Batman Annual 2
Scott Snyder, Marguerite Bennett, Wes Craig
Zero Year Crossover
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
In this pseudo-crossover, my faith in the dying art of annual comic books has been somewhat restored. As big of a fan of the New 52 I have been since its launch, one of the major flaws with the reincarnation of the DC Universe has been the fact that the annuals have lost their edge and their price tags are completely unrealistic. Putting out an annual has always been something that I’ve despised from all of the big comic companies because, when it comes right down to it, the stories are either gimmicky in nature (I’m looking at you, 1990s Marvel annuals) or just don’t seem to accomplish very much in terms of actual storytelling. Last year’s Batman annual (the retelling of Mr. Freeze’s origin) was a rare exception. Other than that one, all of the annuals both of the first year and this second year (so far) have been an utterly ridiculous waste of time, effort, and hard-earned cash. But this one, much like last year’s issue, was the very welcome exception to the rule. Scott Snyder and Marguerite Bennett did a great job providing a story and a script for artist Wes Craig. Under the supervision of veteran Snyder, the other two creators really showed readers that they are not going anywhere. And I for one can’t wait for the day that they grace the pages of Batman again.
The story introduced a new villain, the Anchoress and a new hero, Eric Border, to the ever-expanding world of the Batman. They are both unique and likeable in their own drastically different ways, and it was a unique way of telling a story by having the new orderly of Arkham Asylum narrate an otherwise Batman-centric tale. The story is simple: Dr. Jeremiah Arkham has invited the Caped Crusader to try and escape from his newest cell, designed specifically for the type of characters that the Bat brings him on a nightly basis. So half of the story is a neat little “look at Batman thinking through how each of his villains would do this and that” and constantly referencing a little “who’s who” in the rogue’s gallery. This proves that the writers know their characters and the hero knows his villains. The other half is about the new characters. We don’t get a whole lot out of Border, but we know enough about him to see that he’s not going anywhere and he’ll be a force for good when the time comes for him to step up. And the Anchoress is not only creepy, which is a prerequisite for all of Gotham’s villains, but she is also very much rooted in the history and lore of Gotham City. Not to mention the tragedy surrounding her origin, which is essentially an accident, a misunderstanding of her powers, and a blame of the Batman for his involvement in turning the Asylum, a former safe haven for the downtrodden and misunderstood citizens of a once great city turned into a living hell for the scum of the earth. Naturally, upon hearing of the Batman’s presence, she decides to take him on for his crimes against her. The orderly steps in and saves the day, twice, but not before Batman truly sees what it is to truly experience hell, in one of the most daring and exciting scenes I think I’ve ever seen in an annual.
This is no throw-away issue. I also didn’t feel cheated by the price tag or length. It is a complete story that complements the current storyline of Zero Year as well as references great past plots from Requiem, Year One, and even Night of the Owls. Though some people might pass on this issue based on the price tag and the fact that it’s an annual, I would strongly suggest that any and all Batman fans pick this up. Whether it is for the few pages that tie into Zero Year or the fact that we get two new characters who are actually well-done enough to be more than just single issue players who never show up again, this is a must-read. So go ahead and do yourself a favor. Skip all of the other annuals this week, but be sure you pick this one up and add it to your collection.
My Rating: 5/5