Bane rules Gotham with an iron fist, with Batman’s rogues running rampant. With his own dark version of Batman and a police force and justice system that he singlehandedly controls, Bane has seemingly won. Far away, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are working to take him down. But this issue doesn’t focus on Bruce and Selina’s mission to find whatever it is that can defeat Bane. This is a far more personal issue, as it is the first full issue dedicated to Bruce and Selina’s interactions since their failed wedding, where Selina left Bruce at the altar. It is the first time either one of them has talked to the other about the wedding since it happened, and it is an issue that has been over a year in the making.
The majority of the issue is about the unspoken words between Batman and Catwoman, as both of them avoid discussing their relationship and their past. There’s a palpable tension between them from the very beginning, as the words they leave unsaid become more and more visible. As the issue goes on, both Bruce and Selina go from avoiding the conversation that needs to happen to confronting it and turning away. There’s a scene where they get to be happy for the first time in an incredibly long while, but before either of them can move forward, Selina stops and runs away. Both of them are training and preparing for their mission, but it is so obvious that they need to talk about their relationship but are both too afraid to initiate the conversation. King nails the painful tension between two lovers, and when they finally start talking about it, it feels like a triumph.
The conversation between Bruce and Selina at the end of the issue is an incredibly important piece of Tom King’s overall Batman run. Throughout the run, people have been saying and assuming that Batman cannot be happy but still be Batman. That Batman lives because of his pain, and without that pain he wouldn’t be Batman. For a time, even Bruce himself believed it. Both the Joker and Selina’s best friend Holly Robinson told Selina that it was the case, which led Selina to believe it. The failed wedding was a result of this belief, and for a time it was left ambiguous whether or not this was actually the case. King dispels this notion entirely in this issue, as Bruce confronts Selina and they finally work out the wedge between them. “What if we, both of us… maybe we don’t live because of the hurt. Maybe we live to fight the hurt.” It’s a conversation that lasts a few scenes but by the end its message is clear, and the issue’s end shares its optimistic, triumphant outlook.
Clay Mann comes back to the book on art for this issue and the next one, and every page is as gorgeous as readers have come to expect. Batman and Catwoman are drawn as very attractive people even in their disguises, and in costume they look iconic. Mann is able to portray the emotion and pain the two of them feel in every panel, and even in the brief moments of respite there is still something visibly left unsaid. Tomeu Morey’s colors are stunning as well, providing a life to every single panel of the issue. The book is vibrant and bright, and even when the characters aren’t happy they look alive.
Once again, Tom King is showing that his entire run has built up to this event, and has been masterfully crafted since its first issue. Each issue is reaping plot and character threads that have been sown throughout the entire series, and the result is an incredibly satisfying and compelling final arc. As King’s Batman continues towards its conclusion, more and more plot threads are coming together into a beautiful tapestry.