I have frequently criticized writer Tom King’s run on Batman. Sometimes his storytelling is a thrilling twist on the form and sometimes it’s incoherent. Sometimes his dialogue is full of gravitas and sometimes it’s just embarrassing.
However, he has done one great thing with the book: have Batman and Catwoman make it official. Just the other day, our own Andrew Fontana said King’s last arc, “Rules of Engagement,” was, “great from the start.“ Shockingly, I agree. There’s something novel, exciting even, about seeing these two former adversaries so committed to each other. It’s almost swooningly romantic. However, this week’s Batman Annual #2 is possibly King’s most romantic issue yet.
Most of it flashes back to Bruce and Selina’s beginnings. What’s always made them so fun to watch–from the ’60s television show all the way through to today–is the way Catwoman pushes Batman’s buttons.
Here, that means the issue opens with Catwoman breaking into the Bat Cave so she can take a joyride in the Batmobile. She repeatedly breaks into Wayne Manor after that, each time leaving a single mouse to taunt Bruce for his inability or unwillingness to catch her.
It’s a delicious flirtation and one rendered beautifully by artist, Lee Weeks, and colorist, Michelle Breitweiser. The way Leeks guides the reader’s eye through the action as Bruce chases Selina through the Manor is perfection and his figures are so expressive that sometimes the dialogue almost feels incidental. Not so easy to ignore, though, are Breitweiser’s colors, which give a feeling of the past without being dull.
Despite how beautifully rendered that first section of the issue is, though, it’s also a little thin on details. Though this story takes place early in their courtship, King skips a few major milestones. We don’t know how or when Bruce and Selina discovered each other’s secret identities. We don’t know if they knew each other with masks on or off first. Heck, we don’t even know how they first met. Granted, the characters themselves can’t seem to agree on that point. In fact, the whole issue hinges on that disagreement, leading us into the second part of the issue.
It’s hard to talk about what happens in the second section, but let’s just say that Bruce and Selina are arguing about their first meeting many years into their future. The final 8 pages find Michael Lark on art and June Chung on colors. Though the story moves at a somewhat slower pace than what came before, Lark’s figures are no less expressive. He’s particularly gifted with framing, zooming in or out on the characters to give dialogue-heavy scenes a sense of movement. Chung’s colors are quite a bit warmer than Breitweiser’s, which only emphasizes how much the characters’ have evolved since their early days.
Given the nature of comic books and how often characters are reinvented, it’s tough to say whether this whole Bat/Cat engagement thing will stick if/when King moves on, but there’s something beautiful and almost comforting in knowing that–at least in one timeline–things work out for them. Not everyone may want to see Batman settle down and leave some of his broodiness behind, but for fans who’ve always wanted to see Batman and Catwoman get serious, Batman Annual #2 is a must-read.