Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Previously The City of Bane arc was on pause to focus on Batman and Catwoman. The issue mostly retreads old ground and covered what was already known about their failed wedding and relationship. It seems that things will now be on the mend with Bruce and Selina coming to terms with their breakup and working through into a stronger team. This thread continues this week with having Batman and Catwoman getting back into their suits.
This story takes place before Damian has infiltrated Gotham city and Alfred’s untimely (apparent) death. Batman and Catwoman are working behind the scenes, in some tropical paradise, trying to rebuild enough to take on Bane. There are equal parts of the comic focusing on their relationship, their rehabilitation, and getting into some actual crime-fighting. The climax of the issue has them take on Magpie and disrupt a shipment of Venom heading to Bane. Not only does it bring the connection full circle back to The City of Bane, but also lets the world know that Batman is back and not dead.
I was not a fan of the previous issue at all. However, I feel like this comic does a much better job with the previous one’s mission statement. If Tom King wants to focus on Batman and Catwoman for a bit he needs to move their relationship forward. While the last one was felt redundant and skippable, this one feels like a worthy break in the arc. They no longer just sit around on a beach and wax poetically at each other (there is a bit of that). We, finally, get to see how Selina can push Bruce to dawn the cowl again. No longer is the focus on their relationship meaningless, as it advances the story. There is a great scene when Batman stops a convenience store robbery that just made everything seem fun again. It is always a little unique to see Batman outside of Gotham (in his title) and him having an adventure in a tropical paradise is something you do not get to see often. The takedown of Magpie and her Venom shipment is well-paced and King has you excited to see Batman and Catwoman working together. Going back to them on a beach at the end of the comic is no longer one more exhausting page of romance, but a nice conclusion to a well-constructed story. Issue #78 should have never been printed and issue #79 could easily replace it fully in the reading order of this storyline.
Clay Mann has a lot more to play with here and can stretch his skills beyond two sexy people posing sexy on a sexy beach. Now his cheesecake style plays with the action and the two balance each other out. The aforementioned convenience store holds up is a visual delight, with the caped crusader essentially jumping into a colorful store. However, Mann does fall again on his crutch of needing to draw women in sexually suggestive poses, in one instance. During the encounter with Magpie, two panels are solely focused on her chest. I am not talking about having a character’s bust being prominent (that is nothing new), I am saying the panels only contain cleavage. It is a strange exchange as there are word balloons and everything but all Clay Mann decided to draw was Magpie’s chest. Clay Mann is at his best when his characters look real and beautiful and at his worst when he is just drawing to sell sex without context.