Strength in Teamwork in Batman 43

By Drew Baumgartner

Batman 43

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

On the surface, grief and regret may not seem all that similar; one deals with an inescapable force of nature, the other is preoccupied with (potentially avoidable) personal failures. I might argue that regret is a kind of grief, albeit over the death of an idea or an opportunity, as opposed to a loved one, but there’s a more fundamental commonality between these two: how personal they feel. This can make both grief and regret feel very lonely, potentially driving us away from the friends and family who might want to support us through those difficult times. It’s a trap Ivy falls into, trying to go it alone in the face of her own grief and regrets, but Batman and Catwoman (and the entire creative team behind Batman 43) have a better way.

That better way, it turns out, hinges all on the one person Ivy couldn’t willingly turn into a slave (at least, not entirely): Harley Quinn.

Harley and Ivy sitting in a tree...

As clear as that may be to my ‘shipping little brain, this issue is actually pretty coy about whether Bruce is referring to a platonic friendship, a friendship that Ivy wishes was more, or an actual romantic relationship, but the result is the same: Harley is Ivy’s rock, the one person who might talk her down from shutting out the entire world.

It’s a credit to writer Tom King that “the entire world” is taken so literally here, both in terms of Ivy’s isolation, and the “Bruce and Selina vs. the World” premise of the arc. Bat and Cat can take on anything together, and Ivy’s resolution suggests that she can, too, so long as she doesn’t try to go it alone. Maybe that moral points towards Bruce and Selina impending nuptials more strongly if we read Harvey and Ivy as a couple, but I almost prefer it as a more general “have someone in your corner” moral. Ivy doesn’t need a romantic partner to be whole, but she definitely needs someone in her corner.

Or maybe I just like broadening the moral to teamwork because it makes for a nice segue to talking about the collaboration of this creative team. As usual, Mikel Janin’s figure work is breathtaking, but I’m increasingly impressed at the big, sprawling spreads filled with figures slowly crossing them.

Ivy and Selina, walking in a tree...

Spreads like this can often feel empty or dead, but that’s very much the point here — and it’s not like Janin isn’t putting in the effort on those “empty” corners! But I’m also impressed at how seamlessly Hugo Petrus’s pages fit into the issue, thanks in no small part to June Chung’s gorgeous coloring tying everything together.

My point is, this issue is a testament to the power of teamwork, both on the page and off. I can’t be more than cautiously optimistic about Bruce and Selina’s relationship (it sure feels like Bruce is neglecting some of his other teammates in pursuit of this particular team-up), but they keep passing every test this creative team can throw at them. Or is it that the creative team is passing every test Bruce and Selina are concocting?

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

One comment on “Strength in Teamwork in Batman 43

  1. Can King get a single character in this book right? Is it too much to ask for a single arc of this book not to be a laughable joke. It is amazing how King keeps failing each and every chance (I’d love to see how King attempts to pass the test of actually writing a Selina who is in character instead of a prop)

    But the real issue here is Ivy (because it is always a fucking woman. All the characterisation is horrible, but it is always the gross disrespect to women that seals it. King has fallen so far). King is aware that Ivy has a decently long body count? Ivy has always been willing to kill. Ivy is not a character broken because shitty Riddler manipukated her years ago. She’s a character with a long history of being a bad guy. Is King even willing to actually let women be villainous anymore? Why is there such a gross, puritanical streak to all of King’s supervillain women where they can’t be display any villainous tendencies? His book’s female supporting cast is essentially all supervillain!
    Even worse to take Ivy, a character traditionally defined as very feminist and very empowered, and making her yet another victim to a man.

    Even worse, King’s butchering of Ivy just makes a problem DC has had worse. And this is a problem that I’ve ha doing before Rebirth. Can you name me the female Batman supervillain defined by the strong emphasis on her sexuality, her bisexuality and her morally ambiguous morality that makes her closer to anti hero than villain? That’s essentially every major female villain. Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (the Harley Quinn boom as made those two all except official, though DC’s . You have to go as obscure as Jane Doe to find someone that actually breaks that. Sexy, so they can be attractive to the audience. Villainous enough to justify being sexy instead of having to fit the Madonna side of madonna-whore, good enough not to actually threaten the reader’s opinion of them. And bisexual, in that perfect way to be fetishised (This isn’t to say bisexual representation is a bad thing, but that the way straight men fetishise bisexuality is a real problem. Bisexuality as an excuse to enjoy women sexist kissing each other while still being safely available to straight men is not a good thing, and why it would be more interesting to have one less bisexual femme fatale villains and make one of the Batgirls bisexual instead, who aren’t as defined by sexuality). There is a shocking lack of diversity, with every woman being exactly the same, and all so perfectly tailored for men. And while it has worked better on certain characters (Catwoman has the advantage of having had a solo book long than Harley Quinn existed, that has had the chance to treat those aspects respectfully, even if King is doing his best to bulldoze all of that. And Harley Quinn is at least an attempt to not define her by Joker’s abuse), it is a really shitty trend.

    And Kings shitty Batman run just makes things worse. Turning Ivy from an empowered villain to another victim of men, another objectified woman not allowed to step outside a woman’s place. Just as Selina before her.

    This run just need to fucking end, hopefully breaking Bruce and Selina up so someone can try again without the noxious levels of fucking misogyny. King used to be the best. Now he isn’t even competent. Just gross and icky

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