By Alex Batts — Up until this point, the City of Bane story arc has been pedal to the metal, full force insanity. This week’s Batman #78, however, puts on cruise control, sending readers on a semi-vacation with Batman and Catwoman. It’s a welcome break in pace, which keeps things interesting. Tom King is joined by frequent collaborators Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey on art duties, with Clayton Cowles on letters. This interlude — I’m not sure it’s officially called an interlude but I’m rolling with that — does something similar to the Kite-Man interludes in The War of Jokes and Riddles arc, in that both serve as a break from fast-paced high octane action while also lending it all an incredible amount of emotional weight.
*Spoilers for Batman #78 follow. For final thoughts and a numbered rating, check out the OVERALL section at the bottom of this review*
Last time we saw Batman and Catwoman they were in Paris, having just donned their full costumes, with Selina saying she was going to show Batman how to take back their city. Before I get into where they are now, I have to mention the opening page of the issue, which features an amazing recreation of the first-ever interaction between Batman and Catwoman, way back in 1940’s Batman #1. Throughout King’s run, Batman and Catwoman have argued about where they first met, whether it was on a boat or on the street. The boat is the first published meeting between the two in 1940, and the street is the canonical first meeting of the two in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One from 1987. So technically they’re both right, given the larger continuity-blurring events at play after the Rebirth relaunch and within Doomsday Clock.
Putting aside the semantics of who’s correct, the back and forth between the duo has given us playful and heartwarming interplay over the course of King’s run. Batman insists it was the boat while Catwoman insists it was the street. The bickering has also allowed for stellar artistic recreations of iconic scenes, with the image of Batman removing Catwoman’s bandages being masterfully recreated by Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey in this issue. King even keeps the exact same dialogue from their first meeting, bringing even more nostalgia and heart to the recreation. Mann’s rendition of the classic looks of these two characters is perfect, and Morey’s colors elevate everything.
While I’m on the subject of the art, Mann and Morey’s work in this issue is nothing short of transcendent. We see Bruce and Selina in a pseudo vacation on an unspecified island, awaiting someone who is apparently the only way to defeat Bane. Though the pair are there for a mission, they have some downtime, and we see them enjoying life on a luxurious and beautiful island. We see the pair doing normal couple activities outside their costumes, and then also doing extraordinary couple activities suited up. I’m not sure if Batman and Catwoman have ever looked this good. Every panel of every page is stunning. Mann’s linework, composition, and just pure talent are outstanding. While Morey’s colors are on a completely unheard-of level, perfectly complimenting it all. Everything is brought to life so vividly you feel you can reach out and touch it. There’s a particular sunset beach scene that is so jaw-dropping I struggle to find the correct words to compliment it. Just, please, buy this issue for the art alone, I promise it’s worth it.
Though the art easily steals the spotlight, King’s writing remains strong as ever. Throughout these couples moments, we get Bruce and Selina opening up, as much as they can, about what’s happened between them. They clearly still love each other, but they are unwilling to fully give in to it because of how things ended up last time (see Batman #50). You can feel the love and pain each of them harbors. Catwoman is training Bruce to get his fight back after being so utterly defeated, and Bruce is admitting to himself, and Selina, that he was wrong about not being able to hold anyone above his sacred vow.
There are a handful of other callbacks to moments in King’s run, too. We see Selina quoting lines from Bruce’s letter to her during I Am Suicide, and, of course, there are mentions of what happened between the famous proposal and the shocking events of issue #50. Everything in King’s run has been building to these moments, and they hit even harder because of it. Finally, we see Batman fully embrace his need, want, and love for Catwoman as the pair are wholly reunited. It’s a stand-up and cheer moment that has honestly been worth the wait and build-up, and it couldn’t have been drawn and colored more beautifully.
Overall: Batman #78 is a timely break from action, an emotionally resonant and visually-perfect vacation with Batman and Catwoman. King has built to this from the start, and Mann and Morey help flawlessly execute a pivotal chapter in this run. 10/10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
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Alex Batts is from Texas. A lifelong comic book enthusiast and movie lover, if he’s not talking about comics, he’s probably not talking. You can find him on Twitter by following @BatmanFiles