For all that may be said about the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, one thing is certain: The events of The Button and Batman #24 have complicated it even further. Regardless if one favors writer Tom King’s Batman: Rebirth run or not, the one thing that King incorporates is an awareness of Batman’s history, and he likes to explore that history and create space in it for new narrative opportunities.
***********Disclaimer: What proceeds will contain spoilers.***********
To provide some initial context for Bruce’s proposal to Selina Kyle, we must revisit the events of The Button. In Batman #22, Bruce and Barry Allen leave the World of Flashpoint, in which Thomas Wayne is Batman. Refusing to return to Earth-0, Thomas Wayne urges Bruce: “Don’t be Batman. Find happiness please. You don’t have to do this. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for your mother. Be a father for your son in a way I never could be for you. Let the Batman die with me.” With this dialogue, King carries the weight of the events and violence that defines Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s Flashpoint. Thomas Wayne wants anything but the life of Batman for his son.
In The Flash #22: The Button Part 4, writer Joshua Williamson and artist Howard Porter highlight the effects of Thomas Wayne’s advice for his son, and they briefly focus Bruce’s inner struggle: Should he hang up the Mantle of the Bat? In this issue of The Flash, Bruce stares out a window in Wayne Manor, and he sees the Bat Signal. Alfred asks, “Sir? Are you going to answer that?” and we see Bruce simply hang his head, reminding readers of what his father said.
What’s impressive is not only the execution of the crossover event of The Button, but something that Geoff Johns said about the intent of the Rebirth movement: “You build on what’s come before and try and add some things that people can build on later. That’s what a living breathing organic DC universe should be doing” (from an interview with GameSpot here: http://bit.ly/2rAzlia). Writers Joshua Williamson and Tom King capitalize on this trajectory in The Button, and in its aftermath, this organicism carries into the individual titles.
What follows in Batman #24 began in issue #1 and has been sustained throughout King’s arc, which introduced Gotham Girl. Seemingly cured of the effects of Psycho-Pirate–and feeling the weight of the death of her brother (Gotham)–she faces the question of what to do with her life. She faces the questions of whether to be a superhero or to try to live a “normal” life. “Do you like your life?” she asks Batman. “It doesn’t matter what I like,” he answers. “Well, do you like being the kind of person who says things like…’It doesn’t matter what I like’?” Gotham Girl asks. “I’m not Batman because I like being Batman. I’m Batman because I’m Batman.”
In this issue, on one hand, King explores the idea of the life of Bruce Wayne in Batman with all of the weight of Thomas Wayne’s advice for his son in mind, i.e., “Don’t be Batman.” In other words, it’s common knowledge that when Bruce’s parents died, so did Bruce in a figurative way. Thus, Batman was born. On the other hand, readers–both old and new–feel the weight of the history between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, which King capitalized on with the 2-part Rooftops arc (#s 15 & 16).
The narrative moves in and out of pages where Gotham Girl and Batman are talking to pages that entail panels of Bruce and Selina playfully swinging through the night air as creatures of the night–the Cat and the Bat, a theme King also capitalized on in Rooftops–while exchanging romantic glances that artists Danny Miki and David Finch capture very well. In these pages, King maintains the dialogue between Gotham Girl and Batman, creating parallels between it and Bruce’s inner struggles.
One thing that Gotham Girl tells Bruce is “Everybody’s scared. But that just, like, means everyone gets the opportunity to… We get to fight that fear. We have the chance to be brave.” The logic of this dialogue matched with his scenes with Catwoman is that Batman has the chance to be brave by exploring the life of Bruce Wayne and, in this exploration, the possibility of being happy. For him, that possibility is a life with Selina Kyle:
Again, these pages carry the weight of not only King’s Batman: Rebirth run but, also, the weight of the comics history between Batman and Catwoman. They make sense on multiple levels. As revealed in The Button crossover event between Batman and The Flash as well as Tynion IV’s Detective Comics run, Batman senses an oncoming war, and this proposal–the fact that Batman fears what’s to come–foreshadows the fact that we are going to be in for a ride soon enough!