It’s Catwoman versus The Joker, with Batman’s life in the balance. Will Selena succeed where her fiance failed? Your Major Spoilers review of Batman #49 awaits!
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: June Chung
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: June 20, 2018
Previously in Batman: Batman and Catwoman are finally going to get married, but before that can happen, she has to rescue her Bat-Beau from the clutches of The Joker…
A DESPERATE BATTLE
With Batman paralyzed by a dose of toxin, Catwoman finds herself face to face with the Joker… and his .44 caliber revolver. Engaging him with her bullwhip, Selena holds her own, even striking a direct hit to his jugular vein, just as he shoots her in the side. Both fall, and both are forced to hold their wounds closed for fear of bleeding to death. Thus begins a long and involved conversation ranging from why The Penguin has an umbrella to The Riddler’s sideburns to the real question at the heart of their conflict: Why does Batman love her and not love Joker? It’s a pretty bold storytelling choice, to be honest, as most of the issue is spent with Selena and Joker lying on a nicely rendered pile of bricks, talking like old colleagues. Joker wants to know why she never laughed in “the old days”, Catwoman admits that she stole her wedding gown… There’s a level of intimacy to it all that is really sort of sweet, but incredibly off-putting. Joker even asks her to help him reload, so he can shoot her in the face and make Batman suffer, but Catwoman explains to him that his focus on making Batman suffer is part of the problem. Finally, after all conversational avenues are exhausted, The Joker decides to rise up, reloading his gun as he bleeds to death, telling her that she has to die, because if Batman is happy, it’s just no fun.
A DESPERATE CONVERSATION?
There are three big issues with Batman #49 that interfered with my enjoyment of what the creative team is trying to do with this issue. The first is one of subtlety, as clearly King is going for one of those Alan Moore “conversations that reveal things and work on two levels” situations, but doesn’t quite have the chops. Both Joker and Catwoman flat out TELL each other the themes of the story, including her asking him if Riddler’s theory that he’s pretending to be a wacky insane guy is true. In return, Joker explicitly states “He can’t be happy and also be Batman,” a theorem that I do not support, and one that has been detrimental for DC in recent years. I do enjoy the art, though Janin’s figures feel stiff and overly-posed, especially in the facial expressions throughout the conversation. Catwoman’s eyeroll about Riddler’s sideburn problems is really effective, though her laugh in the final panels comes with an utterly horrifying facial expression that bothers me. I hope it was intentionally creepy looking. By far the biggest problem for me, though, is just a logistical one: This is clearly written with the intention of being a definitive, “final” Joker story. It even makes a swipe at answering the questions about his true nature, but there are three Jokers at large in the DCU, making the premise feel pointless to me.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT FOR ME
All in all, it’s not a bad comic book, but there are a number of questions and minor flaws that made it less enjoyable for me. Batman #49 has the makings of an issue for the ages, but falls prey to over-explaining, breaks the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ adage and has just enough wobbles in the art to bother me as a reader, earning a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. This issue also introduces some doubt into whether the planned wedding will actually happen at all, which may be good news or bad, depending on where you stand, but the execution here just wasn’t up to the strength of the central conceit…
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