Review: Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's hard to say anything about Tom King's Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding without spoilers. At the outset, I would congratulate DC Comics on having a pretty stellar 2018; in about half a year, they've already gotten me to pick up single issues on two titles, Action Comics (ahead of issue #1000) and Batman, to avoid spoilers for big events, and that's after the same last year around Action Comics' "The Oz Effect." Perhaps I've simply learned my lesson after DC Universe: Rebirth that if I don't get ahead of spoilers, then spoilers will come, but also I think DC's got a renewed handle on what "must see comics" looks like, and that's beneficial overall.

And now on to The Wedding ...

[Review contains spoilers]

Your satisfaction with Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding might depend largely on how seriously you take the words "the wedding" at the front of this book and plastered at the top of Batman #50. The solicitation for the issue itself starts, "It's the wedding you never thought you'd see!" and indeed, you don't actually see that wedding in the issue. Or do you? The solicitations don't promise a marriage, just a wedding. We get all the preparations, and then Bruce Wayne shows up at the altar (of sorts); is that a wedding? If Judge Wolfman had said a few words and then Selina had jilted Bruce face to face, would that then constitute "wedding" such to deliver the issue's promise?

Solicitations aside (and also the Wedding Album book and the Preludes to the Wedding specials, which might have been the step too far), it's not as though the key narrative suspense wasn't whether the wedding would happen, not in the least the solicited cover of Joelle Jones' Catwoman that teased "I do or I don't?" Comic book storytelling especially is built on feints; to me it was more likely Batman and Catwoman wouldn't get married than they would, and if they did, she'd at least be eating frogs at the end. For me Tom King pulled off exactly what he should have, a gripping will they/won't they tale that had me reading Batman #50 the day it came out, an issue markedly touching and sweet (that Bruce/Alfred hug! [but what's Bruce doing on his phone?]), and one that's obviously only the middle and not the finale of this story.

The twist here was also mitigated for me because I've been hollering "conspiracy!" for months now and I'm glad I was finally right about something. An ending that revealed this just be a plot by Bane to hurt Batman might be an anticlimax, but the presence of the Flashpoint Batman Thomas Wayne and Skeets put it on another level. There are certain things we (think we) know to be true -- that Bruce met Thomas after a trip on the Flash's cosmic treadmill, that Booster Gold's "Gift" reality existed (because we the audience saw cut-scenes, like with Duke Thomas). A lot of that seems to be more than Bane could pull off, but not more than the omni-capable Dr. Manhattan could (Bruce first saw Thomas, of course, after Psycho Pirate's mask interacted with Comedian's smiley face button). I'm enthused to think of The Wedding as another piece in the overarching Rebirth puzzle, perhaps the first to truly shock me, but at the same time if this were a Rebirth/Doomsday Clock tie-in, it's unlike DC not to have touted it by now, such to make that possibility seem increasingly less likely.

Wedding also includes the three-part "Gift" and two-part "Best Man," curious and noteworthy stories in their own rights, but that are wholly changed by the wedding issue. "Gift" is fraught and emotional and bloody, to some extent more a Booster Gold story and backdoor pilot for King's Heroes in Crisis, than a Batman story. With aplomb King demonstrates that Booster's time-traveling exploits have driven him insane even as Booster still muddles through to push events toward their conclusion; a dozen other writers would have had Booster state outright "I think I'm going insane" in the first chapter. On my first read, however, I dismissed the mysteriously lobotomized Duke Thomas and strangely violent Batman Dick Grayson as King just scene-setting this alternate reality; in the wake of the revelation of Skeets working with Bane (maybe), I find myself wondering if those mysteries don't have more relevance, somehow, in the here and now.

"Best Man" stands as a brilliant Joker story in its own right, even if it too now no longer seems to be what it originally appeared. The new conspiratorial undertone doesn't negate King giving Joker sixteen pages of near-continuous dialogue in "Best Man"'s first part (with Batman saying only one word the entire issue, "Amen"). I'm also taken by King's chilling new conception of the Joker as a home-invading boogeyman so crazed that he shoots a hostage mid-threat because even the Joker's murderous left hand doesn't know what his right hand is doing.

