Tom King has taken Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s engagement to an extreme next step in a visit to Talia Al Ghul. The meeting has already resulted in Bruce being seriously injured. Now Selina is left to prove that she is better than Talia as the former challenges the latter to a sword duel. With Talia as the one that has made the challenge Selina will have to do everything in her power to just survive. On top of that we still have the reaction from Bruce’s sons, Damian Wayne and Dick Grayson, who are waiting outside to see who comes out alive in all this. Who will win out? Let’s find out in the epic 800th issue of this series with Batman #35.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Joelle Jones
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Holly Robinson wakes up to the shadows of Selina Kyle and Talia Al Ghul about to begin their sword duel.
As they clash, Talia tells Selina that since she could walk her father, rather than congratulating her, handed her a sword and made her fight for her life every day. Even when she died her father would bring Talia back to life just so she can continue fighting every day with a sword in hand. Talia says that is why she knows Selina will die today.
Selina is able to dropkick Talia off the stairs and says that she didn’t know her father and that no one ever gave her anything. Selina kicks Talia’s sword back to her and reveals she has only ever wielded a sword once or twice.
Batman finally gets up and stumbles his way to where Selina and Talia are fighting it out.
Meanwhile, outside the cave Dick Grayson asks Damian Wayne why he thinks Bruce didn’t tell them what he was doing. Damian says he doesn’t care but Dick doesn’t believe that, especially after Damian says Bruce is Batman and he is Robin.
Back to the fight, Talia makes fun of Selina for coming from nothing and wishing to marry Bruce. Selina fights back that she isn’t laughing.
Selina throws out how Talia already tried to marry Bruce because she saw him as her equal. Talia reveals that to her Bruce is the only one in the world that could possibly be her equal.
Selina makes fun of Talia for believing that given how Bruce is a broken man who has kept up a vow he made when he was 10 years old. She goes on to say that Bruce will always choose his vow over everything else no matter how much either of them loves him. She then explains that because of Batman’s justice it means he’ll betray them and that is why he is not “the Best” as Talia believe. Even in saying that Selina still loves Bruce.
As Talia and Selina continue their fight Holly can only stand on the sidelines watching them.
Back outside the cave Dick tells Damian that the reason Bruce didn’t tell them about his engagement to Selina and his current mission is that he can’t accept being happy. Bruce would instead rather bleed first than admit that because it would be asking for something, which is not easy with how immersed Bruce is with his Batman life.
Back at the fight Talia calls Selina a fool for loving Bruce and kicks her to the ground. Talia then says that after she kills Selina she may bring her back just to kill her again.
Selina grabs Talia’s sword by the blade and says she is not wasting one of her nine lives on Talia. Selina then kicks Talia off a ledge and stabs her shoulder.
Selina goes over to Holly, who admits that she killed the 237 people and that Selina to the blame to protect her. Holly breaks down as she understands Selina wants her to confess so Selina can be happy with Bruce. Selina says that she will always be Holly’s friend but she requests Holly’s help.
After taking the sword out of her shoulder Talia sits with Batman and admits she likes Selina.
Sometime later Bruce and Selina exit the cave and see Dick and Damian waiting for them. When Bruce is about to tell his something Damian asks his father if he is happy. Bruce looks at Selina and says he is getting there.
After some silence Damian says they only have two horses and it will take them 14 hours to get back.
As they walk to the horses Damian asks Bruce and Selina if they saw his mother. Selina admits that she stabbed Talia in the back. Damian is not surprised. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #35 is a very special issue that marks the 800th total issue of an ongoing Batman series. Though you wouldn’t necessarily know that just by the content in Batman #35, given that the title character is more of background character for much of this issue. That said, Tom King makes sure that while Batman is in the background the story is still centered around our favorite Dark Knight.
Placing Bruce Wayne in such a position where he is a background character of Batman #35 made the focus on him shine even more. Specifically it made the honest way Selina Kyle spoke about all of Bruce’s faults come off as genuine. The way King frames all of this shows that Bruce will no longer be able to hide behind the Batman cowl. If Bruce truly wants to push forward he has to face everything he has locked away to keep himself from being someone that can feel other emotions than just anger.
