– This post was originally published on my now-defunct site, New to Comics. –
New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic-books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
I was originally intending to do a ‘Batman’ week some time ago, but I was going on holiday for a little while and opted to take a brief break from the comic book front. Now, we’re getting back into it with the most current story we’ve looked at so far – so current, in fact, that it only finished two days ago!
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janín
Real Name: Bruce Thomas Wayne
Affiliation: The Justice League
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (March 1939)
As a child, Bruce Wayne wanted for nothing – the son of some of the wealthiest and most respected people in Gotham City, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce was, in essence, heir to the throne of Gotham. But all that changed when Bruce’s parents were gunned down in front of him, instilling in him a deep hatred for criminals that would hang over his entire life. Committing himself to become skilled in multiple disciplines such as combat and detective work, Bruce used the wealth and resources of the company he inherited from his father to become the vigilante known as the Batman. A figure of fear, Bruce now wages a war against crime with his trusty Batmobile and high-tech armoury of weapons, assisted by his loyal butler and father-figure Alfred, police commissioner Jim Gordon and his extended ‘Bat-family’ of sidekicks like Robin.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Unlike the majority of stories, we look at here on New to Comics, Batman: The Wedding has yet to be collected into graphic novel format, due to the fact that it only came out recently. The upcoming graphic novel spans issues #45-50, but the issues I’m going to be looking at in particular are the ones containing the central story itself, namely issues #48-50. These include the story The Best Man and, of course, the Wedding.
But what’s the story, you might ask, what with the fact I’ve thus far just been throwing numbers at you.
Well! In 2016, ex-CIA officer and one of the former writers of the excellent Nightwing-focused Grayson comic-book was moved over to Batman for DC’s Rebirth era, following a monumental run by Scott Snyder. DC’s Rebirth was meant to return the characters and storylines of the DC Superheroes to their roots, merging the two central timelines – one which had been used, in some form, since 1985 and another, starting in 2011, which reimagined the heroes as younger and less experienced, with many of them only having become active in the five years prior. The aim was the keep the good stuff from this younger timeline, but endow it with the history and legacy aspects that fans had grown to love over many decades.
Tom King’s Batman has, for the most part, just kept to itself, but the writer has claimed he wants to do about 100 issues, and since #24, has been slowly building towards a wedding between Batman and Catwoman.
Y’see, the thing is, Batman can be a bit of a stale character to some – he’s cool, certainly, but the character himself isn’t necessarily the best part of his mythos, so much as the world he inhabits and the villains he faces off against. Batman himself, as is often referenced in Tom King’s run, is little more than a broken man who has driven himself to be the best at everything so he can channel his pain into fighting crime.
Across his run, King has tried to add more depth to the character – is he crazy? Is he suicidal? Can he ever be happy?
That last question, in particular, is the focus of the current story-line.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
As I said previously, the story here spans a lot more issues than I’m going to cover today. In Batman #24, Batman unmasked and proposed to Catwoman. The next twenty-three issues covered a range of other topics but generally tied back into that in some way. The War of Jokes and Riddles saw Batman recount what he deemed to be one of his greatest failings to Catwoman, as his rogue’s gallery went to war with one another. Rules of Engagement deals with the ‘Bat-Family’s’ reaction to the news, as Batman confronts the mother of his child, Talia al Ghul, before going on a double date with Superman and Lois Lane. Bride or Burglar saw Batman and Wonder Woman transported to another dimension where time moved differently, and Bruce’s loyalty to Selina (Catwoman) was tested – this was followed up by the soon-to-be-wed couple teaming up to stop a world controlled by Poison Ivy. So yeah, a lot has happened in the build-up to this story. If you’re truly invested in this, you should probably read the whole run.
As for what we’re looking at today, The Best Man sees the Joker take one last shot at Batman, in part to ruin Bruce’s happiness, and in part, because he wasn’t invited to the wedding. Meanwhile, The Wedding sees… well, you can probably figure that out.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
This is a tricky one, really. This story is a part of a larger whole. If King is to be believed, then really, we’re only at the halfway mark of a Batman story that will span years. In that regard, you probably should go back and read the other stories leading up to this one for a more complete reading experience.
However, in these three issues, there’s not a lot of need-to-know comic-book knowledge. Sure, the experience would be heightened if you had been keeping up, but really, as long as you know who Batman, Catwoman, Alfred and the Joker are, you’ll probably get by just fine and dandy. Some bits of dialogue may just go over your head, but it’s not a big deal.
And to be honest, most of what you need to know about Batman’s character at the moment is pretty much covered in a conversation between Catwoman and Joker.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
Tom King has written some excellent comic-books. As I said before, Grayson was great. He also had an excellent run on Marvel’s Vision, which was less superheroics and more a unique character study. Similarly, his Batman comics also lean more towards character studies than they do outright superhero antics. The thing is though, that because he generally delves into the thoughts of Batman and those around him, he tends to forgo actual dialogue. His Batman is a man of few words. Which is fine. He’s Batman. It would be weird if he was somersaulting around quipping as if he was Spider-Man.
Here though, the remedy for that is that the Joker is front and centre of two-out-of-three of these issues, and Joker talks enough for both characters. But the events depicted in the glorious art-work of Mikel Janín are less action-packed and still more thoughtful. Which is fine. I’m all for thoughtful stories, but sometimes, when all you’ve got is words, then there’s not very much drawing you to the art, the action. There’s no reason to linger. You just speed through the comic, reading the dialogue bubbles and boxes of text. It’s strange really – what’s there is good, but King has yet to quite capture that balance of thoughtful storytelling and fun action-adventure that was so prevalent in Scott Snyder’s run before him. For that reason, King’s Batman doesn’t always hold up. It’s good, but not quite as riveting as Snyder’s Batman.
Saying that, however, there are times when King’s thoughtful writing reaches its apex. ‘The Wedding’ is one of those times.
The first issue, while fun, is nothing to write home about. It’s just set-up for the meat of the story. Said issue features another in a long line of confrontations between Batman and the Joker, who has drawn the caped crusader to a church so they can talk (although Joker instantly veers off-topic).
The second issue is where things really get interesting, as Batman is temporarily out of the picture, and the confrontation is now between Joker and Catwoman. There’s action – beautifully choreographed and displayed by Janín and a conversation between Joker and Catwoman, that covers a range of themes from poking fun at Batman’s rogue’s gallery, to a debate on who knows him better out of the two, and what it means for Batman to keep going. It’s fun for two reasons; one, because of the way these characters interact, and two, because it conforms to King’s desire to undergo a deep character study of Batman, but without using Batman as the focus of the issue. It’s all very well done.
This, of course, brings us to the wedding issue. With the action out of the way, it brings us back to King’s more thoughtful style of story-telling, which is warranted, considering the subject matter. The issue is also interspersed with a variety of pages drawn by other artists, which, along with King’s narration, act as a heartwarming tribute to Batman and Catwoman’s on-again, off-again relationship that has now spanned (real-time) 78 or so years (suck it, Ross and Rachel!).
At times, it’s a bit dry, granted, but by the end, when everything is wrapped up, each bit (no matter how good or bad) contributes to a greater whole. And on top of all those, the central, current story-line is littered with marvellous little details, my personal favourite being a brief interaction between Bruce and Alfred.
It’s a very emotional story, and it reveals some interesting ramifications for this major event in Batman’s life, going forward, which leaves me excited to see what King does next. Sure, his run may not have been as great so far as that of Snyder’s – and this story, in particular, may not be for everyone (be warned, that link contains spoilers), but issues like this make me feel like by the end, we may be looking back on a fantastic overarching story, passionately told with care and wisdom.