Batman #49 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: This Makes Little External Sense
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: After last issue’s shockingly brutal assault by Joker on a church wedding, and the ensuing confrontation between him and Batman, Batman #49 mostly sidelines Batman as Catwoman finally gets to take center stage in a story that should be half hers. She’s getting her own series in only two weeks, mind you, but it’s been a consistent complaint of my co-reviewer that she’s been largely silent in this title and I would definitely like more of her as well. The issue feels sort of split in two, as the opening segment is a ruthless, determined Catwoman facing off against Joker and delivering a ruthless beating to him even as she takes a bullet in her side while cutting his throat. The meat of the issue, though, is after that. Both villain and anti-hero are incapacitated, trying to keep from bleeding out, and they’re only a few feet away from finishing the job. However, all they can do is talk and wait either to die or for someone to find them. It slowly turns into one of the most fascinating issues of King’s run.
Every writer has a different Joker, and King’s is one of the most unique. Very human unlike Snyder’s, he’s almost inscrutable in his sense of humor. He seems to go for Kafkaesque, tragic absurdity rather than any sort of jokes or pranks, and he views his entire dance with Batman as some sort of weird game. The banter with Catwoman at first feels almost fevered, as the conversation turns back to the War of Jokes and Riddles, and odd things about the villains of Gotham. However, the issue then takes a darker turn, as it goes into how Joker views himself in Batman’s life, and how he considers Catwoman to be an even more dangerous figure to Batman. I think this is all a false flag, Joker messing with Catwoman’s mind to try to destroy their happiness one last time. However, given that evidence is mounting that a wedding may not happen next issue, who knows. Some red flags about the marriage have certainly emerged since we learned that Bruce and Selina aren’t actually getting married. Between the gorgeous art and an ending that will have people guessing for two weeks, it’s one of the most distinctive issues of King’s run.
Corrina: King’s work tends to have a surreal edge, with ordinary characters trapped in a reality that sometimes seems to constantly shift around them. This works incredibly well for Mister Miracle, where the insanity and bleakness of the world Kirby created makes for a terrific contrast to Scott and Barda’s grounded marriage and struggles with parenting.
It doesn’t work well with Batman, a character grounded in the real world. My first frustration with King’s run was when Batman seemed gifted with the superhuman powers of fighting countless minions when he was going after Bane. It’s never quite explained how he was capable of that but, hey, I went with it…but that kind of thing happens over and over in this run, to the point where things don’t make sense. For instance, in Gotham, shots fired in a church, an entire wedding party slaughtered and…no one shows up for a while so Joker and Catwoman can have their conversation. That doesn’t work for me. Of course, the police have been absent for a large portion of King’s run, so that is not a change.
It also doesn’t work that the entire wedding party, including bride and groom, have been slaughtered so Joker and Catwoman can have this chat. They’re cannon fodder and…it’s a really unfortunate way to handle black characters in a run so lacking in them. It also doesn’t explain why Selina would wait outside the Church while Batman handled the Joker alone the last issue.
The Selina/Joker conversation is fine, as it is, I like the idea that, in the past, Selina found nothing of the plans to outsmart Batman funny, and the dialogue for the Joker works. It explains why Selina is interested in Batman (I think) but it still does not explain why the heck she wants to get married–especially when it’s not really a wedding.
Especially now that people have been slaughtered because of the staging of this wedding. I know her smile at the end is probably a callback to Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman’s laughter at that end but, given the corpses around her, that laughter is particularly hollow.
I love Bat/Cat. But the way the run-up to the wedding has been written makes me wince.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.