by Tom King, Clay Mann & Jordie Bellaire
Issue #37 of Batman is a delightfully fun and introspective bottle issue about Batman, Catwoman, Superman & Lois Lane swapping outfits for a superhero themed night at the Gotham County Fair, It uses the premise to explore the contrast and similarities between the two couples by zeroing in on their conversations. Truly a “talking head” issue if there ever was one, Batman #37 works by exploring the depth of it’s characters through simple yet vibrant dialogue, and it’s whimsical conceit.
Writer Tom King is a master of containing multitudes in his comics writing. Batman #37 is one of his strongest showings yet in that respect, where two couples having a superhero date at a carnival becomes an examination of the complexity of love between two people. The issue is essentially the male and females of the two couples pairing up with one another, and discussing the particulars of their relationships with one another. It’s often times hilarious, with running jokes about Batman saying “No” to every ones ideas, observations on how both heroes are gross for not washing their costumes, an incredibly clever gag involving a purse snatcher dressed as The Question reciting some Steve Ditko Objectivism, and a particularly hilarious recounting of Catwoman being proposed to, telling Lois how Batman says “Before you answer, I have to tell you something. It’s about Kite Man” It’s an issue full of moments like this, small interactions that establish levels of depth to the characters and their interactions with one another. It’s a beautifully simple construct and execution, and it’s that simplicity that allows the story to say so much about it’s protagonist, and their relationships with one another.
Batman under Tom King has featured a plethora of outstanding art talent, and Clay Mann has been one of the books most impressive contributors in his stints on the title. Normally coming on for single issue stories, Mann’s interior work on #37 is the second in a two part story involving Superman & Lois Lane. While the majority of his work on the title has worked worked to show the beauty in Gotham’s urban Gothic setting, his classical art style works well at depicting the super friends date night for it’s detail and expressionism. For issue #37, it’s all about the way they look at each other, the expression they make when speaking, or even the way they eat an ice cream cone. Mann’s character work here is sharp but subtle, highlighting the issue’s charms without overdoing it. His design for the background and foreground of the title is well detailed as the superhero’s dressed as one another navigate among the costumed carnival goers and superhero themed rides and prizes. For an issue that leans on it’s humor, Mann’s illustrations sells the jokes swimmingly. Colorist Jordie Bellaire gives the book one of it’s brightest and most lively installments yet in this volume, with a vibrancy that gives life to it’s festive setting.
There has been no shortage of Batman titles in recent years, and many that were very good ones at that. But with over a year on the title, Tom King and his artistic collaborators like Clay Mann & Jordie Bellaire are doing something really special. It’s a Batman series that gets to the heart of the character in a way that feels singular to the creative talent, while true to the hero’s core ethos unlike anything else in recent memory. Issue #37 is a perfect approximation of that, wholly unconventional, and unique to any team-up between Batman and Superman that proceeded it, it gives a fully natural examination of it’s protagonist and the women that they share their lives with. This is a book about love and friendship, about how people connect with one another, about DC’s two most important heros, about the women they love and why they love each other, and about four people going to a double date. It’s about love and friendship; a truly beautiful thing.