It’s another Tom King/Lee Weeks team up. This time they show us the Dark Knight catching his very first case of cat-scratch fever. Flirtation, titillation, and grand theft Batmobile ensue. That is, until King and Michael Lark close out with the tail-end of the love affair.
Batman Annual #2
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Lee Weeks and Michael Lark
Colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser and June Chung
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Travel back in time with us to see the early days of the Bat and the Cat. What was Bruce and Selina’s first date? How did this rivalry blossom into romance, and then go right back to being a rivalry again? Tom King reteams with his BATMAN/ELMER FUDD collaborator Lee Weeks to show us a little young love with capes and cowls. And a little crimefighting, too.
I read somewhere once that if The Godfather was the greatest movie of all time, then The Godfather Part II was the greatest parentheses ever put on film. And while Tom King tries to throw a set of brackets around the current state of his Bruce-Selina pairing, “Batman Annual” #2 is most definitely not The Godfather Part II.
That Lee Weeks art is gorgeous though.
“Batman Annual” #2 opens with a silent page of Selina repelling into Bats’ hideout to peel off in Gotham’s most notorious ride. Weeks composition is masterful here as he stacks four panels: a closeup of Selina’s face, the Batmobile, the climbing rope coiled and hung on Catwoman’s hip, and an in-tight cropping of her head and hands as she lithely slides down the cord, above a wide shot of the Batcave. Bats swirl in the distance as we see a tiny silhouette descend from high above the vehicle. Now, the four panels above each contain some element that draws the eye downward to that figure gliding towards the Batmobile. The cumulative effect being that she sneaks so smoothly, effortlessly and sensuously into his inner sanctum, the home where his heart is, and heads out for a cruise in his souped-up pride and joy.
“Bat . . . Mobile, Sir?” Alfred responds, after Bruce namedrops the vehicle for the first time, having found it deserted once Selina was done toying with him (or had ran out of gas or both). “Is that what we’re calling it?”
Tom King is certain to feather in a few self-aware lines of that sort to make sure we’re all clear on the timing and context for the events of the issue. And many of them aren’t handled with too much subtlety. Similarly, there’s an ongoing hook whereby Selina leaves a mouse behind for Bruce to find after every time she messes with his stuff. It’s an obvious reference to this whole caped courtship as being a giant game of cat-and-mouse, and it’s a bit too on the nose. At the very least though, these mice do provide Bruce with enough context to track her down later in the issue, so at least that World’s Greatest Detective moniker remains intact.
On the other hand, King does manage to capture Alfred at his droll best with a one-liner that proves King’s sense of humor shines brightest when he’s able to temper the fantastical side of his worlds with a flat mundanity. For most of “Batman Annual” #2, we see Catwoman flirtatiously break into Bruce’s home/secret hideouts to rifle through all sorts of his possessions, great and small. At one point, she brazenly steals a pen off a table right beside a chair Bruce is sitting in – again kudos to Weeks for ensuring that an item as innocuous as a pen was given enough prominence over the preceding panels that its absence from the side-table is clearly noticeable when Bruce looks down.
“The pen is gone,” Bruce announces with all the severity we’ve come to expect from King’s dialog.
“Is it,” Alfred responds, detached exasperation painted over his barely opened eyes. “Shall I alert the Superman. Or perhaps we might look under the sofa.”
It’s a legitimately funny beat in an otherwise serious script. But outside of Weeks’s art, it’s the only highlight over the extended page count of “Batman Annual” #2.Continued below
Weeks’s work is heavy on the shadows and atmosphere. And while he’s most comfortable drawing capes and leather bodysuits on rooftops and in the rain, there’s a taut efficiency to the sequence where Bruce, in red pajamas, barrels after Selina winding her way through the halls and staircases of Wayne Manor. It’s a surprisingly effective chase scene that subtly suggest the way in which she’s weaving herself into his life. Ultimately though, the dialog between the two leads feels flat and repetitious instead of deep and revelatory. So if you haven’t bought into their romance already, there’s nothing new here to try to make that case. And that’s in spite of a particularly evocative, and almost minimalist, double-page spread of them coming to grips with their attraction while standing on the rain-slicked ridge of Wayne Manor in the middle of a downpour. It’s an amazing image, only one that’s drenched in atmosphere rather than emotional resonance.
For it’s extended page count, “Batman Annual” #2 feels surprisingly sleight. And while Weeks and Lark do their best to make to book at least look visually inspiring, there’s nothing here that makes the Bruce-Selina romance feel anything like it’s one for the ages.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – At least 30 pages of Lee Weeks is better than 24 pages of not-Lee Weeks.