SYNOPSIS: In the first part of a “City of Bane” interlude, Batman receives help from an ally he thought he had lost for good: Catwoman! Still recovering from the beatings he took from Bane and Flashpoint Batman, the Dark Knight readies himself for a return to Gotham City, and it’s Selina Kyle who holds the key. She knows how Bane is fueling his regime, and she’ll help Batman shut down the supply line-but first she has to whip the battered hero into shape.
If you’re waiting for the fallout from that huge, crazy, terrible thing that happened right in front of young Damian Wayne’s eyes near the end of BATMAN #77, you won’t find it in #78. Nor will it be mentioned or even alluded to. (Which makes me even more convinced that it’s a cruel ruse being used against Damian by Bane and Thomas Wayne, who have so many illusionists, hallucinogens, mind-benders, and shape-shifters at their disposal.) Instead, we pick up on Selina Kyle’s promise to mentor a broken Bruce Wayne in the ways of revenge.
But it won’t happen in Paris, where Bruce spent way too many issues passed out on a couch. Nor will it happen in Gotham City (of Bane), which is depicted on both covers being shipped with this issue. Rather, BATMAN #78 begins on the beach in front of the King Kamehameha Club in Hawaii, undoubtedly a nod to MAGNUM, P.I., whose mustache resembles the one being worn by the man who just checked in to room 1048: It’s Matches Malone, and Matches isn’t alone.
Selina and Bruce are finally having the conversations they’ve needed to engage in since they stopped being engaged; Tom King’s writing nimbly imbues their repartee with honesty and humanity, even if I don’t entirely buy their unspoken pact of separate rooms and celibacy. And why Hawaii? According to Bruce, the only thing that can beat Bane is coming to this beach in a few days, and by taking it, he’ll be able to take back Gotham. Maybe.
In the meantime, is Selina’s presence a deadly distraction to a healing heart, or the spark they’ve both convinced themselves they can’t pursue, no matter how much they want and need to? This seemingly eternal dance would have gotten old a long time ago if King didn’t write it so damn well, and I remain invested, though I understand why some readers are getting antsy.
King’s script is smart and heartfelt, but the real star here is the art by Clay Mann with colors by Tomeu Morey. Looking at this book is like watching an Instagram story of Bruce’s and Selina’s Hawaiian vacation/training session, with Mann powerfully portraying the beaches and bodies (and actions and emotions) and Morey magically capturing the lighting of midnight campfires, sunny dawns, dazzling dusks, and every time of day in between. Things get particularly effective when the artists lace light with shadow or add little details like the water droplet that runs along the nose of Batman’s cowl like a tear. (Though it’s missing several panels of Bat and Cat against a sunset that King Tweeted last week; I’m curious where that panel and scene would have fit had it actually appeared here.) This is one of the most beautiful issues yet of a comic that’s looking nothing but fabulous since it began and keeps getting better. It also promises good things for the Batman/Catwoman series Mann will be drawing for King when the current run in this bookends.
As I said, don’t expect resolution or mention of that awful thing that (seemingly) happened in Wayne Manor the last issue. Either way, I hope you’ll savor this tropical detour as much as I did. – John Bierly