Written by Tom King
Art by Joelle Jones, Jordie Bellaire, Olivier Coipel and Dave Stewart
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Following the big event of the prior issue, Batman leaves Gotham on a journey of self-discovery. On the road, he encounters friends and allies who attempt to persuade him to change course.
Batman #33 is the start of the first storyline post-engagement between Batman and Catwoman. It’s split between two narratives. In one, Batman, Catwoman, and Tiger (the Spyral agent introduced in the pages of Grayson) journey through the desert nation of Khadym for an as-yet unrevealed purpose. In the other, Alfred informs the various current and former Robins, plus Duke Thomas, of Batman’s recent engagement.
The story skillfully weaves back and forth between these two narratives, allowing the reader to see both how Batman and Catwoman work together as a team (and couple) and how the younger members of the Bat Family react to the news. There’s great humor in both halves of the story, and King’s script displays a great grasp of the Robins’ characters and how they interract with one another. Jones’s art also does a fantastic job here. In particular, she draws the Robins’ faces and body language in a wonderfully expressive way that really captures the swirl of emotions as the boys react to the news.
There’s so much going on in this issue with these characters. Alfred seems genuinely torn about relaying the news of the engagement, which Bruce requested he keep secret, and we see the struggle in his face between his loyalty to Bruce and his love for the boys.
Damian is moved to tears by the implications of Bruce’s actions as he blames himself for what he evidently believes to be Bruce’s mistake. It’s deeply telling about Damian’s character that he would shoulder the burden for Bruce’s actions himself, for something that can’t possibly be construed as his fault. There’s always been a slight solipsistic bent to Damian Wayne, the sense that he’s the one competent individual surrounded by unthinking automatons. The flip side of that ego, though, is a sense of ultimate responsibility that comes forward here.
The real show here, though, is Batman and Catwoman. It’s their relationship that’s been built up over the last year of Batman comics, that serves as the centerpiece of this plot. What we see in this issue is understated, but effective. The pair have a casual familiarity with one another that comes across in their sparse dialogue and in their body language and stolen glances. Batman-Catwoman team-ups have been relatively rare in the past few years, but this issue conveys a deep intimacy that one would expect from long-term partners.
The art, throughout, is amazing. The desertscapes of Khadym are breathtaking, while the library feels intimate yet inviting. The body language of the characters, whether Jason wrestling with Ace for his jacket or Catwoman looking up demurely at a gargantuan guard, does wonders to add depth and texture to the story. The colouring in this issue also works incredibly well, with the green in Catwoman’s eyes jumping out amidst the rich orange and red hues of the Khadym scenes. The library scenes color-code the Robins, with Jason in red, Damian in black, Dick in white (Damian’s temperamental opposite) and Duke in yellow, amidst brown backgrounds.
Batman #33 is a fine start to the next arc of Batman and ends on a revelation that leaves the reader excited to see what happens next. It’s great serial storytelling, providing character moments while also being a compelling read.
The Verdict: 8.5/10