Catwoman: It was in an alley.
Batman: It was on a boat.
Catwoman: We’ve been having this same conversation for nearly 80 issues. Should we actually talk?
Batman: I’m fine.
*Warning! This review contains spoilers.
Despite the condescending nature of my introduction, I actually enjoyed Batman #78. (Calm down, you heathens and strop throwing tomatoes! I’m going to explain myself, and in no way does a good review for a single issue means that an entire run is good.) No, there’s no plot progression in this chapter, and considering King’s already been dragging his run at a snail’s pace, that should bother me. But, it doesn’t. See, while I think King’s run overall is quite bad, there are moments that have been rather good, and they’ve all involved Bruce and Selina. I mean, let’s be honest. Some aspects of King’s relationship between Bruce and Selina have overstayed their welcome (see above), but then there are stories like “Rooftops,” “Date Nights/ Last Rights,” and “Superfriends” that really delivered some nice character moments between the two of them. This issue is more in-line with those stories. So, if you liked either of those stories, then you’ll probably enjoy this chapter… You know… If you can manage to get past the poor timing in which all of this takes place.
For those of you not in-the-know, Bane has taken over Gotham City with the help of Psycho Pirate. We got three issues detailing the chaos that is “City of Bane,” with the third issue in that story finally delivering some actual plot progression – as well as a shocking twist that fans were either numb to because they’ve completely disconnected from King’s Batman, or they simply didn’t believe it actually happened. No, no. The latter fans aren’t in denial, it’s because of Pyscho Pirate’s ability to control people. Anyway, we mostly got a lot of nonsense featuring members of the rogues gallery as police, shenanigans with Gotham Girl, Thomas Wayne completely being misused as an evil Batman, and, eventually, Damian Wayne kicking some serious ass! King finally hit a burst of momentum with the Damian-centric issue, so… maybe it’s not the best idea to stop that momentum to featuring a lovey-dovey vacation between Bruce and Selina? I mean, it is a good issue, but… *sigh* I just don’t know.
As you can tell, I’m a little torn. On one hand, I think this issue is really, really good! On the other hand, King has had a serious problem with story structure and pacing, and he’s only adding to that problem here. Then, on my third non-existent hand, King’s overall run has been pretty dismal and chockfull of awful characterization that’s stuck with this book like a wet turd on a long-haired dog. But to dive in, let’s start with the positive.
The strongest aspect of King’s run has easily been how he’s explored Bruce and Selina’s relationship. I’ve read comics for enough years now that I’ve essentially learned to pick and choose what I feel is canon for the greater, overall legacy of these characters. This is strictly for my own sanity. I don’t expect anyone else to view these characters the way I do. That being said, the one thing I actually pull from King’s Batman are the moments between Bat and Cat. Once King’s run is done, I’m going to pretend like everything else never really happened… And I’m willing to bet editorial will essentially do the same as well over time.
But the Bat/ Cat relationship. When King nails it, he nails it. We’ve gotten so many quality conversations between Bruce and Selina under King’s pen. Yes, this issue starts with a scene lifted from the golden age – a technique that King overuses – but following that, it’s scene after scene after scene of damn good writing. Bruce and Selina’s playfulness on the beach, followed by the denial and refusal to discuss how each of them feels. Subtle, but really good. The scene where they begin to open up about Selina running out on the wedding while climbing the mountain. Really good. The moment between Bruce and Selina around the campfire where they actually confess to the hurt they’re feeling. Outstanding. And finally, especially, the scene while the two are in bed followed by the scene where they’re training. Excellent. Every single one of these conversations are needed, and every single one of these conversations are almost a little too real and honest.
If you’ve been in a long-term relationship and you’ve done something to feel shame, or perhaps your spouse has done something to hurt you, then you’ll connect with this story on an emotional level. I know I did. There’s something about the ability we have as humans to hurt those that we love, but also our ability to forgive those actions and grow stronger. If you’ve experienced this type of regret or uncertainty in your relationship before, you’re going to be reminded of it here.
I rarely feel anything from King’s Batman, but this book hit me in a lot of ways… and I feel they did so because King was projecting his own life, struggles, and experiences, onto Bruce and Selina. Now, I’m not back-tracking on what I’ve said before. King has used this same approach previously and it didn’t work because he – I’m assuming – projected a piece of himself onto Batman and it didn’t fit with Batman’s mindset or beliefs. But here, he appears to be projecting the harm that his former career as a CIA agent did to his relationship, and that does translate well to Bruce and Selina. In fact, I’ve seen this very thing unfold within my own family. See, my brother has a similar work history to King’s. He was never a CIA agent, but he did do government contract work, and it’s work that required him to lie to his wife while he was doing it. When my brother had his son, he came clean with his wife about what he’d really spent the past few years doing, and it severely damaged their relationship. What I personally witnessed between them, I’m seeing and feeling in this chapter. It’s difficult, but it’s honest and good.
Still, King writing the duo isn’t perfect. There’s a scene where Batman and Catwoman jump from a waterfall. Honestly, that scene didn’t do anything for me. It was a little awkward and reminded me of some of King’s less-than-stellar writing. Then there was the whole, “To take back Gotham, we have to take the beach first” bit… That didn’t make any sense. He also falls into his habit of overplaying Catwoman’s abilities, but it’s not as bad or noticeable here as in previous issues.
Honestly, though, the biggest problem I have with all of this is the timing. I just feel like this is the wrong time to have this issue. Considering what’s going on in Gotham and what happened in the last issue, King should have continued that story. I know Bruce needs to heal, and I know these two need to have these conversations, but it still doesn’t feel right. I probably would’ve placed this earlier in “City of Bane.” That, or I would have let it unfold as a backstory throughout “City of Bane.” I’m honestly not sure, but considering how good this issue is, I hate that such a big part of it is hindered because of its timing within the narrative. I’m able to ultimately look past that, but I know many people will not be able to.
Clay Mann… My God does this guy deliver some of the best art in the industry! His characters are beautiful. The scenery is beautiful. The way he frames his panels are incredibly cinematic. The emotions he pulls from the characters through facial expressions and body language. It’s all so good! And then there are Tomeu Morey’s colors… I can’t. His work is equally as incredible. Every single page of this book is perfect as far as the art is concerned… accept for one page. Just one page bothered me, and it was such a minor thing.
In the campfire scene, Mann copied panels of Bruce and Selina. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this was a timing issue – perhaps a redraw he needed to do to fit the word balloons and dialogue – but I’m honestly not sure. But that’s it though. That’s the only flaw. In fact, it’s so minor that I’d still give the art in this book a 9.9/10. It’s just beautiful! More Mann and Morey!!!
- You ship Bruce and Selina.
- You’ve been waiting for Bruce and Selina to discuss the wedding.
- You enjoy the complexities of relationships.
There are plenty of things worth complaining about concerning Tom King’s Batman. I’ve done more than my fair share of it. At the end of the day though, this is an excellent issue that beautifully captures the relationship of Bruce and Selina. Yes, I’m a little miffed with the timing of this issue, but I can’t deny the excellent work that the entire creative team provides here. Batman #78 is top-notch, and all parties involved should be incredibly happy with the work they’ve done here!