Batman Volume 5: The Rules of Engagement TPB
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Joëlle Jones, Clay Mann, Lee Weeks, Michael Lark, Seth Mann
Colorists: Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, June Chung
Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
Review by Cory Webber
In Batman Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Tom King explores Batman and Catwoman’s relationship in the past, present, and future. Following Catwoman’s answer to his marriage proposal, Batman leaves Gotham City on a quest of renewal and redemption in the desert. As he travels and fights, he encounters members of his family—each disturbed by Batman’s journey, each ready to stand in his way and push back against his stubborn determination to evolve into something better than a superhero.
With Batman Vol. 5: Rules of Engagement, King continues to craft a wonderful, thought-provoking story of love, relationships, honor, and trust. I honestly think we will look back on this run as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest. This book consists of two stories and an annual: first, The Rules of Engagement by King, Jones, Bellaire and Cowles; second, SuperFriends by King, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Bellaire and Cowles; and, finally, Some of These Days (Annual #2) by King, Weeks, Breitweister and Bennett. Each story is unique, yet they all have the same underlying theme of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship and how it affects others. King has such a steady pulse on theses characters — how they talk, act, think, and what makes them tick.
First, in The Rules of Engagement, the dialogue between Bat and Cat (this is honestly what they call each other, and it is super adorable, and not at all cheesy) is refreshing, grounded, and funny. The following quote is one of my favorites: “Cat, I may be wearing a leather bat costume…but do I look crazy enough to make fun of you?” “I don’t know, Bat. Do I look dumb enough to not know what ‘a lot’ is?” “No. You look lovely.” This conversation took place just as they were about to take on “a lot” of league assassins in the desert. This is one example of the playful dialogue between the two at which King has excelled. Consequently, the book is chock full of great banter between them. The art in this first story is just mesmerizing. Joëlle Jones is a freaking rock star. If this whole comic book thing doesn’t pan out (it will!), then she has a future in fashion and home design. Her designs are sophisticated, yet practical. Her line-work provides a certain depth that makes her drawings leap off the page. I can’t wait for her Catwoman series to launch this July! And, let’s not forget the contributions of color artist-extraordinaire, Jordie Bellaire. She is up to her usual tricks. I mean, a barren desert has never looked so vibrant and pretty.
Second, in SuperFriends, a two-issue account, Lois and Selina talk to Clark and Bruce about the engagement. Superman is bugged that Batman didn’t call to tell him, and Bruce thinks that Superman is, well, Superman, and doesn’t need to be bothered with such minutiae. That may sound a little soap opera-y; however, what follows is a fascinating look at what each superhero thinks of the other. Furthermore, the story culminates in a double date with both couples, in what may be my favorite issue of the year. Again, King has really nailed these characterizations, and it’s fascinating to see him psychoanalyze Bruce and Clark through each other’s eyes. The art in this story is wonderfully rendered. As this is such a personal, no-action story, the character moments really needed to carry the torch, and they did. Most importantly, for me at least, is that the facial expressions were spot on. There was a lot of fun to be had here, from Bruce and Clark dressing up as the other’s superhero identity to Selina and Lois bonding over the stubbornness of their men.
Finally, the book ends with Some of These Days (Annual #2), which some have lauded as one of the greatest Batman stories ever. While the previous story did more for me, personally, this issue did knock it out of the park. It’s praise was well-earned. Here, King reunited with Lee Week, with whom he collaborated on the phenomenal Batman/Elmer Fudd Special. Seriously, check that one out. Now, back to the closing chapter. I don’t want to spoil anything, but what I can say is that this issue examines the past, present, and future of the Bat and Cat’s relationship. It is a self-contained story that comes full circle. Again, King continues to impress readers with his ability to nail these characters. And to see him incorporate his voice into such a well-established character’s past, without it feeling out of place, is just beautiful. If anyone doubts that the Bat and Cat make a great couple after this, then I question whether or not they actually read it. Week’s art is a little darker and more shadow-drenched than the previous chapters in this book. However, though, it still gave the entire book an artistic cohesion. I especially liked his ability to recreate some old panels, yet make them different enough to feel owned by him.
Verdict: Buy it.
Batman Volume 5: Rules of Engagement is another success for King and company. If Joëlle Jones isn’t on your radar yet, she should be. The anticipation of all of this leading up to their wedding in Batman #50, and Jones’ debut of Catwoman, is killing me!