Unlike most properties that Tom King has lead, his Batman run has not been universally praised. In fact, it’s probably been the most divisive title amongst fans since the launch of Rebirth. However, the buzz for issue #35 doesn’t echo that sentiment.
Wrapping up the “The Rules of Engagement” story arc, we find Catwoman locked in battle with Talia al Ghul as Batman lies on the ground bleeding out after traveling to a forbidden territory to secure Holly Robinson, in order to clear Catwoman’s record. Much of King’s run has been a commentary on Bruce/Batman. “Why is he Batman” , “Why does he choose this life” this issue follows that same mold but asks a more elementary question, “Will Bruce ever be happy?”.
The question is first presented after a hilarious exchange between Dick and Damian, Dick characterizes Batman in the perfect manner as they both contemplate as to why Bruce kept the engagement a secret. Dick explains that Batman isn’t selfish, if you go into battle with him “He’s the first to bleed”, he gives everything he has. The fact that he is able to do that is incredibly powerful and something that people tend to forget about Batman due to his hard, withdrawn persona. When push comes to shove Batman put’s himself in front of everyone without hesitation and for him to be happy that would require something of himself that he doesn’t know how to do; ask, instead of give.
King also presents the question through a different light during the fight between Talia and Selina, showcasing how each woman visualizes Bruce. Talia sees Bruce as her equal, someone who is perfect, someone who has no flaws while Selina sees Bruce for exactly who he has always been, how only people close to Bruce would know, he is broken. Selina even acknowledges that she knows Bruce will choose his war over her no matter how much she loves him, which only proves how broken he actually is. “Will Bruce ever be happy?”
One final time in this issue the question is asked, this time directly to Bruce. Damian after his exchange with Dick asks his father, “Are you happy?”, looking for any sign of reassurance that Bruce has made the right decision. This leads to one of my favorite moments in a Batman book in years; Bruce, taken aback, looks at Selina and says “I’m getting there”. This is an astounding dynamic that King is exploring, letting Bruce be happy for a change, giving him a new challenge to overcome by letting him want something.
I love this relationship and was so excited when Catwoman said yes to the proposal because of the possibility of a new status quo for Batman, the only question is will it last? Will they actually get married or will something at the last moment tear them apart? Will Catwoman die right before the wedding? , Will Bruce? Will all of this be retconned out of existence? The answer to these questions is the only way we will receive the answer to ours “Will Bruce ever be happy?”. Here’s to hoping…