By Tom King, Joelle Jones, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles
Batman #33 continues to take Bruce and Selina in a brand-new direction for both of the characters as King looks to continue on from that groundbreaking development coming from Selina’s acceptance of Bruce’s proposal. This picks up where things left off with a slow burn mystery that takes place largely outside the boundaries of Gotham City itself, instead taking them to the desert and Khadym in the Middle East.
There’s a great nod to Batman v. Superman in this issue as Bruce is seen walking through the desert in the Knightmare costume that was used in his vision where he saw Superman turn evil in that film. The circumstances here aren’t quite as dramatic as they were there; it’s a fairly quiet issue with little fight sequences and action that we’re used to, and it almost feels odd having a Batman book take place in a location as open as the desert and not say, in the night of Gotham City. But this change of scenery is welcomed as King’s series continues to entertain, focusing on character over action in order to create a powerful read that for the most part shines.
The decision to stay away from the more conventional approach of the life-altering marriage storyline is refreshing. King gets the dialogue spot-on between the two characters even if the overuse of the whole “Bat-Cat” exchange is a bit much. His characterization of the various other characters left behind in Wayne Manor are great as well, with Damian and Jason’s personalities (even in the small amount of page-time that we get here) are enough to satisfy fans of both the characters. This is especially so with the more emotional moment concerning Damian’s character, which really hits home. There’s even a mention of Batcow, too.
The artwork is fantastic here as both artist Joëlle Jones & color artist Jordie Bellaire help add depth to what looks set to be an emotional journey of self-discovery for Batman. Jones’ pencils and inks are great, using plenty of expressions on the various characters to flesh out their emotions, and the desert outfits of both Bruce and Selina look stunning. Bellaire’s colors invoke a clear contrast between the openness of the desert and the closed quarters of Wayne Manor, but help add richness to the scenes and really work. The art helps the emotional moment with Damian at the end feel all the more effective. It is sometimes hard to tell the former Robins, Dick and Jason, apart in, but then that’s due to the similar character designs of the two that predate this issue.
Putting Batman and Catwoman front and centre in an issue that’s spectacularly written and drawn, Tom King’s Batman continues to prove itself as a book that’s essential reading for any fans of the Caped Crusader. This storyline opens with plenty of promise that should continue to take the characters in new directions, and hopefully it will deliver on the consistency that has helped make the last arc one of the best off the series so far.