It’s that time of year again. No, not just the holiday season — DC Annual season, of course. Batman gets his annual this week, but is it good?
Batman Annual #1 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The full summary reads:
“SILENT NIGHT”! A hush of winter snowfall has fallen over Gotham City…but a quiet night in this place is never truly quiet. Batman and his allies—and his many foes—stalk the streets in this icy showcase of top talent.
Why does this book matter?
Five stories comprise this annual with more primo creators than you can count. On top of that, some of these are done in one, others tease future stories, and all of them convey something about Batman that reminds you of who he is.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The opening story has some funny moments.
Batman Annual #1 stirs up a holiday special vibe, with a story that captures the love between Bruce and Alfred at Christmas and another that reminds Batman sometimes there are no crimes and you should cherish those moments. The first three stories are like this and they stand alone. They’re also created by some of the best talent in the comic book market, with Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes writing one with art by Declan Shalvey, another drawn by Neal Adams with a story by Paul Dini, and the opening story by Tom King and David Finch. Each of these stories have something different to offer, but are each a reminder of the peace and goodwill that makes the holiday season bright.
My favorite of this bunch was the story by King and Finch that tells a simple enough story about a man and his dog. Alfred picks up a dog Joker broke for a gag and attempts to tame the wild beast even though Bruce thinks it’s futile. The story ends with a sweet twist you won’t see coming.
Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo kick off a tale that will set up a future villain in 2017. This story is a reminder Rossmo continues to be one of the best Batman artists in the game. Orlando’s script adds a bit of mystery to the annual that would have otherwise been missing. There’s some serious detective work in Bruce’s future and the dynamics of new characters are interesting.
The final story by Scott Bryan Wilson (with art by Bilquis Evely) introduces (to the best of my knowledge) a new villain that’s a neat scientific twist on Scarecrow. As Batman pieces together who he’s after we get to see Haunter run amok at Arkham and Wilson does a fantastic job building up the character and showing off her crazy. You’ll want to see more of her after this tale.
The art in Batman Annual #1 is top notch and consistently good throughout. Finch’s story is highly detailed as we should come to expect, with a hilarious full page layout that shows the futility of Alfred’s situation. Shalvey’s story has a controlled sort of calmness due to his style that suits the story nicely. Adam’s story will give you a kick of the old school and he captures Harley’s crazy wonderfully. Evely’s art continues to be a joy, with a highly illustrative style you just don’t see in comics today. The layouts are dense, possibly giving the reader even more content, and the Arkham scenes are a reminder her style’s strength is in faces and environments. Seriously, a single panel in a 9 panel page might contain more detail than some half page panels you’ve seen lately. Great stuff.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Dini and Adams’ story is a little too kooky, especially when lined up with the others. Clearly it’s supposed to be set in the 70’s based on the blue cowl and a less sophisticated Batmobile that looks like it came out of a factory; certainly there’s some nostalgia there, but Batman seems to be out of character, especially with how he treats Harley. Then again, as a Christmas comic what should you expect?
The Orlando/Rossmo story sticks out a bit seeing as it doesn’t offer a real ending, but a cliffhanger. It’s all well and good, but stacked up with these other stories you’re left wanting more since you get such nice endings to the rest.
If we’re going to nitpick, Finch’s story has an image of a ditch that’s supposedly deep enough to keep dogs from jumping out. It looks more like 3 feet deep, and it made me do a double take.
So why doesn’t the dog just jump out?
Is It Good?
This is a fine annual that serves almost as more of a holiday special than a straight annual. The 5 stories all offer something different, every story looks great, and you couldn’t do better pound for pound when it comes to entertainment.