WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #63 by Tom King, Mikel Janín, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Bruce Wayne was all set to marry Selina Kyle in Batman #50, but thanks to the indirect emotional manipulations of Batman's modern day archenemy, Bane, Selina left Bruce standing at the figurative altar. Bruce has been trying to move on, but the events of Tom King and Mikel Janín's Batman #63 make that effort especially difficult. The issue postulates a possible future where Bruce and Selina are, in fact, happily married, but it's a scenario that's still touched by tragedy. The nature of the what-if reality offers some insight into Bruce's fragile state of mind.
Happily Ever After
The issue opens with a familiar scene. A nervous and uncertain Bruce on the rooftop of Finger Tower awaiting Selina's arrival on their wedding day. The scene is lifted directly from Batman #50, in fact, save for the final panel. In the newly reimagined sequence of events, just as Bruce is about ready to give up hope that Selina will show, she does exactly that and the two are married.
Selina's original justification for not marrying Bruce was ultimately altruistic, if unintentionally misguided. It was the Joker, albeit presumably at the behest of Bane, who convinced her that a happy Batman would eventually mean no Batman at all. Selina, unwilling to be the responsible party for depriving Gotham and the world of the Bat, therefore chose to leave Bruce. Here, though, Selina's own needs won out, and she -- ever the thief -- steals away Bruce for herself.
Their happy union, though, does not spell the end of Batman. The wedded couple, in fact, essentially become the modern incarnation of the Dynamic Duo. The Joker, and Bane, were wrong. A happy Batman can exist, and, in fact, can be more effective than ever with Catwoman at his side. In Batman's world, everything is just about perfect, just like in a dream.
Til Death Do They Part
The truth is, sadly, it really is a dream. It's an unwelcome splash of truth delivered by perhaps one of Batman's most unwelcome allies, John Constantine. Constantine, in fact, is probably the biggest irritant in Batman's dreamscape. His presence in Bruce and Selina's most private moments is far more invasive than Two-Face or Kite Man's. To be fair, Constantine isn't responsible for Batman's dream, but he offers up some clues about who might be.
Perfection, though, or even near-perfection, brought on by happiness, never seems to last in Batman's world, be it real or imaginary. Just as Bruce and Selina's marriage began on one rooftop, Batman and Catwoman's ends on another, as Catwoman is coldly assassinated off-panel by a sniper. It's at this moment that Constantine tells Batman that he's not really Constantine at all, and he's not invading Batman's dream. He's merely a figment of said dream, fashioned in Batman's own mind.
Batman had already figured out he was in the middle of a dream last issue when he escaped after seemingly being captured by Professor Pyg. That sequence, though, was nothing short of a nightmare, one that Batman became lucid enough to acknowledge. His dream of a happy life with Selina, however, is one that he doesn't want to end. But end it does, in a nightmarish manner, and Batman, through Constantine, comes to realize that someone is making all of this happen.
If Something is Too Good to be True…
Just before Batman fatefully discovers Catwoman on the rooftop, he realizes something is amiss in his almost-perfect world. As the pair patrol Gotham, Batman's realization makes him stop and ask Selina for a kiss. Not just any kiss, though – one that he seemingly understands will be their last.
Batman's conscious self further influences his dream as it turns sour. Selina's death by sniper, of course, unfolds in the same way as Nightwing's own recent near-assassination. Batman's dream becomes the same ultimate nightmare faced by most anyone, the fear of unexpectedly losing the people close to him.
The issue provides a peek inside Bruce's damaged psyche. He craves happiness, but not at the Batman's expense, believing that he can honestly have both. Yet he fears finding happiness, knowing that, once found, it can be taken from him in an instant. It's an insight into Batman's current fragile state. He's allowed himself to consider the possibility of true happiness, and now finds himself more vulnerable because of it.
Further analysis of Batman's psychological state will have to wait, however, as the next issue features part one of Joshua Williamson and Guillem March's Batman/Flash crossover, "The Last Cold Case." Batman #64 goes on sale Feb. 6.