Near the Beginning and at the End in Batman Annual 2

by Michael DeLaney

This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

If you haven’t been paying much attention, Tom King is a big shipper of Batman and Catwoman. In Batman Annual 2, King forgoes any direct connection to his current Batman run and instead writes a Batman/Catwoman tale that functions as the first and last word on the couple.

King writes a “cat and mouse” tale about Catwoman’s concern for making Batman stronger. This is the kind of argument that The Joker usually makes for his attacks on The Dark Knight. But where Joker wants to challenge Batman’s philosophy, Selina merely wants to ensure that Bruce survives.

Lee Weeks draws the first half of the issue, opening with a magnificent first page of Catwoman sneaking into the Batcave, with a wide spotlight on her intended joyride. I’d also like to throw praise Weeks’ way for giving Bats the ‘ol underoos.

King writes a Cat/Bat love story that mirrors itself in its opening flashback and closing flash-forward. Michael Lark never draws the elderly Bruce in cape and cowl in the flash forward but the man is Batman to the very core.

The way that he nonchalantly suggests that The Flash travel to an alternate Earth and scoop up a similar Bruce Wayne to take care of Selina after he dies is pure gold.

In both time periods, Sophie Tucker’s “Some Of These Days” is present— first as Alfred sings it, then later when it’s playing on the background as old Brucey tries to get a workout in. A song about missing your lover is only fitting for the last Batman/Catwoman story.

“From the first kiss to the last” indeed.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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5 comments on “Near the Beginning and at the End in Batman Annual 2

  1. A lot of people seem to Gripe at King for making his batman so emotional and flawed. and getting beaten up so much. But this feels closer to the animated series (while telling brand new stories) than anything dreamt up by snyder or morrison (also great writers)

    • I really liked this one. I don’t know when I flipped, but King has convinced me that I should have been a Selina / Bruce shipper all along. It gives new life to Batman, which is a character that I love to death, but is always in need of new definition (instead of, you know, just redefining him as driven and broody and well-prepared over and over again). I was genuinely surprised to see the flash forward to old-age Bat ‘n’ Cat, and I love how King is willing to treat that kind of mythological bombshell with emotional honesty. Powerful stuff. I think this story certainly propels King’s Batman to a position similar to B:TAS.

      • I don’t think there’s really anyone else who could work with Batman. Dressing up to fight crime is an inherently silly thing, and pretty much all of Batman’s love interests at one time or another have expressed as much. But it’s the most serious thing in the world to Bruce, so the only person who could possibly understand is going to be someone who also dresses up in a ridiculous costume.

        • Honestly, I think there are many people who could possibly work as Batman love interests. Both Wonder Woman and Silver St Cloud could work, given time to develop. They’d each be able to bring things, given time, that could address those aspects in unique ways (on theother hand, I think Talia works best as the love that didn’t work. Especially post-Damian, where she is now positioned as the divorce). I think the big reason why Selina is the iconic relationship is that she is the one woman that the Batman comics have had for decades long stretches that Batman didn’t have a paternal relationship with (especially when they tried to bury Vicki Vale to avoid Lois Lane comparisons). Combine that with the simple fact that old comics always reduced female characters to sex and love, and it was inevitable. But who knows what would have happened if Wonder Woman or Silver St Cloud more time around Batman? DCAU certainly proved the former works.

          Honestly, as someone who loves the Batman/Catwoman relationship, I’ve always found it richer on Selina’s side. She’s someone whose been hurt hard and isn’t happy with the person she is, and Bruce is the one person who has faith she can be better, and she loves him for that. Even if she never has that faith in herself.

          That, to me, was always the richer half of the relationship, even if it has been thrown out to make everything about her go back to Batman (please tell me that ‘tale about Catwoman’s concern for making Batman stronger’ isn’t what I think it means. Is Selina going to get one emotion that doesn’t come down to how she acts as a prop for Bruce’s story in this run?)

