“Can Batman ever be truly happy?”
This is a question that has long been asked throughout the various media of the character’s history. Given how tragedy has been a defining element of Bruce Wayne, going back to the death of his parents, throwing a bit of happiness into his life might mark the end of his vigilante alter-ego, which is what exactly happened at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. When it comes to comics, especially superhero titles, these characters will forever have adventures and Batman is no exception as he’s turning 80 next year. With Tom King’s ongoing Bat-run, which delves into the Bat-Cat romance, can an upcoming wedding change everything?
Before that Bat and the Cat tie the knot, this volume begins with a three-issue detour, in which Booster Gold gives to Batman what he thinks is the perfect wedding gift. After going back in time with his robotic ally Skeets and saving Bruce’s parents, Booster Gold finds himself trapped in an alternate Gotham where things have gotten worse, such as the rise of Jokers and Dick Grayson as a gun-toting Batman.
This is perhaps the most left-field story arc we’ve seen from King’s Batman, with the time-travelling glory-seeking showboat as the flawed protagonist, who through an act of kindness, messes up big time and tries to rectify the situation, going deeper down the rabbit hole. Along with the bickering banter with Skeets, Booster is buckets of fun as he survives this even bleaker spin of the Bat-world, where Jason Todd appears on television promoting his electric Joker-zapping tires, despite killing some children along the way.
With the solid artwork, courtesy of artist Tony S. Daniel, inker John Livesay and colorist Tomeu Morey, there are some stunning pages featuring the blue and gold costumed Booster (whose facial hair grows from issue to issue) interacting with the grim dystopian surroundings of Gotham where a militant Batman is menacing and a “Jokerized” Green Lantern blowing his head off with his own ring is a great and surreal way to start this arc.
Whether he lost his sense of humor (as in The War of Jokes and Riddles) or laughs his way through his many killings, the Joker is a perfect fit for Tom King’s black comedic writing, as evident in the short Joker tale (drawn by Clay Mann) that is repackaged here from DC Nation #0. This sets up the next arc, in which the Clown Prince of Crime goes on a killing spree in a church, in order to get Batman’s attention.
Like the previous arc, this one weirdly sidelines the Dark Knight and showcases the relationship between his arch-nemesis and his fiancée, both of whom give their views of what Bruce really needs, whether it is happiness or suffering. For something that isn’t particularly action-packed, recurring artist Mikel Janin makes the most with his darkly Gothic church setting and his ultra-realistic character designs, in particular the Joker who projects many expressions throughout the two issues.
When we reach the wedding issue, Janin draws the main narrative, whilst many guest artists such as Becky Cloonan, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, etc. draw their own splash pages that celebrate the Bat-Cat romance throughout the decades. As much as we have a couple of issues that explored the history of the two lovers from King’s run, everything was building to issue #50 as they prepare for a secret wedding where each would have a single witness, including Alfred and Holly Robinson.
Throughout the entire volume, we have seen different interpretations about that ongoing question and with the wedding, for all its heartwarming moments, the answer is a sad one, something that has upset the wrathful Bat-fans. Without getting into spoilers, despite that the issue has been out for months, it was pretty obvious where Tom King was going, considering he’s now halfway through his supposed 100-issue run.
Depending on where the future lies for the Dark Knight under Tom King’s writing, this volume does feel like a final say for Batman and Catwoman’s romance, whilst still being a fun addition to an already great run with some left-turns along the way.