For the last two years, writer Tom King (aided by a slew of A-list artists) has been subtly redefining the Dark Knight. With the release of Batman #50, King has reached the culmination of his work thus far in laying the ground work of one the most anticipated weddings in comic history.
This was to be an issue that would define an era. The marriage between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle is paramount to the DC Universe, and paves the way for what relationships between superheroes can be. The world’s greatest detective trading wedding bands with the world’s greatest thief is something to be in awe of. This act of union breaks down barriers that once separated these two for the better part of a century.
With plenty of fanfare leading up to this issue hopes were extremely high that King and artist Mikel Janin would knock it out of the park. But did they? In short: yes.
Now, we’re not going to spoil how this issue plays out right here. Instead, we’re going to look at how this issue is structured, and its merits as a work of modern pop art. Both of these characters are nothing short of icons across the globe. Their relationship, their battles and their reluctant, yet oh-so-persistent love has always been a tug-of-war. It’s been a calm struggle for the most part, but a struggle nonetheless. Except, of course when they aren’t pummeling each other. But ultimately, that’s what love is. Their romance is filled with highs and the lows, loss and the want, pain and the reward. It’s humanizing.
As two of the most important characters not just in Gotham city, but in the DC Universe as a whole, Batman and Catwoman are in many ways very much one and the same. While their respective backgrounds are vastly different, they share a similar drive and work ethic. Neither will let the other get in the way of their goals, nor will they let anyone else.
This naturally leads to more friction than bliss, and Batman #50 highlights this dichotomy by utilizing a brilliant split narrative between these two in the form of letters. One is penned by Batman, the other by Catwoman, both explaining how they truly feel about one another. These letters are presented in chunks, with accompanying artwork by some of the industry’s greatest talents. Each page of this book, in which we read the words of Bruce and Selina gush about their love for each other, is meticulously juxtaposed with artwork that highlights their relationship. From the savagery of Frank Miller and Greg Capullo’s art, to the sweet innocence portrayed by artists like Andy Kubert and Amanda Conner, no stone is left unturned in covering the long history these characters have shared.
This comic is a celebration, not just of these two characters or the feelings they have for one another, but of superhero dynamics and the complex reality of being madly and truly in love with someone who challenges you. Batman might be the greatest detective in the world, but the one thing he can’t really unravel is Catwoman’s heart. Selina might be the greatest thief in the world, but the one thing she can’t steal away is Bruce’s crusade. There’s something beautiful in that, something pure, something so true that it not only represents the characters and their alter egos but represents the fact that these two are just people. They are not gods, or aliens, or super-powered beings. They don’t live by some bizarre moral code that is indecipherable to the average person. They are us. Well, with the exception of the whole dressing up like an animals and fighting people thing, but you get what we’re saying.
King, Janin and the myriad other contributors to this book have delivered on the promise put forth when DC’s Rebirth Batman title began. King set out to write the character as a person, not just a superhero, but a human being with and complex ideas on how the world works, and even more complex ties to the people he loves and who love him back. He’s done the same with Selina Kyle, of course, but to a lesser degree. This is a Batman comic, after all.
Some fans may be perturbed by how this book ends. It’s a gutsy move, and further galvanizes King as one of the best Batman scribes in the character’s history. He has subverted expectations, which is something that some fans often do not care for, but for those of us who look for complexity in our comics and a mirror version of ourselves, he has delivered the goods, brilliantly.