Is it happily ever after for Batman and Catwoman? This week, Batman/Catwoman #12 hit stores, wrapping up Tom King and Clay Mann’s time-leaping DC Black Label thriller. After dealing with the Joker and Phantasm, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle decide to finally tie the knot. In a bit of meta awareness, their choice of venue was a Batman-themed chapel (think Elvis weddings in Vegas) with an officiant dressed as the Adam West version of the Caped Crusader. It’s a fun way to kick off happily ever after, but can Bruce and Selina ever truly have that?
I’ve written a lot about Batman and Catwoman’s relationship over the years, so this comic series was of particular interest to me. Back in March, I wrote about the forces keeping Bruce and Selina apart and questioned if they could ever make it work long-term. Batman/Catwoman took this exploration deeper, showing their relationship in the past, present and future. The future moments can be seen as a spiritual sequel to 2017’s King-penned Batman Annual #2, which showed us a tomorrow where Bruce and Selina had grown old together.
After Bruce passes away (as seen in the annual), Selina takes care of some unfinished business with the Joker—business that she couldn’t take care of while Bruce was alive. Throughout Batman/Catwoman, we learn that the Joker has been one of the biggest obstacles in their relationship, largely due to Selina’s overall relationship with Gotham’s underworld.
Selina occupies an interesting place in the city’s order of heroes and villains. She’s not quite a full-blown super-villain, but she isn’t a superhero either. She falls somewhere in between, which has caused some complications with her relationship with Batman.
As Catwoman, Selina has socialized with the Joker on many occasions across multiple versions of continuity. They sit next to each other like old friends during a gangland meeting in Batman #201 and they both attend a mock trial to find the Dark Knight’s killer in Batman #291. Conversely, the Clown Prince and Catwoman antagonize each other when they first cross paths in 1940’s Batman #2 and they’ve tried to kill one another on multiple occasions, including in 2018’s Batman #49. It’s funny, but as challenging as her romance with Batman is, Catwoman’s relationship with the Joker may be even more complicated.
Selina’s odd friendship—if you can call it that—with the Joker plagues her relationship with Batman throughout Batman/Catwoman. As the Joker’s body count grows, Bruce pressures Selina to reveal the Clown Prince’s whereabouts. She’s unwilling to do this, believing that it crosses a boundary in their relationship. On the other side of that coin, the Joker asks his old acquaintance Selina to reveal Batman’s secret identity, something she also refuses to do.
We don’t have to dig too deep to figure out why Selina won’t tell Joker who Batman actually is. That answer is obvious—she’s in love with Batman and is fully aware of what the Joker would do with that information. But Selina’s refusal to give up the Joker isn’t as straightforward. Things are brought to a boiling point in Batman/Catwoman #8.
“Every day people are dying,” Batman pleads. “I’ve seen the bodies. Tomorrow there will be more. They’ll be in the streets. You can stop it. You! And you choose not to?!”
At first Selina seems unmoved. “I can’t have anything. All of me has to be yours,” she retorts. But it’s clear that on some level, Batman’s words have been weighing on her. Later, while she’s socializing with the Joker, Catwoman asks him if her inaction makes her responsible for his murders. You know you’re emotionally torn apart when you’re looking to the Joker of all people for advice.
Judging from their conversation, it seems that Selina is protecting Joker as a way to hold on to her independence. In order to be in a relationship with Batman, Catwoman must rein in some of her criminal activity. Like many people unsure about commitment, it appears that Selina is afraid of losing herself in the process. Her maintained relationship with the Joker seems to be less about the Clown Prince and more about Selina trying to have something separate from Batman. She’s trying to hold on to a piece of her old life.
Eventually the Joker’s twisted nature proves too much for Selina, and in Batman/Catwoman #10, we discover how their friendship ends. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Joker stops being an obstacle in Batman and Catwoman’s relationship. After emotionally destroying Andrea Beaumont, Selina argues that it’s time to kill the Joker once and for all.
But she didn’t. Not until Bruce Wayne has died. What does this say about Selina and the state of her marriage to Batman? Was she struggling to remain on Batman’s side of what’s right and wrong the entire time? Batman/Catwoman #12 also reveals that Andrea had faked her death, something Selina kept a secret from Bruce for their entire marriage. It’s interesting that the present-day storyline ends with Bruce and Selina’s wedding, while the future storyline begins after Bruce has already died. In other words, we never get to see the marriage itself (unless you read the annual), so we don’t know what it was like. Was it a healthy partnership?
I’m not qualified to give relationship advice, especially for two people as complicated as Batman and Catwoman. However, there are a few ways to look at this. We can look at it cynically and say that Selina was never truly honest, keeping Andrea’s secret from Bruce until the day he died. She also killed the Joker once Bruce was no longer around to stop her, proving that she had never truly changed. That’s one way to look at their marriage, but I don’t think it’s the correct one.
While married couples share their lives, it’s important for each partner to have their own space. During the early days of their relationship, Selina incorrectly viewed Bruce’s questions about the Joker as an invasion on her space. Catwoman was ready to be with Batman, but she needed to have a part of her life that just belonged to her. Keeping Andrea’s secret was a way to scratch that itch. Maybe it’s what allowed their marriage to be successful. Yes, it was a secret she kept from Bruce, but it had no bearing on their relationship.
Shortly before their wedding, Selina gives Bruce her take on their love affair: “This is who we are, you and me. Without costumes and gadgets and whips. After all they’ve done to us, this is what’s left. Bat and Cat. Two wounded animals. Who, in the midst of the hurt, managed to crawl to each other.”
Batman might be the World’s Greatest Detective, but it seems like Selina is the one who’s finally cracked the code. Their romance may be unconventional, but that’s the very thing we love about it.
Batman/Catwoman #12 by Tom King, Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.