Do you want to know how I, Julius “Left-Eye” Malone, Acerodon jubatus of the Coalition for Bat-God Purists, got this eyepatch? That’s a story for another time, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s because I’m a romantic at heart — a difficult mentality to maintain when you’re perhaps the most zealous Batman fan in history. Nonetheless, for a character so steeped in notions of darkness and reprisal in perpetuity, do we not rejoice when the Dark Knight experiences a little bit of happiness?
In the last issue of Batman, at the conclusion of a swordfight to the death between his new fiancee Catwoman and the mother of his child Talia al Ghul, we saw what was perhaps our biggest indicator of Batman’s happiness yet: his own admission of it.
Or the closest thing we’re gonna get.
Whether you “ship” Bat and Cat or not, writer Tom King has made it evident that the two’s relationship likely won’t be some passing phase in his planned hundred issue run. Now he’s once again collaborating with Lee Weeks, the very same artist from the surprisingly outstanding Batman/Elmer Fudd Special to present Batman Annual #2, wherein we witness “the early days of Bat and Cat” and “Bruce and Selina’s first date.” And I’m happy to say, it’s one of the most romantic Batman stories I’ve ever read.
I’m a man who has been in his fair share of relationships, good and bad. (Again, the whole eyepatch thing.) That being said, I’ve never had a woman, much less a cat-burgling prospective wife, rappel into my secret lair, commandeer my heavily-armored, weaponized car and then crash it into the side of an occupied bar for the sole purpose of getting my attention. Not yet anyways. But that’s exactly how Batman Annual #2 kicks off. And it’s glorious. What follows is a timeline (over the years) of compelling confrontations between Batman and his (still unbeknownst to them) future fiancee, Catwoman, including a mischievous chase scene through Wayne Manor; a rain-soaked rooftop battle that borders on the balletic; a sentimental showdown beside a locked safe containing a single pearl from the necklace Martha Wayne wore the night she was murdered and an amorous “finale” that brings all the narrative’s constituents together in wonderful form.
I say “finale” because if King had ended the story there it would have been very effective. Instead, he offers us a glimpse into the future, where Bat and Cat are married; where they have a grown child; where the problems they face together might seem ostensibly mundane in comparison with saving the world but nevertheless hit you right in the feels harder than any gut-punch from a Venom-charged Bane ever could.
The rooftop battle might be contentious among fans because of how naifish it makes Batman seem, if even for a moment. But I consider it one of the most touching scenes in the story.
“Why?” Batman asks of Catwoman, who has sneaked into Wayne Manor for the third time in, what at this point, seems like excessive intent to aggravate.
“Mmm…” Catwoman says, looking around in the rainblown air. “Isn’t it obvious? I have to make you better. I have to teach you where you’re weak. Or you’re going to die.”
Whether a man wants to admit it or not, King exposes here an important facet of love: a woman who is willing to push her significant other to being better.
A lot of credit must go to artists Lee Weeks and Michael Lark and colorists Elizabeth Breitweiser and June Chung for their visuals. Weeks has a style that’s reminiscent of a grittier, thicker-lined John Romita Sr. The man just draws traditionally sound, powerful comic book art that’s never too distracting or over the top — and truly resonates to boot. Some of the more emotional scenes are complemented by the air of realism and authenticity that the art presents, including various facial expressions, lighting and striking composition. Bottom line: Batman Annual #2 is just a great looking book from start to finish.
Some standout visuals include the close-up of Catwoman taking the wheel in the newly purloined Batmobile:
This is pretty much what I looked like coloring the Batman Annual. Pedal to the metal having an absolute blast. Thanks to @Inkdropinc, @TomKingTK & @jamieESrich for letting me tag along! pic.twitter.com/suTYpgx10k
— Elizabeth Breitweiser (@bettieb) November 14, 2017
The following page where Batman interrogates an upside down thug on the leftmost panel alongside panels of Catwoman screeching through the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile on the right:
And the amazing rooftop scene that I described above as “borderline balletic”:
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) November 24, 2017
Is It Good?
A touching work that deftly captures the myriad facets of love, from euphoria and bliss to frustration to, by issue’s end, its inevitable evanescence. Batman Annual #2 is a heart-rending opus from King and Weeks that deserves its place in the upper echelon of Batman works.