Batman #78 & 79: BatCat In Paradise

Batman #78 and #79

Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom King (writer), Clay Mann (artist/inker), Seth Mann (inker), Tomeu Morey (colorist),
DC Comics
September 11, 2019 and September 18, 2019

Batman #78 and #79 bring us paradise, romance, and more, as Catwoman gets Batman back into fighting shape!

I have to admit, I was skeptical when I first read Batman #78. It felt like DC was playing it safe on dodging the plotline of Bane’s horrific Gotham takeover, considering the release date of the comic. After the last issue, and the horrific final pages, it didn’t feel appropriate to suddenly get swept away to the sun and sand of some tropical resort. Especially when Bruce is sporting some mustachioed Magnum, P.I. secret identity, and Selina tries to train him back into shape to take back Gotham.

Cover for Batman #78 - Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom King (writer), Clay Mann (artist/inker), Seth Mann (inker), Tomeu Morey (colorist), DC Comics September 11, 2019 - Batman and Catwoman pose in a rainy night with the bat-signal in the background
Overall, it felt like too much of a palate cleanser, and I was concerned that Tom King would use it as another way to bypass the concept of dealing with Bruce’s feelings. After all, we’re continually brought into a world where Bruce’s greatest fears are put on display, where he has to make deep and challenging choices, where loved ones die, and everything gets subverted through angry Batman. Or shelved entirely.

I’m still skeptical that we’re going to see any deep emotional moves made throughout the last run of the comic, but one thing is clear: King really does enjoy writing the BatCat romance. Unfortunately for me, it’s just starting to feel a bit played out.

In both issue #78 and #79 we see Bruce and Selina debating whether they met on the street or the boat, and there’s a lot of pining. I think the biggest frustration for me about this is how much it devalues their love, and also their characters. Bruce makes grandiose statements about his love (Magnum, P.I. mustache and all), while Selina dodges the questions, and never really says why she left Bruce or what her motives are.

Panels depicting Batman and Catwoman working out on the beach
Page from Batman #79 by Tom King and Clay Mann.

Ultimately, it feels like it was done to create drama, angst, and very loose plot threads without ever being accounted for. I want to know how Thomas influenced Selina so greatly, or more so, how he didn’t. It’s unfortunate that a competent decision to abandon the world’s richest manchild on a rooftop has been subjugated to a manipulation from a super villain without any real explanation of how that even happened. Hopefully some of that gets addressed in Batman/Catwoman when it launches, but until then, it does feel a bit lacklustre and repetitive.

Of course, Clay Mann’s art is really wonderful, and a deep juxtaposition to the previous artist’s utilization of negative space. Mann utilizes the whole page and panel, and creates moving and busy backdrops for Selina and Bruce as they work through how to save Gotham and enjoy a vacation before returning to the dark and dreary Gotham.

Which of course brings us the revelation of the end of Batman #79: that our character death scare may have been just that. It concludes with Bruce sending Damian into the lion’s den of Gotham for intel, and with everyone’s favourite British butler alive for another day.

Overall, the issues were alright, a way to cleanse the palette before entering the final stages of “City of Bane.” It felt slow-paced at times, without any real emotional relevance other than setting up Selina and Bruce as love interests again. I wish there had been more conflict, more discussions, and more emotions beyond elated pining and romantic ideals. Something to make the last twenty-five-plus issues feel like they were worth the strife.

As we go into the last handful of issues, my hope is that the story goes beyond a simple smash-’em-up dungeon crawl of Gotham City’s worst villains, and establishes some deeper risks and dynamics. Based on King’s track record, it seems potentially unlikely, but I do miss the narrative weight we’ve seen in previous issues, and I hope that he brings it back in spades.