You, you got what I need but you say he’s just a friend
And you say he’s just a friend, oh baby
You, you got what I need but you say he’s just a friend — Steve Trevor, at home during the events of Batman #39 and #40, curled in a hermetic ball on his couch, listening to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”. (Probably.)
You’re wondering if they went through with it, aren’t you, you nosy little pervert?
You’re wondering if Batman and Wonder Woman, seconds away from lip-locking at the conclusion to Batman #39, actually gave in to their carnal desires and kissed. If they violated the sanctity of their respective relationships after being stranded together in an alternate dimension battling the endless monster hordes of Gehenna; with only each other to turn to for comfort, for warmth, in those ten long years of perpetual fighting, near-death experiences and mental anguish, unsure of when and if they’d ever again know the touch of another living, breathing human being.
All you BatCat shippers and WonderSteve advocates with your pitchforks in one hand and your “Superheroes aren’t philanderers” picket signs in the other.
Warning: Spoiler alert
Well, rest easy. Because in Batman #40, part four of the “SuperFriends” storyline, Batman and Wonder Woman don’t cross that line. (The preview for the issue could’ve told you that much.)
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I think some of us owe Batman writer Tom King an apology. Or at least an admission of presumptuous, jumping-the-gun asininity.
Like I said in my Batman #39 review, “… the kiss between Batman and Wonder Woman will almost surely be something that either doesn’t happen or actually ends up reinforcing the fact that the two warriors, though kindred spirits, don’t share “true feelings” for one another.”
So yeah, King gave us a little fake-out makeout action. Comic book fans nearly lost their shit over it. But who among us can say King’s narrative didn’t have us fiending to find out what happened in Batman #40? (And isn’t that what we want in a comic book? Something that gifts us with the overwhelming desire to find out what happens next?)
Again from my review of last issue:
Batman #39[‘s]… narrative is difficult to judge on a single issue basis. We’ll need to see the conclusion next issue to see whether characterization inconsistencies and insufficiencies were due to seeing only one face of the overall prism or if the whole thing was merely for soap operatic shock value.
Next time, let’s ride out both parts of our Bat-scribe’s proposed two-part story and not act like the sky is falling in part one. Because taken as a whole, King’s narrative is a fun, intriguing exploration of loyalty as it pertains to both romance and friendship, the agony of putting one’s duty before love and how much more onerous a hero’s obligation becomes when it means leaving a loved one behind.
It’s easy to liken the Gentle Man, the eternal warrior with whom Batman and Wonder Woman have temporarily switched places to a soldier who has left home to fight for their country. We meet the wife he’s left behind in one of the issue’s most emotional scenes; the Gentle Man is a self-sacrificing hero, yes, literally combatting monsters spawned from the eternal sins of man — but his wife Angela is no slouch.
“I made full detective, fastest in my class,” she says as they cuddle together on the couch, teary-eyed. The Gentle Man, or Julian, as we come to find out he’s named, can only sit and watch. Listen. Watching the words leave her lips once more, mesmerized by a beauty, tangible once more — if only for a few more fleeting moments — he’ll soon be forced to leave behind again. Later, when he’s pulled reluctantly from the life he once knew, he confesses something to Selina that forces her to empathize. “Because it has been so many years. Of blood. Killing. All these demons. And I could not live one day more… without her.”
Joelle Jones (pencils, inks) and Jordie Bellaire’s (colors) are once again nothing short of spectacular. From the striking cover to the burning orange glow of the cavefire around which Batman and Wonder Woman’s forehead-touching, eye-locked “will they, won’t they?” kiss revolves in the opening scene, to the looks of surprise on Julian’s wife’s face when she answers the door and bliss on Wonder Woman’s when she’s engrossed in battle — the art in this issue is awesome, top to bottom. Jones and Bellaire are top tier talents in the comic book game and this issue further solidifies me as their Stan. (More of them in Batman, please.)
If the characterization and dialogue for Wonder Woman seemed odd in places last issue, with Batman #40, King is exonerated: every character comes away from this issue bolstered — even more morally upstanding and yes, more heroic than before. Batman is a character who has been around for nearly 80 years, one etched in the modern mythos. We learn by the end of Batman #40 that he’s been away with Wonder Woman, a goddess, in the alternate dimension for twenty-seven years. Still, his loyalty to Catwoman doesn’t waver. One is forced to wonder how that compares to Odysseus, protagonist of Homeric epic The Odyssey, gone only twenty years from Ithaca, wife Penelope at home, who sleeps with the goddess Circe and the goddess Calypso during his adventures.
That’s right. Tom King just made Batman more loyal than the hero of the most fundamental work in Western canon. Catwoman’s devotion too is proven infallible: like Penelope did for Odysseus, she holds it down for Batman the entire time.
Bat and Cat are set to marry in Batman #50, so long as the Joker doesn’t somehow manage to fuck things up. (He tends to do that from time to time.) After all we’ve seen Selina now do for Bruce — swordfighting Talia in Batman #35, sneaking into Wayne Manor/The Bat-Cave in Batman Annual #2 and now earning Wonder Woman’s respect in this issue — King has me believing not even the Joker can tear Bat and Cat’s love apart.
Steve Trevor, hold ya head up. Batman really is just a friend.