  2. Batman: The Enemy Within – Fractured Mask: I’ve discussed before how this season of Telltale’s Batman has very intentionally taken a very different approach, changing a lot of the genre markers to create a new experience, set in their universe. Which creates an situation looking at the franchise as a whole, as I think Telltale’s Batman, taken together, is a romance.

    Despite being so important last season, we haven’t seen a lot of Selina in the first two episodes. She’s been an absence in Bruce’s life, after riding away from Gotham, unwilling to stay. THe only sign of her being a pair of goggles hanging in the Batcave. It was only with the end of episode 2 that she reappeared, and sudden reveal that the villainous pact of supervillains that Bruce (as Bruce) had infiltrated had one last member. Selina.

    It was wise to hold Selina back, making us feel her absence so that when she reappears, we feel the full force of the impact. And while the stakes are initially ‘Will Selina reveal that Bruce is a mole?’, it wisely quickly answers that with a no to instead push Bruce and Selina together such that they can develop their relationship even as the very situation pushes the parts of them that can’t be together.

    Because, of course, after the events of last episode, Harley believes there is a mole in the Pact, and as the episode increasingly continues, it is clear that there are only two reasonable candidates. Bruce, who is the mole, and Selina. Which creates a situation where Bruce and Selina find themselves both being closer than ever and on opposite sides.

    But of course, it is more than just the mole hunt. The mole hunt is just the overarching narrative structure that pushes the thriller elements to keep the storytelling intense. Because the problems are more complex than just the fact that Harley has managed to place Selina between Bruce and his mission. Because there is the complex relationship itself.

    Despite the many changes that Telltale has had to craft their own unique take, ultimately the game is built on playing into the strengths of the original source material. And it leans into the those fundamental dynamics that make the Bruce/Selina relationship so powerful.

    Bruce and Selina’s ultimate loyalty to their own identities is something that can’t help but be in the way. They share a similar goal, but they can’t reconcile the differences they have in motivations, or in methodology. As much as Selina is happy to be back with Bruce, she has to betray him immediately because she knows that she can’t get her justice and work with Bruce.

    And even later on, as they come together to work together, that hangs over them. As much as they care for each other, the tension exists on whether they can be together. Because the problems are clear. Bruce sees a different Selina than Selina sees in the mirror. A better Selina. A Selina that she wishes she was, but doesn’t think she can be. And while that is a key part of why she loves Bruce – they make a point about how his fundamental optimism about her is something she finds comforting – the fact that she can’t see herself be that woman creates problems. Made more complex by the fact that Bruce’s commitment to the mission means that Selina’s self sabotage places her against him.

    The relationship scenes together are great. Full of all sort of subtlety, and I’m particularly a fan of Selina’s first time in the Batcave – especially her disapproval of being featured in Bruce’s trophy cabinet, next to supervillains (choosing Bruce’s response to why the woman he loves has a cabinet next to actual supervillains is amazing).

    Such a rich relationship, with the story so wonderfully takes this dynamic and finds every way to push it for drama. Especially as John Doe/protoJoker complicates things (on the other hand, I think Batman stories should be banned from using rorschach tests. The one in this episode is nowhere near as bad as Batman Forever’s ‘tell me what this watercolour of a bat looks like’, but they always feel so obvious).

    And it all builds to another great ending. I love how well this season is building major cliffhangers as endings. Each one feels like a mjaor holy shit moment, and not just a generic ending.

    Oh, and while I haven’t mentioned supporting cast a lot this time, want to praise Waller. I mentioned in the first episode comment, with a bit of irony, that she was positioned as a reformer bringing ethics to the Agency. Because we all know Amanda Waller would never be ethical. But they actually follow through with that, making it clear she is trying to purge the Agency of the worst aspects. It really makes her a rich character in this story. She breaks moral code after moral code (I praised last episode for how they made her every moral compromise feel like a difficult choice that she always makes), but actually isn’t just some devil character. There is so much complexity in how they balance her ethical flexibility with the fact that she is actually trying to be better than what was there before

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