Then fourteen pages of the Joker and Catwoman just talking is a marvel -- a perhaps unprecedented pairing of these two villains, Batman's villainous yin and yang. Veering from the serious to the comical with equal power, the story is kind of like King's "Super Friends: Superman" story for Batman but done with Catwoman and one of her "peers"; Selina's quip about Riddler's sideburns is among King's best lines yet. It's Joker whom King lets deliver the thesis of the story so far, the pressing question of whether Bruce Wayne can be happy and also be Batman, which continues through to the wedding issue; it seems on first read like the Joker's mad wisdom, but again when we see the Joker standing beside Bane, we're lead to consider whether something else is afoot.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding

You are unhappy about this book, about the wedding issue. You feel betrayed and you feel misled. In some respects, you were. But while comics -- especially mainstream superhero comics -- are not so endangered as the headlines often suggest, if they were what will save them is controversy, and interest, and passion. Comics that continue by rote, that no one cares about necessarily but that keep on by inertia, only slough off readers, buoyed by the occasional relaunch. Comics that surprise, even comics that anger or inspire debate, will be the ones that keep the industry going. The wedding or lack thereof aside, this is a book that contains an issue where Batman appears on 15 pages and says one word. That's doing something outside the norm with these aged characters. I recognize Tom King's Batman is esoteric, maybe hard to get in to, but I guarantee you, we need more books like Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding on the stands, more books that confront and challenge rather than delivering the same old thing, if we want to see Superman, Batman, and the rest of the DC pantheon continue another 80 years.

[Includes original and variant covers, designs, sketches]

Summary

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)
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7 comments:

  1. I have some concerns that Tom King isn't going to stick the landing on this story from a "conspiracy plot" point of view (that is, it'll be good emotionally, but if you try to connect the dots figuring out who knew what when, it'll all fall apart). I'm with you about the 'who was Bruce on the phone with?' being a Chekov's gun kind of deal, but subsequent issues suggest Bruce truly was blindsided by Selina's disappearance (it's alternatively possible that he is upset at the game he has to play to combat Bane, but some of the pieces don't really line up there). What Bane can or cannot have been responsible for also makes that last page reveal kind of WTF. While it's very possible that this is a heavy Rebirth story, I'm skeptical we'll see Dr Manhattan or some other kind of deux ex machina that explains how Bane pulled this all together (getting Holly to flip Selina is well within his powers; whatever is going on with Thomas Wayne and Skeets, less so). I am, of course, happy to be proven wrong/misguided, but I'm at the point now of being a tad trepidatious.

    As to the actual wedding, I was disappointed mostly because it seemed utterly inevitable that this was what would happen after The Gift and The Best Man. Rules of Engagement, Super Friends and the Ivy story (as well as The Dress) had such a happy tone to them, and then we transitioned to "gotta sell Selina's regret" in a quick 1-2-3. It seemed so obvious she'd leave Bruce because Batman can't be happy that I was mildly surprised it happened before the wedding (I was guessing something bad would happen while he was on patrol, e.g. he gets injured, and then she'd bail). I was also heavily disappointed we didn't get another Lois/Selina hang out session (bachelorette party, wedding reception, whatever).

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    1. So much will remain to talk about when all is said and done! Bruce on his phone -- either King's a genius and that's really meaningful, or King doesn't get Batman at all; it's not like Bruce is playing Angry Birds. Equally we don't as yet know King's full conception of Batman -- is he like Morrison's (always one step ahead) or like Snyder's (able to be brought short by the Owls, etc.)? Could Bane do all this? Were those other people in the room illusions? Will King marry Batman and Catwoman on the last page of his run and then leave the next writer to handle the marriage? We'll see.

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  2. Great analysis. I'm not sure how much the RebirthDoomsday Clock thing is going to tie in with this (King after all opted not to write both his "Button" issues), but I'm sure he has a plan. He always does. That's why he's a perfect writer for Batman.

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    1. Yeah, the fact that King didn't write his "Button" issues is a big flaw in my theory, but it feels like either that's Thomas Wayne in the room and it's a Rebirth tie-in, or that's some kind of hologram or metaphor and then the possibilities are more open. The fact that it's so hard to conceive of what the resolution might be is one reason I'm so enamored with this run.

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    2. King opted out of writing Batman #22 ("The Button" part three), but issue #21 was written by him, with special thanks to Johns and Williamson. Interestingly, he recently said his run will end with issue #103 instead of #100, which I think is supposed to make up for the three issues he didn't script.

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    3. That King didn't write that second issue of "Button" is compelling evidence against the Bane plot having anything to do with Dr. Manhattan. At the same time, going back to look at "Button" after reading the wedding issue, the smiley face button only conjures an image of Thomas Wayne after it gets zapped by the Psycho Pirate's mask. So maybe Bane doesn't have anything to do with Dr. Manhattan, but it seems Psycho Pirate does. To be explained ... ever?

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  3. Late to this thread, but wanted to reach out and get a consensus on TK's run. I know he has rubbed some the wrong way but I am never one to criticize an author for taking a character out of his comfort zone (or the readers). I unfortunately traveled down a rabbit hole on an aggregate site and read some of the anger expressed about his run. But I love Batman and am debating jumping on the Deluxe versions of this and Detective.

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