Batman has had a big 2017 thus far. Just recently we have seen the character get engage to Catwoman, Tim Drake returned after everyone thought he was dead and is now the lead of one of DC Comics major events, Dark Nights: Metal. And all that happened in the last few months. Now to help bring 2017 to a close things are kicking off with a much more personal story in Batman Annual as Tom King looks to celebrate the relationship he is rebuilding, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. How will he do this? By taking a look back at an early adventure between Batman and Catwoman during their younger days on the streets of Gotham City. Let’s see how things turn out with Batman Annual #2.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Lee Weeks and Michael Lark
Colorists: Elizabeth Breitweiser and June Chung
Story Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 10 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Catwoman sneaks into the Batcave and quickly goes about stealing the Batmobile and drives off in it.
Elsewhere, Batman is interrogating a criminal. He gets a call from Alfred, who tells him there is a problem with his car.
Batman goes to check it out and finds the Batmobile has been driven through a convenience store. When looking through the car he finds a rat.
The next day Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out the riddle that Riddler told him before being turned over to Commissioner Gordon. Alfred tells Bruce not to worry about Riddler since he is in jail. When Bruce goes to pick his notepad back up he notices his pen is gone.
Bruce realizes that “she” is here. He hears a “Meeow” coming from the kitchen and rushes through the mansion to check it out.
Bruce tells Catwoman he is going to catch her. Catwoman says Bruce won’t and leads him through a chase in the mansion. Catwoman is able to escape through the window and with the GCPD outside says “Bye-bye Bat. Thanks for the pen.”
Bruce closes the window though he can still hear the GCPD scrambling to try to catch Catwoman. Bruce then notices the rat from earlier standing in the corner.
Later that night Batman is looking through his security system to figure out how Catwoman was able to get in. He eventually finds out that Catwoman is back and is the bedroom.
Batman enters his parents room and finds Catwoman cracking the safe in the room. As she does that Catwoman mentions the redundancy in Batman’s security system. She then finds a single pearl in the safe. Batman reveals that it was his mother’s before she died.
Catwoman says she understands and that like Batman she is a stray. She then asks Batman if he ever once thought about their being a better life than he is currently living and that hating everything may be okay.
Batman and Catwoman get closer to each other as the former says she shouldn’t like him and instead be scared of him. Catwoman says she isn’t scared and asks if it scares Batman. Batman replies it does.
As they lean in for a kiss Catwoman pulls back at the last second and asks Batman why do they fight each other. Batman replies by saying Catwoman is a criminal. Catwoman retorts by mentioning that being a masked vigilante is not legal. Catwoman then uses a smoke bomb she stole from Batman’s utility belt to make her escape, much to Batman’s surprise.
Batman isn’t able to stop her and Catwoman is able to leave the mansion before the security system can be activated by Alfred. Batman turns around and notices the same mouse from earlier holding his mother’s pearl.
Sometime later Alfred puts the mouse back in it’s cage and sings a song while walking through the mansion. He suddenly hears a thump above him but decides to continue walking.
On the roof of the mansion Catwoman is about to break in again but stops when she notices Batman has already found her. Batman wonders why Catwoman keeps showing up in his life. Catwoman responds because he is weak and needs to become better, something she is trying to teach him.
Catwoman jumps over Batman while talking about how while he has mastered every skill imaginable under the mask he is still a rich boy living with pain alone in his house on the hill.
Batman chases after Catwoman while saying that she doesn’t know him. Catwoman says she knows enough.The chase goes into the woods with the two going back and forth leading to Catwoman saying they are the same.
Batman loses sight of Catwoman but finds the mouse from earlier.
Sometime later Catwoman gets back to her apartment and takes of her mask. Selina knows Batman is there and wonders how he found her. Batman says it was the mouse who turns out to be one of Selina’s pets.
Selina asks Batman why he kept letting her in. Taking off his cowl, Bruce says because sometimes he likes being alone and he ends up hating everything because he likes it. Selina knows he is talking about them both and understands that he gets her now.
