Spoilers ahead for this week's Batman #75.
For the last few months, writer Tom King has been describing Batman #75 as a turning point in the series, one that would change the Dark Knight, “maybe forever.”
Although the issue hints at “another crisis” and has some interesting developments for the city of Gotham, King’s promise of change appears to be directed at Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Selina Kyle, as the two were finally reunited at the end of Batman #75.
Batman and Catwoman have been estranged since the surprise ending of Batman #50, when Selina left Bruce at the altar after a months-long build-up to a highly anticipated marriage of Catwoman and Batman.
The marriage never happened, but Selina’s appearance at the end of Batman #75 and her teased role for upcoming issues (including King’s new Batman/Catwoman maxi-series with Clay Mann) may lead to the change King was promising all along.
Before the end of the issue (and the reunion of the Cat and the Bat) there were a few other surprising twists in the plot, including the mention of “another Crisis,” revelations about Alfred’s role in Batman’s defeat, and an explanation of how Psycho Pirate got all Gotham’s villains to work with Bane.
Batman #75, which kicks off the “City of Bane” storyline that will end King’s Batman run, starts with the word “Later.” And it’s clear that significant time has passed since the end of Batman #74.
Bane has taken over Gotham City’s infrastructure, with the blessing of Lex Luthor (a tie-in to the “Year of the Villain” story spilling out of Justice League).
As Bane is talking to Lex about his control of Gotham, he briefly mentions “another Crisis coming” as he lists Batman’s accomplishments. It’s not clear if he knows something about Dr. Manhattan (perhaps because of his alliance with Psycho Pirate, who can see other timelines?), or if he’s just making a general observation about how there’s always “another Crisis coming.”
At the end of the issue, however, there’s another reference to changing continuities. As Cat and Bat reunite, readers are reminded that each of them remembers their first meeting differently.
As established in Batman Annual #2, Catwoman recalls their first meeting as being in the street, like the one from DC’s post-Crisis continuity.
Batman, however, recalls that they met on a boat, like in their pre-Crisis continuity.
That discrepancy in Batman Annual #2 seemed like an attempt by King to include all of the characters’ history in his new story. But this reminder, coupled with the mention of a “Crisis,” indicates it could be more.
But the majority of Batman #75 is focused on the fact that Gotham villains are now running the city’s government under the direction of Bane, who’s still headquartered within a now-empty Arkham Asylum.
In this new Gotham order, Hugo Strange is Gotham’s Police Commissioner and the Joker, Riddler, and other costumed villains patrol the streets in squad cars.
Gotham City still has a Batman, except when Strange lights the Bat-signal, the caped crusader who responds is the Flashpoint Batman Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce from an alternate timeline.
Gotham Girl acts as Thomas Wayne’s sidekick, and the two of them help the rogue-filled police department keep the peace in Gotham City with threats and brutal justice.
Psycho Pirate’s ‘Love’
Readers also find out why the villains are serving Bane. As most fans probably suspected, it’s because the Psycho Pirate has played with their emotions.
Yet the emotion used by Psycho Pirate is a surprise.
In Batman #75, Psycho Pirate’s powers are used to control Two-Face. “This is love,” Psycho Pirate says, wearing the mask that allows him to control emotions. “You love this city. You love his city. You love his Gotham. And you love him. You love Bane. You love him so very much.”
So in the issue where Bat and Cat are reunited, readers learn that “love” is being used against them.
In the last couple issues of Batman, Flashpoint Batman’s mission to resurrect his dead wife failed, as well as his attempt to subdue his son Bruce.
However, Thomas is now back in Gotham City, without Bruce, and he’s taken up residence in Wayne Manor. He works in the Batcave, keeps Gotham Girl patrolling the streets, and uses Arnold Wesker (The Ventriloquist) as his butler.
Alfred is in the Manor as well, but he’s clearly not cooperating with Thomas. In fact, it’s clear that neither Thomas nor Alfred are being controlled by Psycho Pirate’s powers.
Instead, the two men seem to have struck a deal that requires Alfred to stay in the Manor, one that keeps Batman’s allies away but holds Bruce’s butler hostage.
Alfred is convinced that Bruce is coming back. As her and Thomas dine together in Batman #75, Alfred says: “I’m sorry for what he’s going to do to you when he returns.”
Where are the Cat and the Bat?
The issue also shows brief glimpses of a mysterious figure climbing a snow-covered mountain. When he finally reaches the top, readers learn that it’s Bruce Wayne, but he’s confused.
His battle with his father-from-another-world didn’t end well, it seems. And now he’s seeking the “Memory of the Mountain” (another reference to Batman Annual #2’s Cat/Bat conversation about their first meeting).
Instead, Bruce is attacked by two men who easily beat him and slit the side of his throat, stealing his coat and leaving him for dead in the snow.
Catwoman finds him there. Was she following him? Or is this a chance encounter?
“It was a boat,” Bruce says. “I’m here because it started on the … started on the boat.”
“No Bat,” Selina says. “Don’t you remember? It was the street.”
The story continues in August 7's Batman #76.