Batman Annual #2 – Tom King, Writer; Lee Weeks, Michael Lark, Artists; Elizabeth Breitweiser, June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Psst…This Is a Romance Comic
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!
Ray: King has committed to the Batman/Catwoman relationship like no other writer ever has – not just in having Gotham’s It Couple get engaged, but in truly exploring the underpinnings of their relationship and what keeps bringing them back to each other. So what better way to explore this than to go back to the beginning? This issue’s main story (it’s thirty-eight pages, with thirty for the main and eight for the backup) is the story of Batman and Catwoman’s first kiss, but it’s not really as simple as that. It’s more the story of just how far these two will go to find each other, persuade each other, and maybe drive each other nuts. The story, brilliantly illustrated by Lee Weeks, is essentially an elaborate cat and mouse game – literally, in some places.
Corrina: I don’t know about “no other writer.” Certainly no other modern Batman writer, but as someone who read all the 1970s Earth-2 stories, including the marriage of Selina and Bruce and the tragic origin of The Huntress, Darknight Daughter, I can’t say that no other writer ever has been as invested as King. However, my inner-tween is thrilled to see Bruce/Selina in such fine form. And my romance writer self must applaud King, Weeks, and Lark and say “Well done, gentleman! You have written a romance comic. And an excellent one, too.”
Ray: The issue opens with Selina breaking into the Batcave, stealing the Batmobile, and driving away – leaving only a single mouse behind her. Bruce becomes more and more obsessed with her heists, as she gets past his defenses each time and leaves her little squeaking gift. Can I say how much I love that Alfred keeps the mice, too? The chase segments are a blast, and the way Selina outfoxes Bruce not by being faster or stronger, but by knowing what he won’t do to stop her, is perfect. By the time he corners her and confronts her, it’s clear that this obsession is mutual, and it all ends in a confrontation at her apartment that officially sets the wheels in motion for where we are today.
Corrina: Let’s break this down. First, there’s the meet-cute, where Selina is busy stalking Bruce. And then act two, where she uncovers his secrets because she’s just that curious and fascinated by him. Usually, Selina’s role of “stalker” (not really applicable here, as Bruce is aware of her scrutiny) is the male role in the romance. But it takes someone like Selina to get through to Bruce. Kind words aren’t going to cut it. A mystery and a woman who’s endlessly fascinating and more than a match for him, physically, mentally and emotionally? Oh, Bruce, you were a goner right away. As for Selina? She does a fine job of explaining the attraction from her side. This is a textbook perfect romance: on the outside, they seem different emotionally, one a thief, one a knight of justice, but they both wear costumes, they’re both wary emotionally, and they both have their own sort of moral code.
Ray: And then there’s the backup. The first story was their first kiss. This is their last, and it takes place 40-50 years in the future. Bruce is long retired, he and Selina are married and have a grown daughter, Helena – who is a vigilante in her own right. And Bruce has been diagnosed with a fatal illness and is making plans for the end as Selina desperately tries to figure out if there’s a way to cheat death in this crazy world they live in. Seeing Bruce as an old man, surrounded by family as the end approaches, is so different from most Batman futures that we see that it made me deeply happy even amid the tragic themes. Overall, this feels like it’s going to go down in history as one of the definitive BatCat stories. I know each Batman writer sort of has their own future for Batman, and none of them are set in stone, but this was easily the most refreshing one I’ve seen.
Corrina: Helena Wayne/Huntress. YES. Okay, yes, Bruce is dying but, as he says, it’s the natural order of things and it’s by far the kindest, quietest ending he’s ever received in a Batman comic. And, of course, Selina will survive but it won’t be the same. (And this is a much better end of life story for Selina than the original Huntress origin, too.)
I closed the issue with a happy sigh.
Someday, after King leaves, a creative or editorial team will make Selina evil or kill her or write her out for someone else and I’ll ignore it and go back to this, my permanent Bat/Cat headcanon.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.