Batman: Rules of Engagement (2018) by Tom King, Joelle Jones, Clay Mann & Lee Weeks

“But under that. The cape. The mask. Under there. You’re still the poor little rich boy in the house on the hill. All that pain from being alone…”

Can a man who saw his parents gunned down in front of him when he was a child ever find true happiness?

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After years of fighting some of the craziest, most dangerous criminals in the DC Universe, Batman has finally popped the BIG question to Catwoman. A superhero-supervillain wedding appears to be taking shape in the distance. But before this comic-book union can go ahead, there are places to go and people to see. The first one being Batman’s deadly blast from the past, Talia al Ghul, the mother of his teenage son. Cue the exotic opening panel depicting Batman on horseback under a hot desert sun.

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Batman Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement collects Batman (Rebirth) #33-37 and Batman Annual #2. The first story is the 3-part Rules of Engagement. Batman and Catwoman set off on a quest across the desert to find Catwoman’s close friend Holly. This brings them into the presence of the ‘daughter of the demon’, Talia al Ghul, and her band of assassins. She challenges first Batman then Catwoman to a sword fight which is beautifully illustrated by Joelle Jones. There is also some great banter between Batman’s gathered sidekicks and Alfred. King’s dialogue is on the ball!

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The second story is the 2-part Super Friends: Superman. Batman has yet to tell Superman about his engagement, as Catwoman keeps reminding him. This leads to a double-date at a funfair where Bruce introduces Selina to Clark and Lois. The ladies get to know each other while the men attempt to out-testosterone each other. This is a funny and touching tale that is all about the characters and their relationships.

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The third story is taken from Batman Annual #2 and continues the theme of Bruce and Selinas’ relationship. The narrative splits into two different time periods, juxtaposing one of Bruce and Selinas’ earliest encounters with an imagined future one when they are old and living together. There are some who have accused Tom King of laying on the schmaltz a bit heavy in this one, but I thought it was a lovely story. Again, it’s all about the relationship.

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Well, this latest Batman Rebirth collection has rekindled my interest in DC’s long-running title. I’ve been a fan of the Batman comic for years but have only been buying it sporadically since I moved to Japan in 2002. I really enjoyed Grant Morrison’s run on the title between 2006 and 2009. I also appreciated some of Scott Snyder’s Batman stories, especially his Death of the Family storyline featuring the return of the Joker.

Batman Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement is a fine addition to the Batman canon. It has made me want to buy and read more of Tom King’s Batman comics. On July 4th, 2018, King’s 50th issue of Batman is published. I will definitely be buying this one as it is being billed as “The Wedding issue”. I’m really curious to see what will happen and I’m hoping it will become a “classic” Batman story.

 

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