With the eagerly anticipated wedding of Batman and Catwoman coming up next month, Tom King has done an incredible job of setting up the culmination of a long-running and complicated love story by telling the story through characters other than the Dark Knight himself. The book may be Batman #49, but the world is far bigger than that which is why it shouldn't come as a surprise when, in the finale to "The Best Man" arc it becomes clear that this is really Catwoman's story -- and yet it does.
Foreshadowing hasn't been the strong suit of King's work in recent issues. It's been clear that Catwoman might not be completely invested in her upcoming nuptuals, not because she doesn't love Batman but because of how being with him changes her own life and identity. After all, we did see her steal a wedding dress just a few issues ago. That weakness is present in this issue as well, but even though the possibility that the wedding might not take place couldn't be more clear if you took out a billboard about it what makes Batman #49 incredibly successful as a story is the subtlety of the rest of what happens in its pages.
The Joker is nuts. Even if it's all an act, there's still something distinctively unhinged about the character, but King pulls back the curtain a bit and, under the guise of getting under Catwoman's skin ends up revealing the Joker's heart instead. He truly sees himself as Batman's best man because he's trying to save the Dark Knight -- by putting an end to the wedding. The issue touches on the age-old question of whether Batman can exist if Bruce Wayne finds even a shred of joy and while it doesn't tread new ground here by giving readers an answer, it's very clear that the Joker has decided he can't. That's standard territory. What isn't, however, is the amount of meaning Batman gives to Joker. While the concept is not new, the emotion the Joker has about Batman feels fresh and, for just a moment, it's easy to understand his well-masked fear and pain at potentially losing the one thing that defines him.
Outside of the well-crafted story, Mikel Janin's art is exquisite, creating an excellent frame for the words and emotion to hang from. However, the real standout in Batman #49 is June Chung's color work. The darkness and gloom of the scene is always present, but the pops of color that splash the page are carefully chosen. You'll want to pay special attention to the shades of Catwoman's eyes throughout the issue -- there's a subtle change that lines up beautifully with the way the story unravels and the final image of Catwoman in the issue is one of those truly stunning pages that sets the bar for how the character is portrayed. Between the art and the well-told story, this may well be an issue that completely redefines the series and its characters for a long time to come.
Published by DC Comics
On June 20, 2018
Written by Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin
Color by June Chung
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Mikel Janin