Ricky Church reviews Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3…
With Batman’s marriage proposal to Catwoman and her subsequent acceptance, Tom King uses the stories in Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 to explore their upcoming nuptials and the reactions of their family and friends. King presents some good stories filled with great chemistry between Batman and Catwoman, though some of the supporting cast feel a little out of character at times. Despite this, the stories collected are entertaining with a fair bit of balance of King’s trademark levity and character introspection.
Unlike the first two volumes of the Rebirth Deluxe Editions, the latest volume doesn’t feature a couple long stories, but several short stories that are done in two or three issues. The longest stories presented are ‘Rules of Engagement’ and ‘Everyone Loves Ivy’ while Batman Annual #2 and a couple guest appearances by Superman and Wonder Woman and solo stories for both Batman and Catwoman fill out the rest of the book. None of the stories really intertwine with each other save for the fact that it examines Batman and Catwoman’s relationship from a different viewpoint. Out of them all, ‘Rules of Engagement’ might be the most exciting story of the bunch as the betrothed pair confront Talia al Ghul halfway across the world and fight hordes of her soldiers.
Coming immediately off the heels of their engagement, much of this story is how the extended Bat-family react to the big news, but King places significance on how Dick and Damian handle it. Dick’s explanation for why Batman wants to settle down – with a criminal no less – offers some intriguing insight into Batman’s mindset, though King doesn’t quite capture Damian’s voice. Dick’s opinion, though, certainly builds off some story points revealed in The Button and the previous Deluxe Edition volume as Batman searches for new meaning in his life. ‘Rules of Engagement’ also features an intense duel between Catwoman and Talia where King examines the dichotomy between them and their love for Batman. King writes their conflict well and gives Catwoman a couple great moments that shows how she’s not blind to the possibility their marriage won’t work out because of her belief she, and Talia for that matter, will always come second to Batman’s sense of justice and duty.
In between ‘Rules of Engagement’ and ‘Everyone Loves Ivy’ is a set of stories where Batman and Catwoman meet Superman and Wonder Woman in some pretty entertaining moments. The double date with Superman and Lois Lane is pretty fun and one of the book’s highlights, especially as the two superheroes swap costumes at a costumed fair and Lois and Selina get some one-on-one time to discuss married life with a superhero. There’s some great banter between the characters, such as Batman and Superman debating whether or not Batman could hit a baseball thrown with all of Superman’s strength, but in particular Catwoman and Lois as King creates great chemistry between them. While King’s story with Wonder Woman is good, its less memorable because Batman and Wonder Woman are isolated from all the other characters as they are trapped in another dimension living out hundreds of years. The idea of Batman and Wonder Woman in a relationship is flirted with, especially with the connection they share and Diana’s insight into Bruce’s character, but ultimately not taken up on. Batman Annual #2, however, details a fun and sweet story of Batman and Catwoman’s first few run ins and their growing romance, even picturing a bittersweet future for them. It’s a pretty nice issue that will make many fans of their relationship happy as King understands the attraction they share to each other.
‘Everyone Loves Ivy’ is the final main story that sees Poison Ivy successfully take control over everyone’s mind with the exception of Batman and Catwoman. King’s Ivy is presented fairly well and she has some interesting moments with Catwoman. Her anti-hero status is played up more here as she’s not overtly trying to hurt anyone and shows remorse for some of her past actions, particularly those taken in The War of Jokes and Riddles, and Batman and Catwoman have to remind her of the goodness within her and face some of her demons. As much as its a story about Ivy, its also pretty focused on Selina and her own turn from villainy (at least mostly) and looks at the parallel of her own personal drives with Batman.
While most of the stories are entertaining and offer some good character introspection, some elements do fall into King’s own trappings. Certain bits of dialogue feel repetitive, such as Batman and Catwoman constantly calling each other ‘Bat’ and ‘Cat’ or the numerous times Batman simply grunts or says “Yeah” throughout the entire book. In the story featuring Superman, King employs a technique he’s become known for where some characters are having separate conversations on opposite pages, but their dialogue parallels each other very similarly. This is the case with Superman and Lois’ appearance as they have a conversation about how Clark should talk to Bruce regarding why he was never informed on the engagement while Selina tries to convince Bruce to open up to someone he considers his best friend. In this case, King is able to explore the similarities between the world’s finest duo, but the dialogue comes across too similar which results in Superman sounding out of character.
With Joelle Jones, Mikel Janin and Clay Mann on the main art duties throughout the book, the art is very well done as the trio capture the character’s emotions through their facial expressions and body language. Much of the action is dynamic and energetic, particularly Talia and Selina’s sword fight or Batman and Catwoman’s chase across the rooftops. Its no wonder Jones became the artist on Catwoman as she has a great sense of the thief’s posture and cool restlessness. Filling out the art is Lee Weeks and Michael Lark in the Annual and Travis Moore in another issue. Weeks and Lark present some of the most emotional beats in the whole book as they explore the beginnings and end of Bruce and Selina’s relationship. The colours from Jordie Bellaire, June Chung, Elizabeth Breitweiser and Giulia Brusco are vibrant and fit the atmosphere of each story. They definitely help the art pop off the page for some very evocative imagery.
While Superman and a couple characters of the Bat-family sound a little out of character, Tom King has a pretty good handle on the rest of the cast throughout the stories. The chemistry between Batman and Catwoman is well done, even if it gets a bit tiring to see repeated use of their pet names constantly. Nevertheless, the emotion hits many of the right notes and all the artists have a great deal to do with that. Batman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 may have a looser format in the stories, but its placement of its characters over spectacle elevates it to a memorable portion of King’s run so far.