WARNING: The Following Article Contains SPOILERS Through Batman #49.
The latest issue of Batman sees The Clown Prince of Crime out to save his arch-enemy from Catwoman. While The Joker working to help Batman is not unheard of, it is still a rare event and rarer still when it involves a fight with The Dark Knight's fiancee!
The upcoming nuptials of The Caped Crusader and The Feline Fatale have come to dominate the Batman family of books in recent months. Previous issues and specials have seen various villains besides The Joker running amok and Booster Gold nearly broke reality with his efforts to give Bruce Wayne an unforgettable wedding present. This led to the events of Batman #48 and The Joker's attacking a wedding, seemingly in a bid to draw Batman out. The issue revealed, however, that catching Batman off-guard was only a means to an end, meant to lure Catwoman out of hiding.
Batman #49 sees Catwoman and The Joker fighting to a standstill, with the two villains left physically exhausted and fatally wounded. The Joker is left putting pressure on his slit throat to stop himself from bleeding out. Catwoman is likewise incapacitated by a gunshot to the stomach. This leaves the two villains having a metatextual conversation about the good old days and such questions as why The Penguin carries an umbrella, the accuracy of The Riddler's theory that The Joker just pretends to be crazy and why, even in better times, Catwoman never laughed like all the other villains who menaced Batman.
Eventually the conversation turns to The Joker's specific reasons for wanting to see Catwoman dead. She guesses that it's because The Joker wants to annoy Batman and killing his fiancee would be a major feather in his cap. The Joker scoffs at this, pointing out - given the sanctity Batman holds for life in general - that he could kill anyone if all he wanted to do was annoy Batman. The real reason, Joker reveals, is that he has to kill Catwoman in order to save Batman.
The Joker explains his reasoning, if "reasoning" is the right word for the thought processes of a total madman. The Joker believes that he gives Batman's life meaning and that he knows his enemy well enough to know that it is the desire to keep the peace rather than seeking happiness that motivates Batman to be Batman. If Catwoman were to marry Batman, Joker worries, that might make him happy and, logically, bring an end to his being Batman.
"He can't be happy. And also be Batman," insists The Joker.
It all makes sense from a certain point of view, though The Joker later confesses that Batman gives his life meaning and that a happy Batman would mean the end of him as well. It spoils little to reveal that Catwoman does emerge from this battle unscathed, though the status of The Joker going into the wedding of the year is less certain. All we know for sure is that the next issue of Batman and the wedding ceremony at its center will be one to remember.
Batman #49 is now available from DC Comics.