Selina then asks if Bruce wants to help her. Bruce says he doesn’t and gives her a kiss.
Selina asks Bruce if he remembers the first time they met and if he ever thought they end up together. Bruce mentions the time on the boat when he saw her without her mask and thought how she was lovely. Selina smiles and says their first meeting was on the street. Bruce still says they met on the boat.
Years later while in a doctor’s office an older Bruce and Selina still argue about where they first met. Bruce says that he was sixteen he learned how to forever encode his senses on his mind. Selina says that is nice but that their first meeting was still on the street.
The doctor comes in with the results and apologizes for what she has to announce.
Later, Bruce and Selina with the former going over all the training he went through when he as younger. Selina stops walking and starts breaking down. Bruce hugs Selina and they continue walking down the street.
Later that night Batwoman (Helena Wayne) tells Selina that Zatanna says there is nothing left to do. Batwoman says that everyone has their time, including her dad (Bruce).
Batwoman sees the Batsignal in the sky. Selina tells her daughter to go do what she needs to do and that she understands since she is her dad’s wife. Batwoman says “Yes, mother” and swings away.
At Wayne Manor, Bruce tells Selina that there is probably another universe where he never go old, married, sick or anything and was always alone as Batman. Selina tells Bruce not to forget the light. Bruce then mentions that after what happens he wants Selina to find Barry and have him take her to that other him so she isn’t alone.
As they lay in bed together Selina says Bruce forgot the light. Bruce says he will turn it off in a second.
Sometime later Bruce is working out in the Batcave but has to stop as he starts severely coughing. Selina finds him and gives him a hug. Bruce asks if Selina is there to help him. Selina says she isn’t and gives him a kiss.
At a later date Selina tucks Bruce in as he just passed away with the Batman Family, what looks to be Jason Todd, Helena Wayne, Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Carrie Kelly, Duke Thomas, Stephanie Brown, Tim Drake and, who looks to be, Barry Allen, gather around him. Selina tells Bruce “Good night, Bat. I love you.”
Sometime later Selina walks around the Batcave and gets in the original Batmobile. There she finds a kitten with a note. The note is from Bruce and says “I love you too, Cat. From the first kiss to the last.” Selina hugs the kitten. End of issue.
The Good: Batman Annual #2 is a masterfully crafted comic book. From the writing to the artwork Tom King, Lee Weeks and Michael Lark combine their talents to tell an incredibly memorable Batman tale. This is everything that a Batman fan anyone could ask for. It is so well done that it feels like the ending the character has always deserved.
A key to the success of Batman Annual #2 is the fact that it is a direct pay off for the history between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Tom King has made Bruce and Selina’s relationship a key part of his run on Batman. These two have always been star crossed lovers and King has highlighted why they’ve never lasted before is because of who Bruce and Selina are as people. But now after what they’ve been through they both realized that they do truly love each other and that they must stop trying to put up walls to block themselves from being happy.
That sense of payoff to does not only extend to King’s work. King does a brilliant job integrating the long history of the two characters dating back from the old Earth-2 days were we saw the Bruce and Selina of that world get married and have a daughter together. Along with that King makes a concerted effort to use the old Batman and Catwoman costumes to highlight how long these two have been in each others lives. It is all nicely topped off with how we see the Helena Wayne character return in a Batman Beyond-esque Batwoman costume.
These homages, along with others, make Batman Annual #2 feel like it is a letter to long-time fans of the franchise. At the same time they are all subtle enough that they do not interfere with the one-shot nature of the story that makes it new reader friendly. King actually never gets lost in trying to insert all these old references into his story. Instead he uses all of these references as a way to enhance the core love story he is telling with Bruce and Selina at the center.
Additionally, King does a fantastic job using Selina’s pet mouse Poo as a metaphor for the cat and mouse game that Bruce and Selina played for such a long time as Batman and Catwoman. Poo showing up right after each meeting between Batman and Catwoman was just enough to show us how this was a game between the two. Even when Batman was overtly prepared for Catwoman to break in she found a way because Batman left an opening. That opening was all part of the greater game they played with each other.
