This year’s Batman annual focuses, yet again on the relationship between the Bat and the Cat,. I say yet again because this has been the thrust of the man Batman book for a while now. Still, this time around, we have more of a fairy tale story, almost in a “It’s a Wonderful Life” fashion. All we need at the end of this book is a little bell ringing.
From the outset this book reminds me of the classic Legends of the Dark Knight book that came out in the very late 80’s. For those not in know, the book was centered on the early life of Bruce and his costumed alter ego. This time we get to see the attraction between these two characters grow, through the one up woman ship games of Catwoman, although I am not sure it can be classified as a game when only one person is playing. Through her, we get to see a Batman that is capable, yet also not quite the real deal that we have come to know and love. A great example of this is Catwoman’s plan of egress in to which Bruce seamlessly becomes a part off. From there the attraction grows and we get to see their lives almost lived.
I have been critical of Tom King’s run on Batman; the monosyllabic way the two lovers talk, with an almost disinterest is one factor. Pacing has, for me, been a bit of a problem. Still as this is a self-contained book, there is no real reason to worry about the latter. The former, well, Bruce isn’t at the height of his prowess so it’s safe to assume that he his still developing his all-knowing scowly voice and the ability to say so much by saying so little. The plot is relatively effortless, truth be told. There is no major crossover, there is no Metal interaction; it is what I have been waiting for the Batman book to become – a decent story focussed on Bruce and his world rather than the endless stream of his world and Bruce that we seems to get month in, month out.
As impressive as King’s writing is in this annual, no one can state that Lee Week’s does not deliver his “A” game. Weeks who recently took on the art chores of Batman vs Elmer Fudd, delivers a book that is pure 30’s – 40’s gangster kitsch, with classic lines, strong jaws, the hint of curves and the shadows that seem the envelope all involved. This book goes to show that Batman doesn’t need a “flash-bang” artist and that a more aged style can still look fantastic. Weeks mixes up panel structure, moving from overlaid panels to nine panels to a gorgeous splash set on the top of Wayne Manor. Michael Lark tackles the final pages of the book, for some reason. It may have been thought that a different style could effectively mark the passage of time, and I understand the logic. But for me, I am not sure it works that well. With two artists comes two colorists, both of whom are fantastic. First up is Elizabeth Breitweiser who delivers a muted scheme that is as bold as it is dark, encapsulating a perfect Gotham city. June Chung helps out Lark’s pencils, giving the final pages an almost antiseptic feel, appropriately, before revisiting the books earlier tone.
Fanboys and fangirls have made their feeling known about the union of the Bat and the Cat; she is a criminal, she shouldn’t be able to beat Talia; Bruce should be with (insert name here) instead. Historically, these two have a long and entwined past together and everyone should realise that this pairing may be writer Tom King’s personal favourite and his opportunity to add something that will be long serving to the bat mythos, in much the same way that Snyder’ Signal has become so prominent. In addition, regarding their relationship, DC are behind it, with it popping up in a range of books including Birds of Prey in main continuity and in Batman Dark Prince Charming. It is even hinted at in the trailers for the upcoming Gotham by Gaslight animated movie. When their story is as well produced as this book, who can really argue with Tom King?
Writing – 5 Stars
Art (Weeks) – 5 Stars
Art (Lark) – 4 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars
Written by; Tom King
Art by; Lee Weeks & Michael Lark
Colors by; Elizabeth Breitweiser & June Chung
Published by; DC Comics