The Rules of Engagement Part 2 (Batman #34)

Batman #34
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Joelle Jones
Cover Artist: Joelle Jones
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics

The second part of the story where we find Batman and Catwoman, now engaged to be married, in the desert. They are searching for the Daughter of the Demon, Thalia Al Ghul.

What You Need to Know:

First of all what you need to know and should know by now, is that Thalia is a former love interest of Batman. Her father Ras Al Ghul, wanted to groom Batman to aid him and possibly replace him on his quest to save the planet from human destruction. This ended with Batman mortally wounding Ras, and eventually, the encounter led to Thalia having Batman’s son Damien.

Next a bit of backstory on Catwoman, but specifically on her best friend and partner Holly Robinson. Holly was Selina’s sidekick for a number of years and a dear friend to Selina. She first appeared as the young girl that Selina was protecting from a pimp in Batman #404 ( Frank Miller’s Batman Year One story).

So there have been times in Selina’s life that she has helped Holly and we can see her as basically a stand-in comparison to Alfred and Robin. She even once took over briefly as Catwoman and was trained by Ted Grant (Wildcat). Holly is a former prostitute, drug addict and even took the blame for the murder of Black Mask (Selina did it). This is some Backstory on the character pre-Rebirth.

So in the Rebirth universe, Holly was a teenage prostitute that Selina trained in martial arts to keep her safe on the street. She, in turn, used that training to enact her revenge on a terrorist from Kahndaq, and track down each member of his cell and kill them. All 237 members to be exact. Selina takes the rap for these murders, but Batman knows the truth.

What You’ll Find Out:

Batman and Catwoman are in trouble. They are in a place deemed off limits by the UN and the Justice League. An incursion into this land is expressly forbidden, and Selina just dropped the big Bouncer at the door. Now they face a gauntlet of Assassins or the “Silent Soldiers of the Pit”. Aptly named, since their tongues have been removed. Batman deduces this in a delightful bit of banter with Catwoman, based on how his fist is bouncing off of their jaws.

They have come seeking the one Daughter of the Demon. They seek Thalia Al Ghul, but for what reason, we are not yet certain.

What Just Happened?

Batman and Catwoman are surrounded by The Silent Soldiers of the Pit. “That’s a Lot!”, remarks Catwoman.

Batman responds,”I’ve seen more.”

They begin to cut their swath through the desert assassins with the ease that you would expect a Highly trained Vigilante and a master Cat-burglar would do. They make one of the better team-ups that Batman has ever had, in my opinion. I think it is due to the trust and faith that Batman puts in Catwoman at this point in their relationship.

We really get a different version of Batman’s personality as a result as well. There is not the ever-present dark brooding and never find happiness version that I think most fans have seen done to death over the past twelve years or so. We see the humor, and flirting, and dare I say intimacy from Bruce. Clearly, Selina Kyle is a match for Bruce and is changing his bleak perspective on life. Good for them, and their banter is delightful.

Outside of the cavern, we see Superman blocking the approach of Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne. Damien is not impressed and knows he cannot beat him, but nonetheless tells Superman that he would attack him with magic, not Kryptonite.

Superman absolutely has the patience of a saint and mentions that he would not be able to play with his son JJ anymore then.( a reference to the DC Book Super Suns). Well played Clark! He darts away to stop an invasion in Central City. Dick tells Damien that “He can still see you from Central City”. So they decide not to enter the cavern.

This has got to be very hard for Damien, who has both his mother and Father in the same place very infrequently. Not to mention the strange circumstances where one is a Global Eco-terrorist trying to kill the other. He knows that all he can do is wait to see how this plays out, and he sits on the steps to wait. Damien thanks Dick for coming, when others would not. “You and me kiddo. From the beginning…and all the way to the end” was Dick’s response.

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Finally exhausted, and not without noticeable damage done, Batman and Catwoman have subdued the last of the Silent Soldiers. Batman noticed that they weren’t using guns, and were just meant to tire the two out, with the battle. Then Thalia finally appears before the two, with a sword drawn. Clearly, she is not here to talk.

We finally find out why Batman and Catwoman have traveled her to this Forbidden place. batman asks Thalia to let him speak with Holly Robinson. She is hiding from the world in this place, far from anyone whom would prosecute her for the 237 murders that Selina was blamed for.

An exhausted Batman faces Thalia with a sword, as she deftly dances about his weary body, ending the battle swiftly with a stab to his upper back and shoulder. She then issues a challenge to Selina, well really more of a request for her to grab a sword. Selina obliges her, by pulling out the blade that pierced Batman, and to be Continued.

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Rating: 9/10

Final Thought: Batman has been a favorite hero of mine for so long, and I have gone through the different periods of writers with him. Some are dark and gritty, and some light and humorous, but basically all of the parts are there. I love the Batman that is blossoming when Selina is around. He is funny, and caring, and comes across as much more human than the past incarnations. In many ways, he is reminiscent of the Batman the Animated Series. This is the version that I hold above all other’ as my Definitive version, but I digress.

This story is less about fighting a Clandestine Enclave of Tongueless Desert Ninjas (how’s that for a descriptive sentence?) and more about personal relationships. We see the dynamic of Batman and Catwoman as lovers, companions, and equals. Then we see the relationship of Dick and Damien, as partners and brothers. A bond that is not often explored, but is definitely due to explore. They give the feel that Batman is “Growing Up” so to speak and that Dick is the moral compass and role model for Damien. As each has their own distinct childhood traumas, these two can best relate to each other, because they were and are so close to Bruce, although more Batman than Bruce has raised Damien as of recent.

The last piece is about Loyalty. I took some time explaining Holly and Selina’s relationship because they are very much Batman and Robin’s Relationship. At least in the pre-rebirth universe. They are here for Holly, but we are not sure if it is to help her or to finally clear Selina’s name in preparation for the wedding, but I think it is doubtful that Selina will want to hang her friend out to dry.

Adding Thalia to this mix is dangerous on so many levels. We have resentment and feelings of betrayal and abandonment, mixed with flecks of jealousy and passionate rage.Thalia will most likely answer their questions, but they will have to earn it, in blood!

 

 

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