- Great story by Tom King
- The tug of war between Jason Todd and Ace
- Alfred not blindly accepting the engagement
- The awesome Desert outfits of Batman and Catwoman
- TALIA'S BACK!
- Jordie Bellaire's unbelievable color work
- Jarring change in artist
- Joelle Jones' figures are not as sharrp as Mikel Janin's
- Alfred is like, a million years older
- Inability to tell Robins apart by looking at their face
The Rules of Engagement - Part 1
Well, the War of Jokes and Riddles is finally over, and, as seen at the end of the previous issue, we returned to the present and Catwoman accepted Batman’s marriage proposal. But, nothing is ever that simple in in the world of comics, so now we have the next story arc: The Rules of Engagement.
The story is pretty simple. Batman and Catwoman have traveled to a desert country called Khadym, which has been sealed off by the Justice League. Clearly, this is not someplace that Batman should be. He uses Tiger Shark to get him in, and Catwoman uses her feminine wiles to get past the Guard in the Desert”. Actually, she beats the crap out of him. Anyway they get where they are going, which sets off all sorts of alarms.
Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, Alfred has “gathered the troops”, calling Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Damien Wayne and Duke Thomas to the Manor. He informs them of both the illegal mission to Khadym and the proposal to Catwoman. The sense of shock in the room is broken by a call from Superman, informing Alfred of an illegal incursion into Khadym, inquiring why Batman isn’t answering his Justice League communicator.
The assembled members of the Bat-Family begin to play the blame game, with Jason attacking Duke since he is the newest “Robin”, but Duke says he isn’t Robin, Damien is. Damien begins breaking down, sobbing. He knows why Batman would go to Khadym before marrying Catwoman. Khadym is where TALIA is hiding.
In her chamber, Talia is informed Batman has arrived in Khadym. She asks someone to fetch her swords.
This next part of the review is going to be a bit schizophrenic. First off, Tom King is still killing it, and I am so thrilled to see him bring Talia back to complicate an already complex situation. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I also love the fact that Alfred is not just blindly going along with it. If the emotional weight of the story hadn’t been established so completely, I don’t know if I would have found Damien crying believable. However, Tom King has managed to make it completely believable and it does not seem out of character at all. The scenes featuring the Bat-Family members are also well written and the tug of war scene between Jason Todd and Ace is downright hilarious. This is going to be one of the most interesting parts of this whole engagement to me: the reaction of the Bat-Family.
Now, let’s get to the art. Pencils and Inks on this issue are handled by Joelle Jones, and to be honest, the change to her from Mikel Janin is pretty jarring. Her art is not as crisp and clean as Janin’s, and some of the most recognizable characters take on bizarre new looks. Alfred, for example, looks like he has aged significantly, and has the most wrinkles I have ever seen him drawn with. it almost doesn’t even look like him. Likewise, during the “meeting of the Robins”, other than being able to tell which one is Duke, looking only at the faces, you cannot tell who is who. I am hopeful for one of two things. Either the art gets sharper, or this story arc is short. The art in this issue just does not do the story justice, and that is a tragedy. All of the faces look the same. The art in the issue is salvaged by the astonishing color work of Jordie Bellaire. The desert scenes are a thing of beauty and the reveal of Talia at the end looks suitably sinister.
IN THE END: If the art can catch up to the story, this has the potential to truly be something special. This issue is still worth it for the story, but the art is a bit jarring to look at, which brings down the overall experience.