Things certainly escalated in Batman #77 as Bane snapped Alfred Pennyworth’s neck in front of a beaten Damian Wayne. That action placed even greater uncertainty around how “City of Bane” will turn out. Everything seems to be against the Batman Family as Bane, Flashpoint Batman and their allies have torn them to pieces. The only hope that there seems to be now is for Catwoman to help Batman regain his form after the brutal beatings he took at the hands of Bane and Flashpoint Batman. Can that be possible with everything going on in “City of Bane”? Let’s find out with Batman #78.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In their early years Batman patches Catwoman up after capturing her on a boat. Catwoman admits she has been caught.
In the present, Bruce Wayne (in a disguise that makes him look like Tom Selleck’s from Magnum PI) is kayaking with Selina Kyle on an ocean. Whenever Selina asks Bruce how he is doing he continues to reiterate that he is fine.
At the bar Bruce orders some drinks and Selina tells the bartender that Bruce is paying. While she walks off the bartender asks Bruce if Selina is his wife.
A little later when Bruce finds her relaxing at the beach Selina asks him what they were. Bruce says it doesn’t matter.
Bruce then mentions how the guys that Selina talked to told her that the thing that can defeat Bane will be arriving on the beach they are on in a few days. Bruce believes if they can take that thing they can get Gotham City back.
Bruce then mentions that in the meantime he will train with Selina and get better, which is all that matters.
Sometime later Batman and Catwoman are climbing a cliffside. While they climb Catwoman mentions she still has Bruce’s ring. Batman says it is not his and he does not want it back. Catwoman then remembers stealing the ring back on the boat years ago. Batman says he got it back when he caught her. Catwoman says she let Batman catch her. Batman fires back by saying he let her run. They continue going back and forth on who let who go and be caught.
They eventually get to the top of the cliffside. When Batman says they made it Catwoman questions him on this. After hesitating a bit Batman simply says it does not matter.
Later that night Bruce and Selina sleep in separate rooms. They are able to talk to each other through the thin walls. Selina mentions being able to hear how tense Bruce is by his breathing patterns in his sleep. Bruce says he is just breathing and that he does not let go. Selina responds by saying he does with her.
When Bruce tries to talk some more Selina tells him as she is tired of worrying about him. Bruce continues to say he is fine. Selina asks if Bruce ever gets tired of lying. Bruce admits he does get tired all the time.
The next day, on a cliffside Batman and Catwoman dive into the ocean water. Once they resurface after diving into the water Batman and Catwoman embrace. As they are about to kiss Batman tries to say something but Catwoman tells him to shut up. Catwoman breaks their embrace before kissing and swims away after saying it does not matter. Batman agrees.
At night Bruce and Selina sit by a campfire. Selina brings up how she used to imagine their lives together growing old together (bringing up the events we saw unfold in Batman Annual #2). She knew that when she made the jump and left that the future she imagined died. Selina goes on to say she thought she was fine with that but realized she wasn’t. She says that it is hard to forget and kept thinking about holding each other. These thoughts caused her to cry at night while hoping waiting for Bruce to show up at night.
Selina goes on to say that she eventually realized that she wasn’t a hero because heroes wouldn’t wait and cry like that. Bruce admits that he also waited and wept at night. Selina then makes the quote “For a moment we share our deaths. And for a moment we don’t die alone.” (This quote comes from the letter Bruce wrote to Selina and read in Batman #12.)
The next day Catwoman tells Batman to throw his batarang. Batman doesn’t think it’s a good idea but does as told. Catwoman catches the batarang and tells him to throw it like he means it. She throws it back and Batman is barely able to catch it with his two hands.
Catwoman tells Batman to get angry as if he was close to being happy only for it to be taken from him. She goes on to say he must pretend that she decided to leave him alone forever to be Batman. Catwoman says she will catch the batarang no matter how hard he throws it.
Batman tosses his batarang to the side. He tells Catwoman that she did not do this to him. He goes on to admit that he was afraid that he couldn’t put anyone above his vow which is why when she left it hurt him the way it did. Batman says Catwoman knows that pain. Catwoman says he doesn’t know a damn thing. Batman admits that they were close but them not making it broke him. At the same time he never blamed Catwoman.
Batman then reveals he knows that she believed he needed to be alone to be Batman because he believed it. He goes on to say that maybe instead of living because of the hurt they actually fight the hurt.
Catwoman tries to say that he doesn’t know her. Batman then finally admits that he is not fine and that his world is dust without her.
After saying this Batman and Catwoman kiss on the beach. End of issue.
The Good: As a standalone issue Tom King accomplishes his goal with Batman #78. The reunion of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle has been a long time coming. Unfortunately from a bigger picture standpoint King loses the greater narrative that he created around how rich Bane’s plan was to break Batman. This in turn makes Batman #78 an odd interlude issue right after the biggest thing to happen in King’s run since Batman #50.
Now when it comes to writing Bruce and Selina’s relationship no one has done a better job than King. Whenever King writes these two characters together his writing shines. He understands the unavoidable chemistry between Bruce and Selina whenever they are on screen together. That chemistry is on full display in Batman #78.
What works particularly well with how we see Bruce and Selina’s relationship progress in Batman #78 is how King writes this comic as something both characters needed. There is no taking back the events of Batman #50. Bruce and Selina both admit this to themselves and each other. In doing so we see that there is a deep hurt in both of their hearts that they lie to each other about until they couldn’t do it anymore.
Seeing how Selina was doing everything she could to get Bruce to reveal his true feelings after what happened with their failed wedding was a good direction for her character. We’ve seen that Bruce has buried a lot of his feelings as he made his entire focus be on taking down Bane and his other villains since Batman #50 concluded. That is again on display when Selina pushes every button she can with Bruce continuing to say “everything is fine.”
