Batman #50 (Rob’s Take)
- Masterpiece in character study
- We are shown not only what happens, but why
- Events of this issue will have lasting impact
- Oh My God! The amount of art talent in this book is staggering
EDITOR’S NOTE: AS PART OF THE PREVIEW ART ASSETS RELEASED BY DC COMICS TO ACCOMPANY REVIEWS, WE WERE PROVIDED WITH THE FINAL PAGE OF THE ISSUE. I HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO SHARE THE FINAL PAGE BECAUSE I BELIEVE ANYONE INTERESTED SHOULD READ THE ENTIRE BOOK
NOTE: Alex and I are both writing a review for this landmark issue, this is my review. His is here. – Rob
Once in a while, a comic is released that is more than just a standard issue. The story within is designed to begin a new direction for the character, and it is often a significant plot point that has lasting effects. They are very frequently centered around landmark numbered issues (25, 50, 75, 100…etc.). For that reason, these issues are commonly referred to as “event comics”. Batman #50 is an event comic.
It is so many things in just one book. It is the 50th issue of Batman in the Rebirth era. It is the start of a new direction for the Caped Crusader and, it is the culmination of the “Wedding” storyline. But, more than all of that, it is a masterclass in character study, but a master of his craft.
Now, let’s get the spoiler bit out of the way now. Bruce and Selina decide to elope on a rooftop at dawn. Bruce shows up, Selina doesn’t. That’s right, Catwoman leaves Batman at the altar (or, in this case, rooftop). And while, many people will say they saw this coming, or will write it off as a publicity stunt, it’s how we get to that moment that makes the issue a stellar piece of writing.
This issue has so many layers to it, and is much more than just a wedding issue. This issue has two big questions at it’s heart. First, can Catwoman truly be a hero? and Second, can Bruce be happy and still be Batman?
The answers to these questions form the heart of Tom King’s brilliant script, and take the form of inner monologues for each of the characters.
Ladies first, so I’ll begin with Catwoman. Selina has been very cautious throughout this entire run up to the Wedding, and understandably so. From the very beginning, Catwoman has been a villainess, but she also been shown to have a good heart, even all the way back to her first appearance. Ever since she first saw him, she has been taken with Batman. Ever since their relationship really started to heat up in the “modern era” during Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb’s Hush storyline, the attraction has always been there, sometimes front and center, sometimes smoldering in the background, but always there.
But, even with that, it was a gasp out loud moment when Batman proposed to Catwoman. It clearly wasn’t something she expected, although he hand picked her for the mission to Santa Prisca to retrieve Psycho Pirate. She was in Arkham at the time for a large string of murders she didn’t commit, but she took the wrap for to save a friend. Which, one might argue, is a pretty heroic, if foolish, thing to do.
Catwoman repeatedly does the wrong thing for the right reasons. It’s this altruistic, semi-heroic nature that allows her to be the unpredictable grey in Batman’s black and white world. I believe Catwoman has allowed herself to believe she can be a hero due to Batman’s unwavering faith in her. Unfortunately, this leads Catwoman to the realization that it would be a very unheroic thing if her marrying Batman and making him happy made him lose his edge as Batman. It is for this reason, again doing the “right” thing, and truly wanting to be “good” that she does not show up for the wedding. In fact, she leaves Gotham all together. The saddest part about all of this is that it turns out to be a plan by Bane, using Catwoman’s old friend Holly, to “break” Batman emotionally. Selina leaves Gotham, thinking she ahs done the “right” thing, but in the end she was played by one of her closest friends.
