on the planet – Wonder Woman. They are trapped outside the time stream for decades fighting an unending battle, and they get pretty friendly in the rare downtime.
Finally, in Batman Annual #2 (January 2018), we get a glimpse into the future at what the Batman-Catwoman relationship becomes. This one is a fantastic story that accentuates Batman’s loyalty, selflessness, devotion, and heart. It is certainly a tear-jerker.
Batman is one of the longest-tenured characters in all of comic book history, and this amazing stretch on his eponymous book has given us rich character development that will only add to his legacy. Do yourself a favor and read this run. You will remember why the Dark Knight is so appealing, and may never look at him the same way.
– Rob Otto