SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #39, by Tom King, Joelle Jones, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Current Batman scribe Tom King shook DC Comics to its very core when the brooding Dark Knight of Gotham popped the question to his longtime frenemy Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in Batman #24.
In hindsight, it’s a moment that was quite literally years in the making, and one that King has been slowly planting the seeds for since the start of his run on the title. In fact, it even came to fruition once before, albeit on Earth-2, where the pair was married and had a daughter.
Nevertheless, readers were still shocked by this major development, and understandably so. After all, while the number of names in Batman’s proverbial “little black book” is rivaled only by those in his rogues gallery, the Caped Crusader actually settling down – and with a criminal, no less – would be arguably the biggest change to the character’s status quo since the introduction of his son, and current Robin, Damian Wayne.
In any case, ever since the engagement became official in the final issue of “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” Batman’s newfound good vibes have also extended to his inner circle, not only strengthening Dick and Damian’s bond but sparking a welcome – and surprisingly relatable – friendship between Selina and Lois Lane. However, a centuries-old battle, an eternal vow and an Amazonian Warrior all threaten to unravel the very thread that holds the Bat-Cat romance together in the pages of Batman #39.
The issue begins with Wonder Woman arriving in the Dark Knight’s usual stomping grounds, high atop the GCPD, not wasting a prime opportunity to summon her fellow Justice Leaguer by way of the Bat-Signal. Upon Batman’s arrival, she tells him the Gentle Man has contacted her and that he’s ready, which King wastes little time elaborating on.
As Bruce explains to Selina, the Gentle Man is a warrior he and Diana met years ago while they were on a League-related mission. According to Bruce, for thousands of years, he was the only thing preventing a nigh-endless number of massive reptilian beasts known as the Hordes of the Gehenna from escaping their native realm and unleashing their wrath on mankind. However, before Bruce and Diana were transported back to Earth by Zatanna, they promised the Gentle Man they would return one day and temporarily take his place, allowing him a brief period of respite from his eternal vow.
From what we’re able to gather, the Gentle Man, the Hordes and this mysterious realm have all been retconned into continuity, as this is seemingly the first time any of them have been mentioned. That being said, we’re still told everything we need to know about them for the time being, largely through expository dialogue sprinkled throughout the issue.
Apparently, the portal to this realm can only be opened from the outside, and due to its mystical nature, superpowers don’t provide the same tactical advantage they do on Earth – a perfect explanation for why the League’s two most formidable combatants are better suited for the task than their fellow heroes. Furthermore, as we soon begin to realize, time doesn’t exactly work the same in this realm as it does on Earth. “You do not age, but time… passes,” the Gentle Man tells Selina. Those thousands of years he spent fighting off the Hordes only equated to one year on Earth, leaving Selina to wonder what that means for Bruce and Diana, who’ve already been gone for several hours.