Batman and Superman share a unique bond in comics. They are friends, allies, and brothers. They’ve stood by each others side through thick and thin and faced obstacles big and small, despite their very different viewpoints. Now Batman is engaged and he hasn’t told his best bud about it yet. The longer he waits, the more awkward it will get. Also, there is crime afoot.
Tom King’s run on Batman has been hit or miss for me, but I think I’m coming around between the recent Batman Annual focused on the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, and this issue. The book bounces back and forth between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel as they talk about the elephant in the room with their significant others. This happens while both men are in the field fighting bad guys. In the case of Batman, it’s alongside his future bride, Catwoman.
The conversations mirror one another and show the differences and similarities between the two men. Batman #36 is a very dialogue-heavy issue, but it’s all worth it as it reveals so much about each character, how they see the world, and how they interact with their loved ones. Superman wears his heart on his sleeve and Batman is very reserved. Although they don’t share the same world view, they have a deep respect and admiration for each other.
The dialogue flows seamlessly between the two as well. It’s almost like they’re having the same conversation, just in two different places. They hand the discussion back and forth in such an organic way, while also getting to the core essence of each character. Although Batman is one of the smartest people in the world, he hasn’t really figured out how to interact with other human beings as much. This is the direct opposite of Superman, who has fully embraced all things human, despite the fact that he’s an alien.
Although the two men are grappling with this inevitable talk, Lois and Selina are all for it. They don’t see a problem at all and are basically looking for a double date. They support and challenge Clark and Bruce, helping them when they need it, but more importantly, pushing them out of their comfort zone. This shows how they’ve made Superman and Batman better men and better heroes.
Clay Mann’s artwork is stunning. His pencils are clean and crisp with such attention to detail. I absolutely love how he draws Batman’s cape. It almost looks like it’s alive, flying behind him as he leaps into action. It’s way too big at times, but I think that makes me like it even more.
Mann frames the book perfectly, with the characters often appearing as mirror images of one another. This comes into play particularly towards the end as the two investigations heat up. Although both scenes take place at night, there’s a brightness to Superman’s half and permanent darkness for Batman’s. Colorist Jordie Bellaire does such a great job with this. Each panel is uniquely colored to coincide with the tone of the character.
The emotional beats are balanced with the action scenes, creating a fantastic flow to the story. There are some repeated panels or ones that appear very similar, which is something that tends to pop up in a number of King’s comics. This works to control the pacing of the story, holding on a beat for a little longer to let it sink in more or give it more weight. It’s like a perfectly timed comedy or stage play.
It’s a late entry, but Batman #36 is easily one of my favorite single issues of the year. It’s so pitch perfect in the artwork, the dialogue, the colors, the story. Everything clicks into place to create a thoroughly enjoyable read. Yes, there are punches thrown and criminals to fight, however the focus is on these two icons of the comic book industry as we get a deeper look into their minds and what makes them tick. It’s a brilliant character study.