WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Batman #35 by Tom King and Joëlle Jones, on sale now.
Batman #34 ended with a cliffhanger, a promise that this time around, it wouldn't be Batman and Ra's Al Ghul dueling with swords in the desert to the death, but rather Selina Kyle and Talia Al Ghul -- a twist on the classic Batman moment. Tensions have been high between both characters, ever since news of Bruce and Selina's engagement reached the Demon's Daughter. Talia and her Detective have had a long and complicated relationship throughout the years, and now she has come to the shocking realization that she isn't the one he ultimately chose.
As an ex-lover scorned, Talia has nothing but her belief that she is far superior to Catwoman to drive her on this fit of jealousy. In this week's Batman #35, the third chapter and conclusion to "The Rules of Engagement" storyline, Batman himself takes the backseat as Selina grabs the reins tightly in her claws. Bruce Wayne's two loves swing swords at each other, and it's clear that the two aren't simply fighting over the man, but for themselves. Talia talks about the way she was brought up, with a cruel father who taught her how to fight as soon as she could walk, while Selina once again goes to great lengths to show us that she is a self-made woman, who started from nothing, with nothing.
Although she has never been taught to use a sword, Catwoman demonstrates how efficient she is at improvising. She more than holds her own against Talia, who technically should be the stronger swordfighter. However, Selina has a strength of character that Talia simply can't match. As the fight revolves back around to the subject of Bruce, the Demon's Daughter comes to define marriage as a partnership where both parties involved are equal partners. To Talia, the idea that Catwoman could think herself an equal to her Detective is laughable. She believes him to be the only equal for her, in the entire world.
And this is where the true heart of the issue comes through -- where, once again, Selina Kyle truly proves herself to be a worthy partner to Bruce Wayne, where she shines as not only a fascinating character, but someone who understands Batman like no one else does. As swords swing left and right, Selina tells Talia that the man they both love is the farthest thing from perfect -- that he is deeply flawed, to the point that no matter how much he may love someone, he will always put his personal crusade first. And that is something that Selina accepts. In spite of that, she still loves him. Selina declares that, at the end of it all, Bruce is just a stupid man that she stupidly loves.
This is, without a doubt, the most perfect way to describe the relationship between Batman and Catwoman in this new, post-engagement world. They both know they are deeply flawed characters, and they are both trying to find a way to be happy, to make each other happy, in a world and in a life where that almost seems impossible. That level of commitment, of willingness to fight for the other, day in and day out, is the epitome of the best and strongest relationships. It's why Catwoman ultimately manages to defeat Talia Al Ghul in a fight she should have, by all rights, lost. It's also the reason Bruce and Selina emerge from this desert cave stronger than ever, not just as a couple, but as individual characters.
Batman, as well as his fans, may believe that he is a lonesome vigilante who can do it all by himself, but the truth of the matter is that he has always been surrounded by strong characters to help him in any way they can. In Batman #35, Selina's position as a member of the Bat-family is more than cemented, no matter how much she would hate to be referred as such.
In the short span of three issues, Tom King and Joëlle Jones delivered one of the quintessential Batman and Catwoman stories at a time when the characters are growing ever closer. Here's hoping the future looks even brighter for these two vigilante crimefighters.