SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #39, by Tom King, Joelle Jones, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The Caped Crusader. The World’s Greatest Detective. The Bat. These monikers have long been synonymous with the man who vowed as a small child to war on Gotham City's criminals. However, of all Batman’s aliases, few of them strike fear into the hearts of those criminals quite like The Dark Knight, and in Batman #39, that’s literally what Bruce Wayne becomes.
As the issue kicks off, we find ourselves in a familiar setting, as rain cascades down upon the roof of the GCPD. It isn’t Commissioner Gordon who lit the Bat-Signal, though, but rather Wonder Woman, who’s there to tell Batman that the Gentle Man is ready.
According to Bruce, the Gentle Man is the only thing preventing the Hordes of the Gehenna -- an endless number of massive reptilian beasts -- from escaping their realm and destroying mankind. (For what it’s worth, a character named Gehenna was also briefly one half of the Firestorm Matrix, along with her boyfriend Jason Rusch, but she was killed in Blackest Night #3. Whether writer Tom King’s use of this name was a conscious decision, or simply a coincidence, remains to be seen.)
Now, back to the Gentle Man.
We learn Batman and Wonder Woman first encountered the Gentle Man and discovered his lifelong quest while they were on a Justice League mission years ago, and the two heroes even fought alongside him in his otherwise thankless battle to keep Earth safe. However, the pair was eventually brought back to their own realm by Zatanna, but not before they could offer to return and temporarily take the Gentle Man’s place so he could rest – an offer we learn the Gentle Man has now accepted.
Outside of Batman’s expository dialogue, there doesn’t seem to be any record of the Gentle Man in DC Comics continuity, so he appears to be an entirely new character. Thankfully, we’re told everything we need to know about him while Bruce recounts the pact he and Diana made with the Gentle Man to his fiancée Selina Kyle.
As Catwoman points out, traveling to another realm to battle a horde of monsters doesn’t exactly seem like Batman’s “thing.” Nevertheless, Bruce counters this by telling Selina that in this realm, fighting prowess takes precedent over superpowers, hence the reason someone like Superman wouldn’t be better suited for the task at hand (not to mention the Man of steel's inherent vulnerability to magic).
As we quickly learn, though, it’s apparently going to take more than martial arts and batarangs to battle the Hordes of the Gehenna – it’s going to take an actual Dark Knight.
When we cut back to Bruce, we see him sporting an appropriately bat-themed suit of black armor, complete with a scabbard and a medieval longsword hanging from his waist. Also, interestingly enough, the version of the Batmobile he’s standing in front of bears a striking resemblance to the one from the Arkham Knight video game.
In any case, neither Catwoman nor Wonder Woman seem to be fans of Bruce’s transformation into a full-fledged Dark Knight, as both tell him that he looks ridiculous in his armor. Still, Diana at least concedes that in her eyes, all men look ridiculous when they dress for battle, which is likely an easier pill to swallow than being laughed at by your soon-to-be wife.
Batman #39, by Tom King, Joelle Jones, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, is on sale now. “Superfriends” will continue with part four in Batman #40, which hits stands February 7.