I’ve been out of the Batman readerverse for a while, but I jumped back in with Batman Vol. 6 to see what the Tom King buzz was all about. This graphic novel includes many women from Batman’s life: Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman, of course. Although this collection from DC Comics didn’t give Selina Kyle much to do, it was still fun.
This volume covers issues 38-44 of Batman, but the stories were easy to pick up midstream. First off was a twisty tale about an orphaned boy who wants to be Bruce Wayne. At first, it seems that Batman relates to him too. After all other adults in his life are gone, Batman figures out what’s truly disturbing about this child, and denies him the path he wants. Bye, kid.
Now for the good stuff! Next, we have “The Gentle Man,” where Batman and Wonder Woman follow up on a promise to give a warrior a well-earned night off from fighting demonic hordes for thousands of years. Turns out, time works differently in his realm because he’s only been gone for a year in Earth time, and he wants to see his girlfriend. But while he’s doing that, Batman and Wonder Woman are trapped in the other realm, and time passes. Catwoman figures out what could happen between the superheroes, and wonders if Bat will be faithful to her. After all, when you spend twenty years fighting demons together and there’s no one else around, how long will you keep those promises to your fiancé? It was more of a love story than I was expecting in Batman, but King did an amazing job, and I laughed out loud at some of Wonder Woman’s remarks about Batman’s tiny pointy ears and how odd any man looks holding a weapon from an Amazon’s point of view.
In the multi-part “Everyone Loves Ivy,” Poison Ivy returns and takes over the minds of everyone in the world, except for Batman, who administers the antidote to himself and Catwoman. She listens, watches, and talks to them through different people, from Alfred to Superman, but she promises to leave them alone if they stay at Wayne Manor.
Of course, they can’t, and they interrupt her in her plans to dominate and heal the world. She retaliates by having Superman punch Batman, and then brings Bat back to life through plant magic. Eventually, Bat and Cat figure out what she’s really doing, trying to heal the world because she can’t reconcile the deaths she caused while working with the Riddler. Instead of simply punching his way through a problem, though, Batman seems to have grown during his time with Catwoman, and realizes Ivy needs to heal herself. The best way to do that is with love, and he manages to break her worldwide spell long enough to get the one person to her that can help: Harley Quinn.
I truly loved this story because it showed nuances of these characters and a self-awareness of their own world that we usually don’t see. Also, Mikel Janin and Joelle Jones did an amazing job on the art, depicting Poison Ivy in an almost photorealistic way, out of step with everyone else until the very end.
The volume wraps up with “Bride or Burglar,” a sentimental and very meta tale exploring Batman and Catwoman’s relationship throughout the comics.
Selina Kyle slips out of Wayne Manor in the middle of the night and breaks into a bridal shop to do a little shopping. As she does this, we see the relationship of Bat and Cat, back and forth, sweet and sour, in snippets from their past. They trap and release each other, or give the other the slip, numerous times in costumes from every decade, as their relationship builds. It’s a very nostalgic piece, and I was totally there for it, especially this bit of dialogue:
“What if we change again? What if this doesn’t work?”
“Oh Bat. It just seems like we’re changing, because we’re always looking. But if we’re always looking then we’re not at all changing.”
A lovely note to end this volume on, especially if you’ve already read the issues after it and know what comes next. Batman and Catwoman are both dark and light, in an eternal dance.
Disclaimer: This writer received an ARC for review purposes.