Ricky Church reviews Batman #49…
The penultimate issue to Batman and Catwoman’s wedding has arrived with the bride-to-be facing off against The Joker in a confrontation that writer Tom King manages to subvert in several ways. Batman #49 is easily one of the best issues in King’s run to date by heavily emphasizing Catwoman and Joker’s character and history.
King begins the issue by subverting what many fans surely expected as Catwoman rushed into the church to save Batman. Instead of showing a drawn out fight between Catwoman and Joker, the fight is over very quickly and results in both wounding the other, possibly fatally. Much like Batman #48, this is a dialogue-heavy issue but, unlike the previous story, Joker and Catwoman share an equal amount of lines as they converse with each other while lying wounded on the floor, trying to prevent themselves from bleeding out. It’s a very interesting and risky concept, but King takes the opportunity to highlight the shared history between these two rogues.
Very few comics throughout Batman’s history have ever had Catwoman and Joker spend much time together, especially in the manner as they do here. There is a closeness revealed to the pair as they reminisce about the old days and who they consider their closest with among the rogues gallery. There talk seems fairly sincere and cordial despite the fact Joker still wishes to kill Selina. It’s also interesting to note that he seems much more ‘normal’ than he did in the previous issue. Whether that’s due to his injuries or because he just loves putting on a show for Batman is debatable, but it’s an interesting and subtle factor in King’s writing of the Clown Prince.
The big topic of conversation was around, obviously, Batman and how well Catwoman and Joker truly know him. Catwoman thinks it’s her of course since she is the only person among the rogues who gets to see behind the mask and know Batman on a deeply personal level while Joker believes it’s him because, as his archnemesis, he gives Batman meaning. It certainly is true that there can be no Joker without Batman (that much is said even by Joker himself as he tells Selina he “needs” Batman to pummel him) and while the opposite can’t be said with full confirmation, Joker makes a case for why Batman needs him. It’s something King has touched on in recent issues of Batman as we edge closer to the wedding, but he asks fans again, through The Joker no less, can Bruce Wayne still be Batman if he’s happy? It’s an interesting question, but the fact that even Joker can see it could possibly change the world in a negative way is telling.
For an issue which features the primary character lying on the floor for the majority of its length, that can seem like a pretty boring story to see visually yet Mikel Janin really makes the artwork evocative and stunning. He puts a lot of work into the facial expressions on Catwoman and Joker and plays with the layouts of the page. Whether it’s flipping Joker upside down or giving a full page of the pair’s faces lying next to each other as if they were cloudgazing, he does a lot of make the story visually interesting despite their mostly prone forms. The close-ups are particularly nice on the pair and Janin sells the emotion from them, such as Joker’s smile as he claims he knows Batman the best or Catwoman seriously pondering Joker’s question about Batman’s happiness.
Batman #49 is a stellar issue with King successfully deconstructing two of Batman’s oldest foes. There is a surprising chemistry between Catwoman and Joker that is believable and emotional and King taps into it well. Janin’s art is great even with the two lying on the floor and the final images of the issue are not only haunting, but call into question just what will happen in the big wedding issue. It’s just a couple weeks to see if Batman and Catwoman really do tie the knot or if Joker managed to succeed in calling off the wedding, but whatever the outcome, King has left fans with a great issue that leaves you wanting more.