“World’s greatest detective. Indeed.”
Alright, I will admit it, I’m a huge Batman fan. My kids are Batman fans. Even my wife is a closet Batman fan. Sorry honey! Needless to say, the recent Detective Comics/Batman run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo rivals, if not surpasses, Grant Morrison’s epic take on the character in my opinion. I still miss Snyder on the main Bat title, but I have increasingly grown to like Tom King’s current take on Batman and the Bat family.
Currently in the midst of his second arc titled I Am Suicide, DC takes a break and put out a series of Rebirth-themed short stories that definitely, and positively, surprised me. Written and drawn by established stars and rising talents Scott Snyder, Tom King, Ray Fawkes, Steve Orlando, Paul Dini, Scott Bryan Wilson, David Finch, Declan Shalvey, Neal Adams, Riley Rossmo, Bilquis Evely, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, Mat Lopes and Gabe Eltaeb, Batman Annual #1 surprisingly spends a large amount of time using Gotham as the main character and often protagonist, which is a central theme to Snyder’s run on the character.
Each of the first three successive stories highlights the feel-good nature of Christmas and humanity’s desire to help one another during the Holidays, even in Gotham. Consider me surprised to read a mostly feel-good Batman issue, I think it’s the palette cleanser/change of tone issue that every series needs, lest the superheroics and spandex get too superheroic-y and spandex-y. While there is no connective theme throughout the short stories, the first appearance of the Stag, the promise of Haunter, and the genuine laughs found in “Good Boy” make this a nice addition to your collection.
“Good Boy” by King and Finch is the first Batman story that I genuinely laughed at in a long time. With Bruce Wayne as the straight man, per usual, his foils include Alfred and a new frenemy, Ace. Alfred, in particular, comes away with one of my favorite one-liners in the face of Bruce’s complete obliviousness. King writes the humorous Batman story I never knew I needed, let alone wanted. King uses breaks in time to highlight Alfred’s love, and Bruce’s utter devotion to the cause as well as his lack of awareness to the goings on in his own home. It all culminates with Alfred wryly muttering on Christmas Day, “World’s greatest detective. Indeed.”
“The Not So Silent Night of the Harley Quinn” sees Paul Dini reunite with one of his seminal characters, Harley Quinn, with the venerable Neal Adams on art duties. Harley spends much of Christmas night trying to get Batman to sing. The story also includesan “homage” to Batman that most kids will remember fondly. Not essential for collectors, but it’s the fun change of pace that only Harley Quinn can bring. Besides, did I mention Neal Adams was on art??
“Stag” by Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo is notable for the last-page introduction of a new Bat-villain named after the title. Teased to be coming in 2017, The Stag has a distinctive Rossmo look and could be an ideal first appearance. This short story’s hook coupled with a distinct, visually appealing color palette, an ice-bull riding Minister Blizzard, and an appearance from hero-in-training Duke Thomas make this one of the more intriguing shorts in the issue.
“The Insecurity Diversion” by Scott Bryan Wilson and Bilquis Evely rounds out the collection with another intriguing villain in Haunter, one I hope the Bat team fleshes out in the future. With the ability to kill someone using only their hair or skin follicles, she has a unique but unexplained skillset. This issue has the most promise, but is also the most unfulfilling of the bunch, as it has a premise that begs for a full issue but is relegated to the last several pages. Whereas “The Stag” is a last-page reveal, Haunter is developed from the beginning and could bring a unique challenge to the World’s Greatest Detective.
The art in this annual is as diverse as you can imagine, Shalvey portrays Gotham using the typical hues of grays and blacks, with some snow sprinkled in. Whereas Plascencia and Lopes stunningly and beautifully incorporate blues, greens, and purples to highlight the hijinks occurring in Gotham. The art in “The Stag” is truly unique and I love the color choices, especially in the Minister Blizzard scenes. Neal Adams uses some creative ways to incorporate Harley’s songs and melodies amidst the backdrop of the Batmobile. The art teams truly capture the look, and in many cases, feel of Gotham. Reading this issue was in many ways like reading a well-worn book, you just feel like you are there with the characters.
Batman Annual #1 has a lot to like, whether you want some laughs, to see people helping one another, villainy, pathos or just Batman doing what he does best; you won’t be disappointed. There is plenty of action, but also heart, and Batman actually smiles in two separate short stories. How did this get past editorial? At 40 pages, you have lots of material to occupy your time with.
Buy Batman: Annual #1. Take a break from serious action with serious consequences that will change everything you know about comics and read some short stories with some feels. Watch Batman take down a Minister, fake his death, and sing Christmas songs with Harley Quinn. Let me know what you think below!
- I laughed multiple times reading "Good Boy"
- First appearance of The Stag
- Minister Blizzard
- Underdeveloped, yet promising villains (looking at you Haunter!)