The last installment of “Superfriends” saw Batman, Superman, Catwoman and Lois Lane hit it off on a charming, introspective couples date at the Gotham County Fair.
“Superfriends” Part Three sees the third member of the vaunted DC Trinity, Wonder Woman, coming to town. Will she be as cool with news of Batman’s recent engagement to Catwoman as Supes and Lois? And where is Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman’s current beau) during all this? Planted on the couch at home playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? (If so, can’t blame him.)
The issue kicks off with an unsanctioned operation of the Bat-Signal. Commissioner Gordon, who has to cut a phone call with his daughter short, isn’t happy. “How many damn memos do I have to send?” Gordon says, storming up the flights of stairs leading to the GCPD rooftop. “Whatever damn fool turned the thing on… I’m going to kill…”
The sequence is rendered beautifully by artist Joelle Jones and colorist Jordie Bellaire. From Gordon’s mustache-fingering look of consternation to the curtains of light radiating from the Bat-Signal to the imposing figure of Wonder Woman, cape flowing and balled about her fists, Lasso of Truth aglow, reflected entirely in the rain-slished rooftop — the visual tone for the issue is set early and emphatically and remains exceptional throughout. Seriously, that’s just a sexy image and I don’t mean that in the “let’s get it on” sense.
Although, later on in the issue, (as my colleague David Brooke further explains in his Batman #39 spoilers) that particular air becomes impossible to deny:
Wonder Woman isn’t the only one looking good. Batman looks well-protected, (though apparently “ridiculous,” according to his fiancee) in his Dark Knight-armor, which showcases not only Jones’ ability to craft realistically segmented and heavy-scalloped plate armor (along with Bellaire making it look all burnished and ornate) but her incredibly lifelike facial expressions, as seen through Catwoman’s playful, half-stifled giggle:
More aesthetic highlights include fearsome looking hydras, lizard-men and a bevy of other full-fanged, chimeric beasts being cleaved and gashed; blood-spatters aplenty and an orange-red cavefire glowing and reflecting on the sloping cavewalls in the issue’s final scene.
A final scene which everyone will be talking about when all is said and done. Before we get to the ending however, let’s talk some more about the what led up to it. The introduction, with a grumbling Gordon and Wonder Woman greeting him atop the GCPD building is great. The premise of the issue, with Batman and Wonder Woman doing Eternal Warrior analogue “The Gentle Man” a kindness by taking his place battling endless monster hordes in an alternate dimension is also great. “The Gentle Man” getting chaperoned back on Earth by Selina while Bat and Diana tackle the endless Horde? Fun.
There are elements of King’s script that just don’t vibe, though. (Warning: Spoilers ahead) It’s revealed that while in the alternate dimension, time passes at a different rate; namely, a few hours back in the real world becomes ten years back in Monstro-World. You’re telling me Batman, preparatory expert that he is, didn’t research time discrepancies even a little bit? A recurring motif in King’s Batman run has been to humanize Batman a great deal, especially compared to Morrison and Snyder’s. Still, there’s a big difference in nerfing Batman’s prep-time capability and ignoring it completely.
Wonder Woman’s characterization is also a bit unseemly. As I said in my intro, where is Steve Trevor, her current boyfriend? He’s not mentioned, even for a fleeting moment. What are her thoughts on fighting in an alternate dimension besides how pointy Batman’s ears look? Why does her dialogue consist solely of rashing on Batman (“All men who try to fight look ridiculous to me”) one moment to suddenly complimenting him and tempting him by issue’s end? Why would two characters, both currently involved in relationships with significant others, go from fighting to immediately centimeters away from lip-locking without any escalating moments of intimacy in between to make the kiss more meaningful? Even with “ten years” spent in the other dimension, the whole story beat seems rushed and Wonder Woman’s behavior relegated to serving solely as an impromptu impairment to Batman’s engagement.
Of course, some of these story elements could be rectified by next issue, seeing as this is only the first installment of a two-parter. And the kiss between Batman and Wonder Woman will almost surely be something that either doesn’t happen or actually ends up reinforcing the fact that the two warriors, though kindred spirits, don’t share “true feelings” for one another. (Like when Jessie Spano and Zack Morris kissed in the “Snow White and the Seven Dorks” episode of Saved by the Bell, to cite an embarrassing but very relevant example. “I didn’t feel a thing!” “Me either!”) That being said, it will be interesting to see if being stranded in an alternate dimension for so long will have a lasting effect on either characters’ psyches, or if it will be forgotten about next story arc.
Is It Good?
Batman #39 is a visually stunning issue with a fun premise; however, the narrative is difficult to judge on a single issue basis. We’ll need to see the conclusion next issue to see whether characterization inconsistencies and insufficiencies were due to seeing only one face of the overall prism or if the whole thing was merely for soap operatic shock value.