Friday, September 21, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Batman Annual #4 Review (2015)

Bruce Wayne, This is Your Life

Written By: James Tynion IV
Art By: Roge Antonio, Dave McCaig, Steve Wands
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: September 30, 2015

Review by: Eric Shea

*Non Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Oh, it's Annual time again and that means that we'll be told a tale that doesn't exactly jive with what we're currently dealing with in the series...... yeah, that sounds a lot like Batman #44 to me, but to my surprise this story actually has a lot to do with our current storyline and I'm sure that everybody will be pleased to know that it features Bruce Wayne....... Also, a pseudo-Arkham Manor epilogue.  That was a strange series, but I'm all for an explanation on how Bruce got the manor back from the crazies and it's all here...... Woo!  Anyway, there isn't much for me to recap on here, Jim Gordon is Batman, Bruce Wayne has no memory of his life as Batman...... or anything really and now it's time for a homecoming.  Let's check it out.

Explain It!:

Our story begins with Bruce and Julie showing up to the mansion to sign some papers because it seems that even though Powers International has bought up all the Wayne holdings, the CEO Geri Powers isn't about to keep an amnesiac Bruce Wayne out of his boyhood home and let it be overrun by nutjobs and murderers.  Because of what Powers International will one day become under the leadership of Geri's nephew Derick Powers in Batman Beyond, I can't help but dislike and mistrust this company, but I have to admit that I really liked Geri giving back the mansion to Bruce out of pity and the fact that she didn't want to own an asylum.  We get a cool rundown on how Geri had to have all the patients taken out of the Manor and placed in either a hospital or a sectioned off wing at Blackgate, but for all her safety and security, this is Gotham and Gotham has the greatest bad guys of all.  It turns out that Clayface had created clay models of Riddler, Mr. Freeze and himself to be shipped away to wherever they were headed and the real deals stayed behind to meet Mr. Wayne for when he would eventually show up....... It's funny too because Alfred set up the meeting because obviously, he wants to keep the Manor due to all its secrets, but really Bruce didn't want any parts of the place at all and now he's stuck in one of Riddler's death traps.

Using the tunnel systems, Alfred is able to get Bruce to safety but it doesn't last long as the group of villains catch up to him pretty fast and the game begins with the question, Bruce Wayne, what are you?  Riddler leads Bruce through the mansion that he doesn't remember and with Clayface's aid, he recreates scenes from Bruce's past as he pokes him to answer the question.  If you don't remember from Zero Year, Bruce once admitted himself to Arkham and was about to get shock treatment to help him deal with his tortured mind and apparently Riddler found the original files and wants Bruce Wayne to admit that he's crazy.  It's kind of obvious when you think about it, but for most of the issue, I swore he was leading us to the realization that the Riddler knows that Bruce Wayne was Batman.  Really though, Riddler, Clayface and Mr. Freeze want Bruce Wayne to pay for the things that he's done to them as a real person and for banking Batman since we all know what he's done to these villains.  The reason for the walk down memory lane that they're forcing on Bruce is because they want him to know and remember the man that he was because taking their frustrations out on someone who doesn't remember the sins that he's done against them isn't right in their minds.

In the end, without the knowledge of Batman, Bruce Wayne overcomes the threat by activating a security measure that Alfred told him about in the beginning of the electrified chandelier and actually uses a gun to shoot a jamming device, keeping Geri Power's signal to Batman from being sent.  With the chandelier taking out Clayface, who inadvertently took out Mr. Freeze, Bruce ends the game by giving Riddler some scars that he can actually remember and take credit for by kicking Nygma in the face.  As the issue closes, we see Batman take the criminals away and Bruce Wayne decides that the Manor might not be a bad place to stay............even if Julie has some serious trepidations about the move now that she's been held captive by a bunch of lunatics.

That's it for this issue of Batman Annual and while I've been mulling over the idea with Jim that Bruce Wayne knows who he is and this is all an act to simply allow him to walk away from Batman, this Annual kind of puts the kibosh on all of that as we see Bruce Wayne......... just being Bruce Wayne.  It was a really good issue with a really interesting and fun story that ties up the loose ends of the Arkham Manor series while informing us about how Bruce got his mansion back.  The only problem that I really have with the story is probably a minor one for anyone else....... or not one at all because you probably don't care, but Clayface shouldn't have been in Arkham Manor.  As we saw from that series, it was a doppelganger of his that became known as Clownface and that monster was taken care of in that series...... So yeah, I loved seeing Clayface here even if it doesn't exactly jive with the other series.  On top of being a great story, it had a ton of callbacks that really expand the individual stories that we've seen from Batman and really make this whole reading experience feel like a cohesive work........ and I love that shit.  Some might have an issue with the art in this book because you're used to Capullo, but I dug it because it went for a dark and isolating mood and I think it totally captured it, while truly giving it that Arkham Manor feels.

Bits and Pieces:

Get to know your former hero!  For this Annual, we take a break from Jim Gordon to focus on Bruce Wayne and what his life is like now that he...... well, what it's like now that he has no idea what it was like before.  We get great callbacks to past stories while putting a pin in the Arkham Manor series as well.  Just a really solid story that shows us that even without the cape and cowl..... or a memory of the cape and cowl, that Bruce Wayne isn't someone to toy with.  We've got all that and an art style that really compliments this story....... So what are you waiting for?  Go get some Batman!


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