Batman Annual #1 (Review)

Just when you thought DC’s launch of the New 52 was long done and over, readers get treated to an extension of that with this week’s release of Batman Annual #1. The title comes to us amidst the very solid ‘Night of the Owls’ story arc currently taking place throughout many DC titles while also featuring one very ‘chilling’ origin.

For those jumping into the game late, DC has been delivering the ‘Night of the Owls’ storyline for the last several weeks in titles like Batwing, Batman, Nightwing and All-Star Western (feat. Jonah Hex)…so basically anything that has to do with Gotham has fallen under the wrath of the secret society known as the Court of the Owls.  This group is like an Adjustment Bureau of sorts but without the random doorways and magic hats.  Instead, this cunning group of unknowns do their deeds and alter fate in a quick and violent fashion.  Their ability to heal so rapidly is courtesy of one Dr. Victor Fries (pronounced ‘freez’).  You may know him better as one of Batman’s nemesis; Mr. Freeze.

While Batman Annual #1 is a Batman title, it is by far and away a Mr. Freeze book.  The tie-in to Freeze and the Owls is loosely explained here as it clues readers in to the big connection between the two forces.  With that being said, I would have liked a more in-depth tale on the how’s and the why’s of it all.  That part of the story reads more like an express delivery or Cliff Notes booklet than a well laid-out idea.  Perhaps that’s on the horizon to be explained elsewhere.

The writing is brought to us by Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Batman: Gates of Gotham) and James Tynion IV (Shadow Free).  The former teacher-student duo (Snyder was Tynion’s professor at one point) combine wits to give us dialogue that is reminiscent of the early 90’s Batman: The Animated Series, but with an added layer of maturity that could never have been presented in the cartoon.  It’s not a gory read, just one that takes us into more dangerous and gritty situations.

Jason Fabok (Justice League International Annual) provides the cover and story art here while Peter Steigerwald (Supergirl) fills in the ink. Fabok consistently provides great detail in his work, excelling in his coverage of surface textures of the environments in which the characters interact.  In addition, there are several moments of reflecting on the past to not-so-pleasant times in this story.  In these instances, Steigerwald accuratley provides the somber and dark emotion of the scene through his largely monochromatic use, properly complimenting Fabok’s work with a pencil.  Scenes in the modern day and moment are just as apporpriate through Steigerwald’s shots of sharp, vibrant colors in front of the often icy backdrop.

I’m just going to come out and say it.  Mr. Freeze is my favorite villain and that was just as much the case before reading this issue as it is after.  His background is as disturbing as any of the other nutcases that are on Batman’s list of not-favorite-people.  So yes, I may have a little bias in rating this.  On the flip side, I could be just that much harder on the rating seeing as I have high expectations when it comes to the storytelling of Victor Fries’ history. With that being said, this book is certainly no Hush or even The Long Halloween, but it’s still full of great artwork, impressive color mapping, and one very entertaining story.





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