Having this lead into Selina to admit that she was also hurt by her decision was a strong development. Bringing up the events we saw in Batman Annual #2 as the dream Selina had when she pictured her life with Bruce added a lot of depth to her development in this issue. That goes to show how much care King has taken to crafting the narrative for Bruce and Selina’s relationship. It made the quote Selina made from the letter we read in Batman #12 mean more as King brings all the groundwork he set into play back up.
That all made Bruce finally admitting that how he always projected himself as Batman has been a major fault of his was an impactful moment. Bruce forever living with the vow he made when his parents died is fundamental to who he is as Batman. It got to the point where he couldn’t picture anything beyond that. Which is where having Selina be part of his life is such a major change. Because with Selina he is able to view a life beyond the vow he made when he went down the road to being Batman.
It all brings back into play how Bruce told Flashpoint Batman that he can never let go of his sense of hope. Selina is part of that hope as he can see himself be someone that fight the hurt rather than fighting because he is hurt. Selina being similar in this way shows how at the end of the day they are stronger together than apart. What has just been holding them back from truly living this new way of being Batman and Catwoman is the walls they created. Now that those walls have been brought down they can focus on what they need to do to get Gotham City back.
Clay Mann’s artwork was the true star of Batman #78. Mann did a fantastic job delivering on the emotional spectrum that both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle went through during the course of this issue. There is so much that both characters went through in getting to the point that they finally got back together. There was a clear progression made to how the walls were coming down for both characters leading into the final moments of Batman #78. It was also cool to see Mann give Bruce a Tom Selleck look to his disguise.
The Bad: For how well Bruce and Selina’s journey was told it had very little to do with what is going on with “City of Bane.” There was just one mention as to why Bruce and Selina were at the beach they were. But even that slight connection to a mysterious package for Bane arriving at the beach they were staying on felt extremely thin. It came across as King forcing the “City of Bane” storyline into this so he could still call this “Part 4” of that story.
What made the connection to “City of Bane” even worse was the fact that King has failed to develop Bane during this story arc. All of the development for “City of Bane” has centered around Flashpoint Batman and Gotham Girl. They have been the policing force in Gotham City. Bane has just hidden in the shadows not doing anything to show he is the authority in the city now.
And at no point in the first three parts of “City of Bane” has King hinted at Bane in need of some sort of thing to keep the status quo of Gotham City running. Everything done has been through Psycho Pirate. Unless Bane is somehow shipping Psycho Pirate around then there was absolutely no reason to think that the package Bruce and Selina were waiting for actually mattered.
This is where the weakest part of this story being the lack of presence for Bane is spotlighted. Ever since claiming victory Bane has been hiding in the shadows, barely uttering a word. He has only existed to snap Alfred’s neck and then hide back in the shadows while Flashpoint Batman runs things.
Which brings up the improper placement of this interlude issue in the “City of Bane” event. The death of Alfred Pennyworth and the fallout from that event deserves to be highlighted. It carries so many consequences that the lack of exploration in the issue after it took place makes Alfred’s death look minor. At this point after 77 issues of build up that is inexcusable thing to happen for major story beats in the event that King has been building towards for the entirety of his run.
Also, while there is quite a bit to like about how King handled Bruce and Selina’s interaction it was not as strong as it could’ve been. What hurt part of what should’ve been this special extended interaction between the pair was that a lot of the dialogue came across as repetitive. We’ve seen Bruce specifically go through the same conversation he had with Selina in Batman #78 throughout the overly long “Knightmares” story arc.
“Knightmares” is proving once again to be the most detrimental story arc to King’s greater narrative. King just burnt to much of the development how the reader should view Bruce and Selina’s dialogue. He is now at the point that he is recycling a lot of scenes we’ve already seen. If the focus does not return to what is going on in Gotham City then King is risking having an exhausting exist with the development around Bruce and Selina’s relationship.
It is also disappointing to see King place all the focus on Bruce and Selina’s relationship when that was only a portion of Bane’s plan to break Batman. As we’ve seen over the course of King’s run, especially after Batman #50, Bane targeted every aspect of Bruce’s life. Nothing was safe from Bane’s plot in breaking Batman
There was Nightwing getting shot in the head that took him off the table to be a trusted ally for Batman. The public also started to turn on Batman after the trial involving Mr. Freeze. Then from there we saw how Bane was able to shake the confidence the Batman Family, including Alfred, had in Batman about his obsession with proving what Bane’s plot was. Finally we saw the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon get destroyed because of Batman’s obsession.
When you look at all these events and more King built this intricate plan by Bane that systematically broke Batman mentally, physically and spiritually. Bruce and Selina’s relationship was just one part of that. This interlude issue not touching on all these facts is disappointing to see since King did build a strong foundation when the time came for Bruce to rebuild himself as Batman. It could’ve been about all these aspects that made Bruce the Batman he had become as he built a family around him that included Selina, Alfred, Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne and others.
Now after Batman #78 it looks like all the focus on Bruce getting back to being 100% about Selina while tossing aside everything else that led into “City of Bane” to the side. There is still time to change that as “City of Bane” is still far from being over. Still that does not help how Batman #78 forgets a lot of what made the build up to this story so fascinating to read.
Overall: Tom King and Clay Mann accomplish their goal of getting Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle back together at the conclusion of Batman #78. King clearly takes great care in writing Bruce and Selina’s relationship. Unfortunately this issue falters when it comes to the actual “City of Bane” storyline. There is no sense of urgency even after the jaw dropping moment in Batman #77 that should’ve been shown as major event which rocked the franchise. If King doesn’t shift the attention back to what is going on in Gotham City in the next issue he risks losing the big event narrative in “City of Bane.”
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