As thoughtful and emotionally satisfying as writer Tom King’s recent run on Batman has been, one of the major drawbacks is that every time something even remotely good happens to someone, you know it won’t be long until some kind of twist of fate snatches their happiness away.
Despite the mayhem and madness that’s kept them apart from one another for so many years, Batman finally found the nerve to be open with Catwoman about his feelings for her and pop the big question. After mulling over whether she really wanted to settle down and commit to a man known for snatching up orphaned street children (it’s true), Selina ultimately decided she wouldn’t mind strolling down the aisle with Bruce.
But before the happy couple say their “I dos,” King’s been taking a moment to remind us all just who Batman is with a couple of stories about the other interpersonal relationships with those closest to him. We’ve seen Batman and Catwoman on a double date with Superman and Lois Lane and been reminded how Bruce is still struggling to cope with the death of his parents. But in this week’s issue #39, Batman finds Bruce Wayne confronted with a different kind of war on evil, one he’s never had to face before.
There are few people in the world who Jim Gordon will allow to operate the GCPD’s Bat signal and when the device suddenly turns on without his authorization, the police commissioner rushes to the rooftop ready to shoot whoever is up there. Wonder Woman being Wonder Woman, she isn’t at all phased when Gordon and his fellow officers confusedly discover that she’s the one who flipped on the Bat-switch and calmly explains that she’s in need of Batman’s assistance with an otherworldly issue that Superman isn’t particularly cut out for.
As Batman appears out of nowhere (of course), Wonder Woman explains that the time has come for she and her fellow Justice Leaguer to make good on a promise they once made to the Gentle Man, a warrior trapped in a dimension beyond their own. For thousands of years, the Gentle Man has waged an endless war against unspeakable hordes of demons attempting to make their way across the dimensions even though there’s no way for them to cross. Once in their past, Batman and Wonder Woman accidentally slipped into the Gentle Man’s dimension and fought alongside him, promising to one day return and grant him an opportunity to rest for at least a day by taking his place as the dimension’s guardian warriors.
Wonder Woman explains that due to the magical nature of the dimension, super abilities are all but useless there, meaning that Superman (who isn’t particularly known for his fighting skills) is sitting this adventure out. With Catwoman’s blessing and promise to chaperone the Gentle Man when he crosses over into their world, Batman and Wonder Woman set out into the hellish war dimension and dive headfirst into the kind of battle that only the two of them could thrive in.
Though they’re fighting an endless war to the death, Bruce and Diana are in their element, relying only on their own wit, skill, and determination to stay alive. They are, in a very real sense, a dynamic duo of brawlers whose combined might is more than enough to drive back dozens of opponents before they’re ultimately able to make their escape to recuperate.
Back in Gotham, as Catwoman helps the Gentle Man adjust to being back in a more peaceful reality, her companion surprises her by revealing that he’s actually from their world and, as best as he can tell, he’s only been missing for about a year. Time, the Gentle Man explains, flows differently in the other dimension, meaning that the few hours he’s spent back in Gotham has been years for Batman and Wonder Woman. Though they won’t have aged, they will have experienced the time all the same and Batman #39 closes by leaning heavily on the implications of Diana and Bruce’s time away.
For them, at least a decade has past and in that time, their hopes that the Gentle Man would come back to relieve them of their burden have faded. Fighting the horde of demons is all Bruce and Diana know and all they have save for one another. Diana knows it, Bruce knows it, and after fighting for so long, it appears as if the two are finally ready to admit to something that millions of shippers have been hoping for for decades.
An optimistic reading of Batman #39 might leave you inclined to assume that Bruce and Diana’s kiss is just a cheeky cliffhanger that’ll be resolved in the next issue when a random demon pops up, interrupts the moment, and reminds the two that they probably shouldn’t be making out.
But for all you pessimists out there, this could easily be interpreted as the kiss that ultimately ruins Batman’s engagement because if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that Catwoman’s going to find out about this.