That more eventful plot and the resulting momentum boost help push this issue over the already terrific Batman #78 and into territory that rivals some of the best Bat/Cat stories of King’s long run. The actual reveal of Bruce’s secret mission isn’t terribly remarkable, but that mission is more a backdrop against which King and artist Clay Mann can deepen their examination of two lovers reconnecting after a long absence. The urgency that was absent in issue #78 returns here, as Bruce is forced to decide once and for all if there’s room for personal happiness in Batman’s world. In that sense, this issue is actually one of the most critical of the entire series.
Along the way, this issue also mines more gold out of the “The street or the boat?” debate that’s been slowly unfolding for the past three years. More than just a sly acknowledgement of the DCU’s convoluted and sometimes contradictory history, this debate offers further insight into the personalities of both characters. Bruce sees the world through the same bleak, noir-flavored lens of Batman: Year One, while Selina still pines for the days when Catwoman and Batman treated their regular encounters like a campy, flirtatious game. No mater how many times this love affair becomes a focal point of the series, King and his artists always find new layers worth exploring.
Mann’s art and Tomeu Morey’s colors are every bit as stunning as they were in issue #78. These two characters have never looked more beautiful. But even with those chiseled muscles and stunning physiques, the characters radiate pain and longing. This is nothing if not an emotionally charged story, and the body language and color choices reflect that emotion wonderfully. The prospect of this same creative team spending an entire year exploring the continued adventures of Batman and Catwoman is incredibly exciting.