Now, on the other side of the coin is a very much in love Batman. But, one thing Batman does not love is pomp and circumstance. he can’t bear the thought of having to go through the whole “Wedding machine.” So, he suggests the elopement. On a rooftop, because, where else would Batman get married. But through all of this is the nagging doubt in his mind. He even goes so far as to ask Alfred if he can be happy. A simple question, but one at the heart of the entire event. Bruce is so blinded by his love that he can’t see where the doubt comes from. It’s a simple equation, Batman seems to draw his strength from misery. It’s how he was born. So, if you take away the misery, where does that leave Batman? It would seem that Batman needs to be miserable to be Batman. Catwoman sees that. Hell, even Joker sees that. You know it’s bad when the Joker gets as fundamental a concept as that and YOU don’t. I personally think that even Alfred realizes it, because he has always wanted Bruce to be happy. But, he will never say as much to him, as it is not his place. But, I’m sure even he relaizes that Batman is built on pain, and that without it, there will be no Batman. Now, you would think the Joker would want the Wedding to go forward, because without Batman his life would be easier, but I don’t think the Joker can even rationalize the thought of a world with no Batman.
But, you can’t blame Bruce for wanting to be happy, even if just for a little while. The amount of trauma the man has gone through, even just in the last few years, is staggering. His commitment to Batman is all consuming, and he had finally found someone who understood and embraced that. I think he honestly wanted to help Selina be a better person. I also think, given his intellect, that he thought, more than likely, that it wasn’t going to work out. I have no illusions that he ever though 100% that it would work, but I do think he thought it was his best shot. I don’t think Bruce ever had proposing in mind, but I think it became a “now or never” scenario. What happens now, we’ll have to wait and see.
But, in asking, and, at least temporarily, answering these questions, Tom King has taken us on an emotional journey with both of these characters. And, while Catwoman may hide them well, she most definitely has emotions, and does let her guard down from time to time. Batman, in contrast, has practically buried his human side, and almost never lets his emotions out. All of his buried pain and rage are “fuel for the fire.” And that is the biggest obstacle to this union. By taking us inside their mindsets when it comes to their motivations, Tom King grants us all free admission to a masterclass of character development and study. We are willing and fortunate participants. And, there are few better to learn the art from. Indeed we are privileged to bear witness to such an incredible feat of writing. Because it’s not enough for Tom King to just tell us what happened, he also cares enough to explain to us why it happened, to take us inside the mind of the characters so we can see how they came to where they are. It’s an amazing piece of writing, and I can’t wait to see what else he has planned.
Now, let’s talk about the art. I have been singing the praises of Mikel Janin for several months now. He is an amazing artist who has really got a good feeling for how Gotham and it’s denizens should look. If he were the only artist for this issue, I would be absolutley fine and thrilled with it. But, this is an anniversary Wedding issue, so you better believe that’s not the case.
Though he is the artist for the “main” part of the story, as Batman and Catwoman recap their relationship and move towards the issue’s conclusion, the are single splash pages and pages with panels, each drawn by a stellar art team.
He is joined, in fact, by pretty much EVERY MAJOR LIVING BATMAN ARTIST! The list is unbelievable. Ready? Here goes: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Trish Mulvihill, Becky Cloonan, Jason Fabok & Brad Anderson, Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Lee Bermejo, Neal Adams & Hi-Fi, Tony S. Daniel & Tomeu Morey, Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts, Rafael Albuquerque, Andy Kubert & Alex Sinclair, Tim Sale & Jose Villarrubia, Paul Pope & Jose Villarrubia, Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann & Jordie Bellaire, Ty Templeton & Keiren Smith, Joelle Jones & Jordie Bellaire, David Finch & Jordie Bellaire, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia and Lee Weeks.
That amount of artists in a single book is reason enough to buy it, to say nothing of the gorgeous main story art by Mikel Janin and June Chung.
IN THE END: This was always going to be a controversial and polarizing issue, but Tom King has managed to deliver an insightful tightly written masterpiece in character study. This is still the 50th issue, and it will definitely have a lasting affect. Tom King has said that this is not the end for Batman and Catwoman, and I like to think he would know. The sheer volume of beautiful art in this book is enough to make it worth getting, but the writing in this book raises the bar again.
You’ll have to wait two weeks to find out where Batman goes next, but you can follow Catwoman over to her new solo book, which also premieres this week.