This was the pivotal issue for me, as a reader of Tom King’s (writer) BATMAN run. This arc caught my attention in the midst of DC METAL, which says a lot with how massive and over the top that is. I was hoping that this would give us a great story first and foremost, and avoid being a push for what I still believe is a sales gimmick. Though, it seems like Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”
At the end of this arc, I was looking for a few things:
- A solid story, which would purely be about meeting the regular standard of writing a comic. Giving us readers something good to read.
- Character development for Bruce, as it’s been what feels like ages since we truly got any. I feel safe in saying that Scott Snyder (writer) and Greg Capullo’s (artist) “Court of Owls” arc would be that, and so I was looking to see this end in a way that at least neared their work in a small way.
- And lastly, but not least, me not having to say, “I was wrong”, or having to hear it.
The issue started out great. We saw a deeper look into Talia al Ghul and her father’s, Ra’s al Ghul, relationship. How, from the moment she could walk, he was pushing her to become a strong warrior.
This delving into her character gave a more sympathetic view of her rise to who she is now, and you felt for her. Knowing that Ra’s (and most likely assassins of the League) would battle his daughter, and the punishment for losing was literal death… only to be tossed into a Lazarus Pit. She’d be revived and healed, and then right back at it.
That is one of the shining moments of BATMAN #35, which are spread throughout the overall monotonous pace of the issue. The battle between Selina and Talia felt preplanned, which sounds bizarre since– well, of course it was, but I mean in the sense that from their perspective, if I were there and watching them, it never felt real. And of course this (battle) was the “life blood” of the issue. It ran from start to almost the end.
I think the most non-effecting point of this very arc’s plot, and its reason, was Holly. We saw a few glimpses of her, and then at the very end saw Selina and her interact (final panel of article). In hindsight, you could remove her character and insert a more effective reasoning for Batman and Catwoman to come and confront Talia, and it wouldn’t change the overall plot of the arc.
When it comes down to it, the highlight of this arc was the heartfelt interactions between Damian and Dick. I could feel a real bond between them, one that felt organic and relatable. You could get the sense that it’s clear Dick acts more like a parental figure to him than Bruce, in ways that Bruce simply cannot. It reminds me of how Alfred filled Bruce’s parent’s shoes.
In comics, that’s what you want to find, when you as a reader can connect and find moments in the books you’re reading that enhance the your experience.
I do want to say that this (panel below) is the best comics related anything that King has written. He shows a true understanding of Batman, and the relationship that is Bat and Cat. He nailed it perfectly on the head by pointing out that in the end, he’s trying to fulfill the vow he made to himself when he was ten— even though I would’ve sworn he was eight, but that could just be me remembering wrong.
I think that this is also where people get the character wrong overall, and that being that they don’t understand that Bruce Wayne– that “ten-year-old” boy– he died in that alley along with his parents — Thomas and Martha — and Batman was born. This also drills home my long-term position that where Clark has Lois, Hal has Carol, Arthur has Mera and Barry has Iris, Batman’s true love and mistress of the night is Gotham City.
Now, this is the moment where I swallow my pride and say…
I was wrong.
Getting that out-of-the-way, I’m going to get bluntly honest here; this issue failed from Selina not dying at the hands of Talia. The build was a perfect storm to have a great story spin out of it, and to show the “Dark Knight” in a light that we haven’t truly seen since “A Death in the Family”. There was sparks of solid, if not great story telling over the course of this arc and even in this issue. But when it came down to it, King refused to “pull the trigger”.
Then seeing Talia basically give her blessing, that felt extremely out of character for her. It felt forced to move the desired plot forward. Especially after Talia had threatened to kill Selina after she had “defeated” her.
Sometimes I think that great stories are overlooked for a tunnel visioned goal. Knowing that this all started when Bruce popped the question, and now converges toward the two saying, “I do”, I feel disappointed. I feel like this is why I had dropped this title a long way back, and that the hook that pulled me back in was nothing more than a bait and switch.
Outside of Joëlle Jones’ art, I’m left with very few positives out of this issue. Sometimes no matter how much hope you have for a good story, it just doesn’t unfold that way.