In Batman Returns, Selina Kyle’s apartment contains a neon sign that’s supposed to say “Hello There.” But a couple letters have gone out, turning the display into “Hell Here.” The duality between those sentiments also applies to Selina’s upcoming reunion with Bruce Wayne in the pages of Tom King’s Batman comic. The playful romance between Batman and Catwoman has been a cornerstone of King’s story, but Bat has also been stuck in a depressive spiral ever since Cat left him at the altar in last year’s “wedding” issue. Now Batman’s at his lowest point, Gotham’s at its lowest point, and Catwoman returns — and EW has your exclusive first look below.
“What you’ll see in issue #75 is that Batman went everywhere looking for strength, and couldn’t find it. Instead he finds her,” King tells EW. “So together they have to see if they can rebuild what they were in order to fight Bane. That’s the ultimate journey, with the question that everyone wants to know: Can Batman be happy? And is Batman’s happiness a source of strength or weakness?”
Bruce and Selina’s reunion arrives in the first issue of “City of Bane,” the epic final arc of King’s run on Batman. The previous 74 issues have set up Bane as the run’s primary antagonist, and now his master plan is all but complete. Bane has essentially conquered Gotham City, transforming it into a miniature fascist state and employing Batman’s villains as his personal army. He even has his own Batman in the form of Thomas Wayne (from an alternate universe where Bruce’s parents survived the mugging instead of him). Together, this villainous gang has successfully cast Bruce out of his own city. Broken, defeated, and exiled, Batman has no other option but to turn to Catwoman for help.
Of course, the encounter depicted in the panel above is the first time Bruce and Selina have seen each other since the failed wedding in last summer’s Batman #50, which also revealed that Bane manipulated Selina into leaving Bruce. During this time, Catwoman was busy with her own adventures in her solo comic, written by Joelle Jones. Meanwhile, Batman suffered intense psychological torture in the recent “Knightmares” arc of Batman, which saw him endure a series of harrowing dreams that probed his heartbreak and featured an occasional appearance from Catwoman, showing how much she lingered over his unconscious mind despite their lack of recent interaction.
“Batman’s gone through something since [#50],” King says. “Why ‘Knightmares’ was such an important arc to me is it was all about him getting to that point where he realizes the reason she left was not because of what Joker whispered to her [in #49] but she was seeing a weakness in him. She was seeing his fear that he doesn’t love her. So it’s them meeting with him sort of knowing this and him being like, ‘Can I love you?’ It sounds like corny romance comics, but I don’t mind corny romance comics every once in a while.”
King continues, “When he turns to Catwoman, will that be a moment of strength or weakness? Will that be a moment of triumph or conflict?”
Even though King is leaving Batman at the end of “City of Bane” in issue #85, he’s not moving on from Batman and Catwoman’s love story. In January 2020, he’s teaming up with artist Clay Mann for Batman-Catwoman, a 12-issue miniseries that will incorporate what he hoped to do with the couple in the final act of his planned 100-issue run on Batman. King has talked often about his 100-issue plan, including to EW in a conversation that took place before the new miniseries was announced. As a result, some fans took King’s exit from Batman proper, one of the most reliably best-selling superhero comics in circulation, as an indication that DC was curtailing some of his grand plans (“I didn’t think I’d get approved what I got approved. What’s gonna happen to Batman is bigger than anything in my career,” he told us beforehand), but King says there’s another explanation for the switch.
“I’m working on a DCU movie now (New Gods with Ava DuVernay) and a secret TV show thing that hasn’t been announced,” King tells EW. “DC was kind enough to see that doing all that and a twice-monthly Batman would be tough. So they divided the Batman book into two monthly books, Batman and Batman/Catwoman. Bat/Cat will complete this epic story we’ve been telling and lead to this game-changing moment I’ve been hinting at. Batman will…well, I can’t tell you, but it’s very cool. But, because of the beats that will be handled in Batman, I have more room for my storylines in Bat/Cat, which means that the twelve issues can cover all of the story that was part of the original plan.”
King continues, “I used to think Batman #100 was the biggest book I’d ever write. Now it’s Bat/Cat #12. Same issue, same artist, same impact, different name—slightly different.”
It all begins with their reunion in Batman #75, on sale next month. Below, check out artist Tony S. Daniel’s Bane-centric covers for #75 and #76. You can find his Bat-and-Cat cover for August’s Batman #78 above, along with Mann’s Bat/Cat cover for issue #79. Stay tuned for more coverage of King’s Batman and “City of Bane” at EW.