SYNOPSIS: “DREAM OF ME” part three! Has the Caped Crusader passed the point of no return? Turns out he’s going to need a little help from his friends, but this help comes with a downside: Batman’s true intentions will be exposed.
"Rules of Engagement" concludes in the fabulous BATMAN #35!
Issue #34 ended with Selina doing the one thing no one -- even Batman! -- in the DCU should do: raising a sword against Talia al Ghul. Because, as I noted two weeks ago, Tom King doesn't see Talia as "The Daughter of the Demon." He depicts her as a devil in her own right, and she's never felt more dangerous, especially in the way she's rendered on the page by artists Joëlle Jones (pencils and inks) and Jordie Bellaire (colors).
And oh, is this a beautifully drawn battle. The ladies fight down the stairs, with Jones cutting between wide shots and close-ups that feature a dizzying and deadly variety of sword stances. Look at the bottom left panel of page 5 for an example of how potent the visual storytelling is in this issue. Selina's pose is rigid and overextended, while Talia's decades of training are infinitely evident in an effortless grace that leaps off the page like a striking cobra.
And just as his artists do with their images, King captures Selina's streetwise grit and scrappy resolve with his words. Talia mostly talks about Talia (and it's terrifying), while Selina intersperses every desperate moment of not dying with a brutally honest (and therefore utterly romantic) assessment of how broken a man Bruce is. Meanwhile, Dick and Damian -- the bookends of the Robin legacy -- wait at the gates of Talia's lethal lair. King gives them plenty to talk about, too, and it's a conversation filled with humor and heart. Batman spends most of the issue bleeding.
There's a reason guys like Tom King writes comic books and guys like me only write about them, because never in a billion years could I have crafted an ending as satisfying as this one. From the outcome of the Talia/Selina fight to the reunion of Bruce and Selina with his sons, everything clicks in ways that are clever and true.
Time and time again, King delivers classic Bat-motifs from narrative and emotional angles all his own. It can't be easy to keep a character's adventures feeling so fresh after 78 years across every conceivable kind of media, but Tom King keeps creating stories that feel vital and new. I say it every week, and I'll say it again: Batman doesn't get any better than this. - John Bierly
John Bierly still can't believe he gets to write for BOF.
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