By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Batman: This is new, but I’m trying.
Catwoman: Yes, well, try harder.
How do we admit our failings? The #MeToo movement is bringing a lot of stories of abuse to light, which means there have also been scores of written apologies. Some don’t use the word “sorry,” some make excuses, some try to deflect with their own surprise admissions. No matter how carefully crafted these statements are, they are all bound to fuck up and fall short. Words do no erase actions. Batman 40 sees creator and creation in similar roles, trying to explain they way they botched handling Wonder Woman. It’s messy, it’s riddled with mistakes, and it’s a genuine expression of how it feels to put your foot in your mouth.
Batman 39 presented a pretty cool sci-fi-romance gimmick, but failed to develop Wonder Woman’s perspective within that gimmick. My co-editor Drew likened Diana to a sexy lamp — a cheesecake warrior with no perceivable motivations or values of her own. When we pop back into their storyline in this issue, the fantasy is slightly recalibrated, focusing less on what’s desirable about her, and more on what’s desirable about this pairing.
Artist Joelle Jones backlights her ten-year-wearied warriors with a roaring campfire. It is Bruce and Diana against an unending horde. The two pages that follow are extremely close on Bruce and Diana’s faces as they flirt with the idea of kissing each other. It’s an intimate series of pages, both by physical necessity — their faces have to be very close to each other to both fit in every panel — and by emotional necessity. Writer Tom King puts the conflict plainly in the words of this characters: “I love her.” “I love him.” “This is ridiculous.”
It’s a little bit of a muted sin for either of these characters to have to atone for. “Almost kissing someone after being stranded with them for ten years” seems pretty understandable to me, but the time distortion keeps the audience locked into Selina’s perception of time. And it’s Catwoman’s perspective that King and Jones seem most interested in — she’s the one that has to wrestle with what it means for Bruce to have a kind of work-wife situation with Wonder Woman. Bruce is no good at dealing with it on his own — he was going to flat-out deny The Gentle Man’s future requests for a break for fear that he may be tempted again in the future. That’s not a solution, that’s just avoiding one symptom of the problem. It takes Selina offering the suggestion that they just go and face the horde together.
It’s kinda cool to see Batman fallible like this. There’s a series of scenes in The Realm that are labeled as taking place 24, 19 and 14 years into their tenure fighting demons, that are — according to King on twitter — incorrectly labeled.
Ha. Yes. I also was confused. Sadly, there was a computer mix up thing that mixed up the captions (the page order is correct). Time is moving forward. We’re going to fix it for the trade (and in subsequent prints). https://t.co/P8Xy4XvVI2
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) February 7, 2018
They should be presented chronologically, but y’know, computer error or something. I love that this mistake is here. It’s like King and Batman were too nervous about their questionable treatment of Wonder Woman, and couldn’t help but stammer during their explanation of what happened. In the end, all Bruce knows is that he has to try to be better. This is not the last time he’ll be in an intimate crime fighting situation with another hero — next time he might be fighting alongside a Robin, or Batgirl, or Superman or The Flash, or whomever. The horde, as it were, is everlasting. Making the right choice, and deciding not to hurt the person you love is an active choice that requires emotional intelligence. That’s what King has been developing in Batman this whole time.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?