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The Heart of the Matter: Batman's Rebirth Road So Far

The Heart of the Matter: Batman's Rebirth Road So Far

By Meg Downey Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Two years and fifty issues in, Tom King’s BATMAN has never been better, shining a deeply personal light on two of comics’ most wonderfully complex characters while building a threat that we’re only now beginning to grasp.

SPOILER ALERT: The below article discusses events and twists from this month’s BATMAN #50.

After two years and fifty issues, it'd be an understatement to say that the Dark Knight's rebirth has been an easy road to travel. Between new faces showing up in Gotham and throwing wrenches into the works to uncomfortable truths about the past getting forcibly dragged into the light, things in Bruce Wayne's life have been...complicated, even before the prospect of marriage was put on the table. Though, if there's one thing that Batman really ought to be accustomed to, its complication. Beyond, you know, vengeance and the night, dealing with the unexpected and the impossible is really what he does best after all.

That said, by now you've probably gotten through BATMAN #50 and realized the wedding did not go according to plan—or, should I say, it went according to someone's plan, just not Bruce and Selina's. This is where things start to get a little bit tricky to talk about, because while issue #50 was the quote-unquote "finale" of the wedding arc that's been going on for the past several months, it was really only a tiny piece of the puzzle that's been slowly assembled over the last several years. And while it's tempting to isolate the issue as an anniversary special, the real meat of the moment lies hidden in bits and pieces as far back as I AM GOTHAM, the first Batman storyline of the Rebirth era.

If we're going to talk about the wedding, we've got to talk about Selina and Bruce's history together in this context, and what that does (and doesn't mean). Namely, we need to talk about how they may not be outright lying to one another, but their own personal versions of the truth certainly don't seem to add up. We see this in issue #50 pretty clearly as we read their letters to one another. They're both coming at their shared past and potential future from two very different places, and that's not really a surprise. If you look back through other times when this sort of thing has happened (check out BATMAN VOL. 2: I AM SUICIDE, if you haven't already) that contradiction is part and parcel of their relationship, romantic or otherwise.

The bottom line? Bruce and Selina are two extremely unreliable narrators. It's not always easy to catch. We're programmed to accept the facts in narration, especially in things like comics because, most of the time, we're being invited into a character's inner monologue directly. It's not hard to tell when someone is lying to themselves, especially when the evidence is stacked up right on the page around them. However, with Bruce and Selina? Usually the lies—or perhaps more accurately, untruths—are things they're telling each other. Neither of them have ever been on equal footing with the facts. They can't even seem to agree on how and where they first met. When they write to one another, they're skewing things the way they see them and that may or may not actually represent reality.

(By the way, that little disagreement of theirs? That’s Tom King having some fun with the Dark Knight’s nearly 80 years of continuity. Batman believes they first met “on a boat,” which they did back in 1940’s BATMAN #1, while Catwoman insists it was “on the street,” which it was in Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE.)

Of course, on top of building a hugely multifaceted foundation for Bruce and Selina, the last fifty issues have also spent a great deal of time painting the whole of Gotham City in a brand-new light. We can't forget Gotham Girl and her strange connection to the Psycho Pirate, and the Psycho Pirate's strange connection to Bane, and Bane's strange connection to—okay, you get the picture, I'm sure. The dominoes that have been so carefully stacked since the dawn of Rebirth are slowly starting to collapse into one another—it's just happening in slow motion.

Gotham Girl's trauma and powers, the Psycho Pirate's emotion controlling mask, Bane's longstanding grudge match with Bruce… These are all things that, if you're building yourself a conspiracy theory-style evidence board, need to go up immediately. Start winding out that red yarn, because it's all connected. And Bruce and Selina? They're stuck in the middle of all of it. It's not quite the eye of the storm, but it's certainly the center of the web.

Hey, while you’re at it, maybe start taking a closer look at any of those characters' personal stories. Bruce and Selina can't seem to figure out what the truth is, and it's not totally unlikely that things we've been taking completely for granted about familiar faces like Bane or innocent newcomers like Gotham Girl may or may not be exactly accurate after all. Add to that the curious case of the Ventriloquist—a guy who, by all accounts, should be just happy to be here, but who may or may not have something else up his sleeve—FLASHPOINT’s Thomas Wayne, who reentered the picture back during the events of THE BUTTON, and Bane himself (you remember I AM BANE, right?), and Batman's world is pretty much a powder keg right now.

In fact, it's been a powder keg for a long time, all things considered, and our dear Dark Knight has been none the wiser, which is a concerning realization to have. Batman's supposed to be the guy who's ready for anything, but he didn't see any of this coming. Or if he did, he certainly didn't see it coming like this.

Bruce and Selina's wedding may not have gone according to plan, and BATMAN #50 may not have been the happy ending either of them had been looking for, hoping for, or dreading, but that's largely because it wasn't an ending at all. There are too many pieces still in motion, too many wheels left spinning, and too many questions left unanswered. Things in Gotham have only just begun.


The story continues today in BATMAN #51 by Tom King, Lee Weeks and Elizabeth Breitweiser, available in print and as a digital download.

Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers DC's Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Follow her on Twitter at @rustypolished.