Annuals have always been a tough thing to write. They are at their best when they are a self contained story that connects to the overall plot that the book is telling. Marvel seems to be having a lot of trouble with this as of late. But if the Batman Annual #1 is any indication, DC is on the right track with these.
Batman Annual #1 is firmly planted in the crossover “Night of the Owls.” But instead of this being another round of Batman kicking different Talon’s ass, we learn about Mr. Freeze and his past. Oh, and you know how the Talon’s come back to life? It’s because of Mr. Freeze’s concoction. Mr. Freeze has always been one of the kookier villains in Batman’s rogue gallery. His freeze powers are firmly planted in the Silver Age, and his driving force, his wife, hasn’t been an interesting plot point for years. But Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV not only make the character a viable threat again, he’s genuinely interesting as a person. And those are the best villains; ones we can relate too. In the reboot universe, Freeze doesn’t have an actual wife, he is just infatuated with a woman who was the first to be cryogenically frozen. His cold condition is also tweaked up just enough to make it more realistic. Well, realistic enough for a guy who needs to stay cold all the time. These slight twists add to the insanity of Freeze, who has always seemed more gimmick than real villain. This issue does put a nail in the coffin for Freeze coming back, which saddens me. He could have been the next great threat for Batman.
This annual is a great example of what annual’s can do though. It tells it’s own story, while fleshing out a lesser character, but ties into the overall story in an important way. Snyder has shown that he can create new, and compelling villains for Batman, but it’s great to see him be able to reinvent classic villains and make them new and interesting. The same can be said for when the Penguin appears. he seems to be more like his portrayal in the Arkham games. A corrupt businessman instead of a real villain. I’m not to familiar with James Tynion IV’s writing, but he’s a writer to keep an eye on. It’s impossible to tell who wrote what pages, which means his writing style is similar to Snyder’s. And we always need more writers on caliber with Snyder. He is helping write the back up tales in the other Batbooks, so look for those as well.
Jason Fabok’s art is fantastic. His artwork is much like David Finch, but much better. There also seems to be an influence of Patch Zircher as well. Characters are expressive enough, but once they put the masks on, they become a little bland. Other writers have done a lot worse, so don’t think that these characters don’t look great once the spandex comes out. The action flows very well, and thank god it does. Otherwise I’d be inclined to make a pun about how everyone looked frozen. See what I did there? The redesign of Mr. Freeze’s costume is welcomed, with the new one being simplified. Not that his old one really needed a redesign, but it overall looks better than the old one. His Batman is menacing, and carries the “force of nature” look that Batman needs when entering a scene.
Even with a $4.99 price tag, Batman Annual #1 is worth your money. Bat-fans won’t be disappointed.
Batman Annual #1 gets 4/5.