The latest issue of Batman ends with Bruce proposing to Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and serves as an excellent end to the first year of DC Rebirth’s Batman series. Over this year, Batman has served as a mentor to a pair of Superman-like superheros who call Gotham City home, broken into Bane’s fortress to extract an important prisoner, defended his family against Bane’s retribution, and tried to figure out why the Comedian’s button showed up in the Batcave. But what each of these stories have slowly been revealing is that Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to rely, nor should he, on only himself anymore.
Unlike most of his movie adaptations, Batman is constantly surrounded by a plethora of allies, from the extended Bat-family to the Justice League to the Outsiders, and these connections to others help play down the idea he’s all gloom and doom. And frankly, that’s a good thing. We’ve had enough of the grim and gritty Batman, the Bruce Wayne who doesn’t play well with others, someone who has to be written as a super-awesome dude who’s just so much smarter than everyone around him. It’s frankly just too boring now.
Batman #24 comes on the heels of ‘The Button’ arc, which involved Bruce and Barry Allen, the Flash, chasing Eobard Thawne after he steals the aforementioned Comedian button. At one point, they end up in the Flashpoint timeline, where he meets his father Thomas Wayne, the one thing that everyone agreed was pretty cool about that storyline. Thomas, after fighting off some Atlanteans and Amazons with the two, gives Bruce some pretty stellar advice: stop being Batman, be happy instead. Batman #24 builds on that message by having Bruce speak with Gotham Girl about how he doesn’t believe he can be happy, and she reminds him that what he personally wants can be taken into account when making decisions.
One of my favorite Batman storylines is Batman: Hush, partially because it’s a fun showcase of all of Batman’s major villains and allies, but also because it shows a Bruce Wayne who’s willing to grow as a character. Selina Kyle plays an important part as well, helping Bruce with his investigations and finally learning his secret identity. It’s a sign of the trust he has in her, and his willingness to take their relationship forward, even if the story ends with them not ending up together because of Bruce’s paranoia over all the games Hush played throughout the arc.
And that’s really what the latest development in Batman #24 signals: Bruce Wayne growing as a character. Comic book superheros too often receive some status-altering change only for it to be wiped away by the next reboot or retcon for no reason other than some boardroom or fan group doesn’t believe in change. When creators stick to their guns and keep a change around, it can make that character more interesting. The reason why so many were upset about Spiderman’s ‘One More Day’ story was because Peter Parker had grown up, gotten married, and entered into a new dynamic that existed so long, many fans had never read a book that didn’t feature him married to Mary Jane. While those “lasting changes” are sometimes stupid, writers should be allowed to do them.
We don’t know if Selina says ‘yes’ to Bruce’s proposal, but the prospect of a married Bruce Wayne intrigues me. There are so many possible stories that can come from this, ones that have never been really explored in a modern Batman story. Will Bruce legitimately cut back on the crime-fighting, letting someone like Gotham Girl or Red Robin take over the role of Gotham City’s defender? How do major Batman allies react to him marrying a villain who’s a convicted mass murderer (even if she didn’t really do it)? Does Damian Wayne, Bruce’s son, approve of her, or will he try to test her loyalty to his father in some convoluted way? But ultimately, after 75+ years, maybe it’s time to let Bruce hang up the cowl and be happy with a woman he loves. Well, maybe he can put it on some nights, the Justice League is gonna need some help when those three Jokers finally show up.