And it was great to see that this all led to Catwoman calling Batman out on how he was subconsciously trying to let her into his life. Unlike his other villains, Batman never felt animosity for Catwoman from the beginning. Instead he felt an attraction from the first meeting even if he didn’t necessarily know how to express that. Catwoman identifying that right away showed how she was possibly better in touch with her feelings than Batman.
Helping enhance all of this was how King never through it in our face that Batman and Catwoman knew who the other was at this point in this career. Having the setting for the meetings in Wayne Manor was a good way to hint at the two know each other’s identities without making it a big deal. This made the final confrontation with Bruce and Selina each taking off their masks feel like a natural progression of the story.
Along with that we got to see King pay off the ongoing subplot of how Bruce and Selina first met, which has been a long running joke in his run, and make it even more meaningful . Having the future part of the story based around Bruce’s fading memory was incredibly powerful. And it was great to see how King went about teasing Bruce being the one that was showing signs that he was coming to the end of his life through his explanation about his past memory training. This made the signs of Bruce mind actually slipping even more noticeable when they occurred.
Bruce slow descent before he passed away further went to show how Selina was really the heart of Batman Annual #2. Seeing Selina actually breakdown after the doctor’s appointment made Bruce’s fate feel heartbreaking. Having a loved one pass away is never an easy thing to accept. Selina’s journey in accepting Bruce’s final fate was a good showing off that, with the conversation with their daughter, Helena Wayne, going to show that there is still a tomorrow.
This made the moment where Bruce finally passed away surrounded by the Batman Family a memorable scene. And capping it off with Bruce’s final letter and gift to Selina was a good way to return to the memory and one upmanship game the two played with each other their entire life. Having that ending be set in the Batcave inside the original Batmobile further enhanced the effectiveness of the ending and how it tugged at the reader’s heartstrings.
As a Batman fan it was an incredible thing to see how Batman Annual #2 came together to treat us to an ending for Bruce Wayne that wasn’t plagued in tragedy. At this point that is something as Batman fans we have been trained to believe since up until now Bruce has never allowed himself to live a truly happy life. King turning that on its head by showing us how Bruce’s life doesn’t have to end in a tragedy was wonderfully unexpected. It goes to show how as he ages and surrounds himself with a family he can move past the moment he thought Bruce Wayne stopped existing and Batman was born. There is room for both and now is a time to see what that type of life with Bruce and Batman coexisting looks like.
To go along with King’s wonderful story was the equally phenomenal artwork Lee Weeks and Michael Lark provided Batman Annual #2. For the main story Weeks was able to bring out a feeling that we were reading a classic Batman story with how he designed the characters to be in their original costumes. In using the original Batman and Catwoman costumes Weeks was able to create a more fluid looking issue as he had less to worry about in making the designs as intricate as their modern-day costumes. This only put further emphasis how well Weeks executed the facial reactions of the characters to match what King’s dialogue was looking to accomplish.
Furthermore, Lark provided equally excellent visuals for the future story. Lark made enough adjustments to make the story feel like it is taking place in the future without going overboard with making Gotham City seem like the Blade Runner future from Batman Beyond. Instead Lark just made subtle adjustments, like giving Helena Wayne a Batman Beyond-esque Batwoman costume, to show how this is a future Gotham. Similarly, Lark nailed all the facial reactions to enhance the dramatic moments as we saw Bruce’s final days passing by.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Batman Annual #2 is a masterfully executed comic book by Tom King, Lee Weeks and Michael Lark. The three come together to put a finely assembled package that acts as a love letter to Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s relationship. At the same time King, Weeks and Lark crafted a story that could easily lead any fan more than satisfied if this is the true end of Batman. Even if that is not the case the fact that Batman Annual #2 can elicit such a feeling just further proves how exceptional the entire comic book is from beginning to end.