Will this war ever end?
With Batman #40 capping off the second half of “Superfriends,” it’s clear that this series won’t be able to do for the Batman/Wonder Woman relationship what it did for Batman and Superman late last year. This issue has gorgeous imagery to spare, and some strong ideas to boot, but it’s not able to combine those elements into an effective whole.
This issue may well have been doomed from the start given how Batman #39 played out. Issue #39 made some exceptionally poor choices regarding Diana’s characterization, painting her as a sexual temptress threatening to drive a wedge in Batman and Catwoman’s relationship. This issue walks back on that portrayal to some extent, as you might expect, but at some point it’s too late to matter. Writer Tom King clearly wanted readers to react a certain way to Batman #39’s cliffhanger, regardless of how that cliffhanger plays out now. We can only hope that lessons will be learned from the mistakes of this arc and that Diana’s characterization will benefit when King inevitably writes her again.
Thankfully, at least this story has the dynamic between Catwoman and the Gentle Man to fall back upon. Selina is placed in an impossible dilemma in this chapter as she weighs her desire to retrieve her fiance against the need to allow the Gentle Man to savor his one day of peace amid an eternity of war. Selina is the one character who seems to truly grow thanks to this storyline. Her bond with Bruce is strengthened, even as she comes to terms with the fact that he may not be a truly good man.
It’s just a shame King wasn’t able to lend such insight into the Batman/Wonder Woman dynamic. Neither this issue nor its predecessor ever do much to really get into their heads or examine how they view one another. There are a few nice moments between the two. particularly as they reflect on the loves ones they left behind, but that only reinforces the notion that more could have been accomplished with these two issues.
Joelle Jones’ art may be the one real slam dunk element of this arc. One one hand, there’s a lyrical, dreamy quality to her art that meshes very well with the tenor of King’s scripts. On the other, she helps inject the series with a greater sense of variety. Her layouts are far more open and organic than the purposeful but rigid grids that King tends to favor. The medieval fantasy elements play well with Joelle’s design sensibilities. Plus, Jones is very skilled at rendering downright beautiful characters. When DC invariably moves forward on a new solo Catwoman book, it’s hard to think of a more qualified artist.