Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Batman Annual #1 Review

Bat for the Holiday

Written by: Scott Williams, Steve Orlando, Paul Dini, Scott Snyder and Tom King
Art by: Riley Rossmo, David Finch, Bilquis Evely, Declan Shalvey and Neal Adams
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: November 30, 2016

It's Annuals Week again and while I usually let out a huge groan at such a thing, this one is a bit different.  Why?  Because we are far enough into Rebirth to finally get annuals of the books we are currently reading.  Sure, it's still not exactly our ongoing tales, but it is a step up from what we've been getting from the past couple of 5th week offerings.  what makes this Batman Annual even more exciting (to me at least) is that it's an anthology to boot.  Batman stories from Tom King, Scott Snyder, Paul Dini and more?  Yes Please!  So, does this Annual make the week a winner and also have me looking forward to future extra week months?  Let's find out...

The first story is by Tom King with art by David Finch and it's an origin story wrapped up tight with a Christmas bow.  Origin story of whom?  Well, it's Ace the Bat Hounds origin and it's upsetting, gritty and nice all rolled up into one.  It involves the Joker (a bit), but is more of an Alfred story as Bruce's loyal Butler saves and trains Ace.  After the grim beginning, it is fun to watch the training sessions go by as Batman deals with Gotham's problems with little to no attention at what is going on right beneath his nose.  By the end, we see that you can teach an old dog new tricks and I'm not entirely talking about Ace!  It's a nice story that brings it's three characters together and makes you love at least two of them even more.

Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes and Declan Shalvey continue with another "stop and smell the roses" kind of story and it's quick and nice.  It's always great to see Batman smile and we get that here as he has a moment before the "bombardment will surely resume".  By the end, it certainly does (this is Gotham after all), but getting a couple of pages to relax with the Dark Knight is always welcome.

Next up is Paul Dini and Neal Adams coming at us with a Harley Quinn Christmas story.  Of course, Batman is involved, but this is a Harley story through and through.  If you ask me, this is an homage and parody all rolled up into one as citizens of Gotham show their love and inspiration for everything Harley.  As Batman drives Harley to the Gotham City limits (or beyond?!?), several crimes are thwarted by Harley inspired citizens.  While it all doesn't go unnoticed by the Dark Knight, Harley is busy being...Harley!  Here that means some funny lines and even funnier songs directed at Batman.  The best part was easily when Batman joined in, but it was also great to see it all end with some solid Coney Island continuity.

I wish I could say that the fun continues, but the next story by Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo takes a bit of a down turn.  It all comes off as a setup for a future story and that didn't sit well for me.  It's like having a Christmas party where everyone is having fun and that one jackass is using it as an opportunity to sell Shamwows. Hey, I love Shamwows as much as the next guy, but there is a time and a place.  It  doesn't help that the story is total weak sauce and just left me confused.

The last story is by Scott Bryan Wilson and Bilquis Evely and it's okay, but a bit grim for the holidays and because of that, it doesn't fit well with the rest.  It features Delia Pflaum, aka "Haunter", and Batman involved in a little cat and mouse game of fear toxin and DNA.  While I liked the idea of a weaker toxin causing anxiety throughout the city, the main bit was mostly forgettable and ends with Batman being a real dick.  While the other stories center on letting Batman enjoy the Holiday (even for only a few moments), Wilson leaves us with the idea that Batman is about to beat the shit out of a woman and Scarecrow...if they don't die first.  Was this supposed to be funny?  It really didn't seem like it and brought the feelings I had for this Annual down a notch.

This was my first true Rebirth Annual experience and as a whole, I liked it.  Sure, it meant nothing to the ongoing series, but for the most part it felt like a Batman Christmas Special and I liked the first.  I've spelled it out already, but as a reader, I could have done without the last two stories, but hey...three out of five ain't bad!

Bits and Pieces:

I love the idea of a Batman Holiday Special and for the most part, I liked what we got here.  We get Ace the Bat Hound, a Scott Snyder Story and Harley Quinn's creator giving us...Harley.  We also get two other stories, but don't worry about them and decide if three out of five is worth $4.99.  I do.



  1. My favorite story was Good Boy. Silent Night didn't seem like a Scott Snyder story to me (the story wasn't bad or anything, but I wouldn't have guessed it was his). My least favorite was Stag.

  2. I enjoyed Ace's story the best. Silent Night was "meh" for me, but not as bad as most Snyder tripe. I liked the Harley story; Dini's Harley characterization, combined with Adams' nice, realistic-looking art made this a great little Christmas tale. The Haunter story was wordy and not very interesting. And while I loved Evely's art on the Wonder Woman Cheetah interlude, I was not a fan here at all.

    And then we come to Orlando and Rossmo -- it's the return of Ventriloquist Dummy Duke! And Bruce looks like a GI Joe figure from 1985 later. Add the awful art to Orlando's ham-fisted dialogue and plotting, and you have a terrible "monster" of a story. And it's going to continue next year. Oh. Fucking. Boy. Total nonsense.

    So my final tally is two good stories, one in the middle (Snyder), and two that went from bad to worst. Maybe I should just excise the last two stories from the book, to make it better; Still glad I got it, for the good stories that brought a little holiday cheer, Batman-style.

    1. I felt positive overall as well...i just don't think about those last two!

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  4. I liked the King/Finch story and the Dini/Adams story. I thought they both had heart and sincerity without being cheesy or uncharacteristic. Cuz you can't have Batman being too swept away by Christmas spirit. He's Batman. And the Harley story was a perfect homage to Batman #219 "Silent Night of the Batman" in which Batman does actually stay up all night singing Christmas carols with the GCPD, as Harley teases him in this Annual. And the best part... Batman #219 was illustrated by Neal Adams! I love this story in part because it does exactly what Rebirth posits as its mission statement: to bring back legacy. Plus the story totally feels like an episode of Batman: the Animated Series, so that's also awesome.
    Unfortunately it was all downhill from there. Shalvey's art was terrible and the Snyder/Fawkes story was rambling and pointless. And while I can honestly say that I love Steve Orlando's Midnighter, I think he has a long way to go before he has the hang of writing Batman. Night of the Monster Men is a good example of this.
    The last story was far too sombre for a Christmas Special and Batman was just a dick at the end. Like in a sadistic way.
    In summary then, two fifths of the Annual were fun, the other three fifths were garbage. If that's still worth 5 bucks to you, go for it.

    1. nicely put. I can't disagree with you at all!!! I was not a huge fan of Midnighter (I found Orlando's dialogue way over the top), but the Monster Men story already proved to me that he can't write Batman and this just confirms it!!!