by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Batman may have just gotten engaged, but can you really imagine he and Catwoman going through life as a “normal” married couple, living a mundane domestic life? Of course you can’t, and not just because they have Alfred — it’s because they’re superheroes, wrapped up in grandiose, larger-than-life concerns. While one of those typically superheroic goals — tracking down Holly Robinson — is technically motivating our heroes in Batman 34, Tom King and Joelle Jones make the smart choice to ground the issue in relationships and emotions, making this an issue driven by the spark between characters. For the first time, maybe I can imagine Bruce and Selina as an everyday married couple — albeit one whose “dates” consist of confronting murderous exes in the desert.
King seems to relish digging into that dichotomy, filling Batman and Catwoman’s speech balloons with the type of snarky banter that would be at home in a sitcom — in fact, it’d almost feel tired if it wasn’t coming out of the mouths of two superheroes fighting Avox Ninjas in the desert. A husband biting his tongue, trying to backpedal an unintentional insult against his perhaps-overly-sensitive wife? I groan when it comes from Kevin James, but when it comes from Batman I just grin ear-to-ear like a big doofus.
This is a new type of banter for Batman and Catwoman — they’re still flirting, but not in their typical, sexually-charged way. Their new dynamic is one that already feels lived-in and more emotionally honest than ever. King has ushered these two characters into an unprecedented period in their lives and histories, and he’s found a new vocabulary for them to match. It’s fantastic stuff.
The focus on the personal extends to the subplot as well. Damian’s plan to kill Superman is a comedic masterpiece — the clerk at my LCS was showing off that page to every customer he could — but comes from a very personal place, from Damian’s conflicted feelings about his parents, his new “step-mother,” and his hurt at being left out of their decisions. I feel for Damian, even as I laugh at his bratty audaciousness. King and Jones resolve the conflict in equally personal ways, with Clark appealing to Damian’s friendship with Jon, and Dick comforting Damian with his mere presence.
Again, these moments are all rooted deeply in these characters’ feelings, relationships, and histories, and they shine all the brighter for it. King is a talented writer known for his powerful and clever use of structure, symbolism, and wordplay, but for my money, the best issues of his Batman run have been the ones that have looked past all that and just focused on their cast and their feelings, and Batman 34 may just be my favorite issue yet.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?