Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tom King
Artwork: Joëlle Jones, Jordie Bellaire (colours)
Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 7th February 2018
You have no idea how worried I was about this issue. I can also honestly say I’ve never read a comic so quickly in my life, with that kind of breathless, desperate urgency where you just have to know how it ends. I felt a little deflated at the end – my fears were unjustified, my hopes shone through.
Batman and Wonder Woman are trapped – willingly – in The Realm, a place between worlds fighting a ceaseless horde of demonic beings, taking the place of The Gentle Man, the defender of that barrier. Seconds pass as hours, days, years, fighting constantly, and we left issue 39 on the verge of a kiss between Bruce and Diana.
The thing is, I cannot see how Bruce and Selina can remain a couple, yet can’t imagine this turning into a drawn-out Bat Soap Opera. But without giving anything away, King deals deftly at every turn, in part by splitting the narrative between The Realm and Selina accompanying the Gentle Man to see his wife. As with all of the best bits of Rebirth, these are grown-up stories, with Batman exploring the nature of love and partnership as strongly as Superman explores fatherhood.
The art is strong and poised, but one shouldn’t expect anything less from the mighty Joëlle Jones. Being Super was easily one of my choice DC reads of recent months, and Lady Killer is a BCP team favourite. I wasn’t quite sure whether her distinctive style would fit but it’s a natural. The contrast of the visceral and the domestic is exactly right for Gotham, for Batman and for this story in particular. Bellaire’s colours shine through the grime, and the whole package is utterly arresting.
I’ve been reading Batman for many years, under many writers, like so many of us. To me, Tom King’s success lies in the understanding of the broader narrative, of Batman’s wider relationships and, above all, his humanity. I’ve not felt so compelled to read, to buy, since Knightfall, even without some grand over-arching storyline – just the unfolding of a love story, the timeless tale of Bat and Cat (and the kangaroo – no, really). King’s run is essential; it’s brilliant storytelling, by turns dark and terrifying, vicious and tender. If you aren’t reading this, you’re crazy.
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