Batman Getting Married Was Never the Point of His Wedding

Acclaimed comic book writer Tom King has, on more than one occasion, joked that his stories are about characters who look out a window, into the rain, a single teardrop running down their cheek.

That could certainly describe if not the actual narrative meat of Batman #50, out today, then at least the feeling of the issue. That is not, inherently, a bad thing -- and it seems like a good day to sit down and look at the issue in the larger picture of what writer Tom King is doing with the characters, to get a sense for what, exactly, was going on in the story titled "The Wedding of Batman and Catwoman."

Spoilers ahead for Batman #50, on sale today.

See, New York Times? That's how you do that.

In the issue, Catwoman is seized by an attack of conscience, and decides not to marry Batman, on the grounds that making him happy would destroy the "engine" that drives the Dark Knight and he would no longer be able to protect people who need him.

If this feels somewhat familiar, it is because her argument -- that Batman is driven not by a need to see real justice but by the psychological damage wrought by watching his parents slaughtered as a child, so effective therapy or the right situation at home could end his reign -- is one that (often half-serious) fans have made, and even creators like Frank Miller seem to at least sort of believe if you read between the lines of their work.

"I think there is a difference between Batman and Superman on this level. Maybe Spider-man's a better example," King told ComicBook.com at New York Comic Con last year (you can see the video above). "I think when people see the marriage between Spider-Man and Mary Jane, a lot of people see the end of a story. 'You've given Spider-Man happiness, so there's sort of nowhere to go.' That's why you get Mephisto and you get the reversal of the whole thing. I think Batman is the exact opposite.You give him happiness and you're creating conflict. You're not ending conflict, you're creating something. You can't go darker on Batman. Everything darker has been done….Batman has been as dark as he can be, but you give a character that dark, that painful, a touch of happiness, you're adding fuel to a fire that's never gotten fuel on it before. I think there's a lot more story there."

That talk about endings and beginnings segues pretty cleanly into what King tweeted the other day, after the ending of Batman #50 was revealed in The New York Times:

The idea that this is "not the end" suggests that these stories will be revisited. The letters written back and forth by Batman and Catwoman are the kind of story threads likely to be explored down the line, and since both of them were clear and honest with their feelings and desires, it is likely that they can be used to bring Bruce and Selina closer together if that is what King wants for the long run.

What this does, however, is re-establish Bane as a badass. Ever since Knightfall, the story in which he was first introduced, Bane has been kind of a one-trick pony. He used his genius, and his knowledge of Batman, to topple the Dark Knight the first time, only to fall back into being "a big strong guy" whose brains were rarely part of the equation in nearly every subsequent storyline.

He also surrounded himself with allies, and used Batman's massive and dangerous rogues gallery as a weapon -- both elements that have played into the wedding issue and its lead-up.

Introducing Holly Robinson, the woman whose words convinced Catwoman to leave Batman, as part of Bane's crew (which also includes, vexingly, Flashpoint Batman and Booster Gold's robot pal Skeets), means a serious status quo change for Holly, likely plays hell on the future of the Catwoman series as well as the next fifty issues of Batman, and has a lot of potential for twists and turns.

There is a serious discussion to be had about whether DC erred by promoting the wedding the way they did: the press comments and multiple variant covers pegged it as a key issue that would be an evergreen back issue for retailers who bought big, something that will almost certainly not happen now.

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Storytelling-wise, though, this is a surprising and bold move -- and one that gave us great moments for Batman, Catwoman, and especially Alfred along the way. If you can get past being "lied to" for the last nine months and look at what King is doing in a broader context, there is a very good chance this story could be a turning point in one of Batman's more interesting tales in years.

Batman #50 hits the stands at comic shops and online this Wednesday, July 4.