This all puts further emphasis on what King, Snyder, Tynion and all the other Batman writers have been doing with Bruce Wayne’s character over the years. Because in all honesty we have seen Bruce putting himself in a position where he wants to open up more to his family. Now King has made Bruce make the ultimate step towards this direction by proposing to Selina. And with Selina accepting the proposal Bruce can’t shut himself off from the world if he wants the marriage to work. That is a scary proposition for Bruce, setting up an exciting future for the character as we get to see what moving forward looks like for Bruce in and out of his Batman life.
All that said, Batman #35, and the entire story arc as whole, was about spotlighting Selina Kyle and why she is the person for Bruce, and vice versa. There is no doubt that Bruce’s two greatest love interest over his existence has been Selina Kyle and Talia Al Ghul. Knowing that King takes the full opportunity to show what has made each relationship tick. In doing so King was able to show how well Selina knows Bruce and understands her own feelings for him more than anyone else.
The big thing in this is that, in the process, Selina challenges the exact nature of Bruce and Talia’s relationship. While there is an obvious attraction the Bruce and Talia relationship has become one that is more of an idealized relationship than one based on the characters true feelings. That is definitely the case for Talia who has allowed herself to become obsessed with the idea that Bruce is her “one and only” because she feels that there is no one better. That idea is exactly why Bruce and Talia never worked out and having Selina point this out showed how she is handling her engagement like an adult. At least as much as one can handle this as an adult in the superhero realm.
This in turn enhanced the real reason for Bruce and Selina to take on this mission being to bring Holly Robinson out of hiding. Since DC Rebirth began we saw how Selina took the wrap for killing over 200 people, even though it was made clear she didn’t do it. Having that on her record would make it almost impossible for Bruce and Selina to be together in the public. Knowing that Selina had to stop covering for her childhood best friend in order for them to both move forward.
While that may be a selfish reason for Selina to go on this mission it was just as important as Holly. Just from her presentation alone we saw how much pain Holly has been putting herself through since going into hiding. Everything from the bags in her eyes to the way she was standing spoke of someone so traumatized that she was doing nothing but thinking of all those she killed.
Holly’s presentation and Selina’s looking to move forward with Bruce made the two friends brief discussion even more meaningful. King made sure to show that this was something that would mean a lot for both of them. Even if Holly gets the worst verdict at least she will finally deal with what she did rather than mentally and physically hurt herself because she decided to hide. And for Selina, she will finally allow her best friend to grow up by facing the consequences and in the process allow herself move forward with her life beyond just being Catwoman.
Further enhancing the story in Batman #35 was the brief cut backs to Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne’s discussion about what is going on with Bruce and Selina’s mission. Once again, King used these scenes between the two to showcase the big brother-little brother bond that Dick and Damian have. It also went to show how well Dick understand Bruce with how explains why all of this is really going. It further goes to paint the picture of how long Bruce and Dick have been family, even if they are no longer Batman and Robin.
Dick’s explanation made Damian’s reaction to seeing Bruce and Selina at the end even better. Because by the time the two got out Damian had to face the truth about what was really going on. Even though he didn’t say it out loud, Damian seems to understand that their is a big adjustment coming to his life with Selina now being his step-mother. What that relationship is like will add to how King and other Batman writers develop Bruce and Selina’s engagement.
Batman #35 is also the best issue Joelle Jones draws in this arc. With how much is went on from an action and emotional standpoint Jones nails every scene. As mentioned earlier, Jones got across how much emotional and physical pain Holly Robinson has been putting herself through. Jones also does a good job in handling the fight between Selina and Talia as it goes from intense sword action to a battle of words.
The Bad: The one complaint I have for Batman #35 is the lack of payoff for the consequences Batman and Catwoman were supposedly going to face by seeking out Talia Al Ghul in a government controlled zone. Throughout this arc King spent time developing a sub-plot this sub-plot which would lead to a showdown with the Justice League and/or military officials. For that to not factor in whatsoever in Batman #35 made the sub-plot come off as a waste of time. The panel time dedicated to that would’ve been better used to add Jason Todd, Barbara Gordon or other members of the Batman Family to the ending even more powerful.
Overall: Batman #35 does a very good job further developing the Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s relationship. The fight between Selina and Talia Al Ghul was well executed to be a balance between quick sword fighting and emotionally impactful dialogue. By the end Tom King and Joelle Jones were able to have Bruce and Selina’s engagement take an important step forward.