This article contains spoilers through Batman No. 50.
Standing up for truth, justice, and the American way is apparently hell on relationships.
Superheroes, comics tell readers, make sacrifices in the name of the mission. And often that means no time for love—that if you have attachments, they’ll only become targets for your enemies. Peter Parker’s first girlfriend famously got snatched up by the Green Goblin and wound up dead, a cautionary tale for anyone who puts on a mask and thinks they have time to date.
And yet, after nearly 80 years of largely unfulfilled workplace flirtation, Batman and Catwoman finally got engaged, with a wedding planned for the pages of Batman No. 50. Up until now, their will-they-or-won’t-they relationship was based on an assumption at the core of comic books: A hero and a villain can’t be together, because they live on opposite sides of the law. But in drafting a wedding plot over the last year, the writer Tom King has upended tradition by trying to pursue something novel for two of comics’ most iconic characters: personal growth.
Turns out in comics, much like real life, that’s not an easy to thing to come by. Without giving too much away, Catwoman leaves Batman waiting at the altar, deciding it’s better to keep Gotham’s protector on the city’s rooftops than enjoy wedded bliss. To be fair, Catwoman confronts a question any of us would ask: Is it possible to enjoy the married life with a guy who plays out his unresolved childhood trauma by blowing through his family fortune and putting on a mask to punch the pain away every night? What’s laced into all of this is not just a question about relationships, but also a question of comics’ broader struggle with the inability to change. Catwoman’s choice is certainly valid, but it simultaneously lays bare the threat to the franchise, as she writes in a letter to her fiancé: “You are an engine that turns pain into hope. If we’re happy, and we could be so happy … I kill that engine. I kill Batman. I kill the person who saves everyone.”