Batman Annual #2 review

Batman Annual 2

Batman and Catwoman.  How did they meet?  How did they eventually come to fall in love?  And what’s mouse poop got to do with it?

In Batman Annual #2, King brings us his vision of the way things were and other things that have not yet come to pass.  The majority of this tale takes place in flashback and divulges yet another wonderful game of cat and “mouse” shared between these two that fully feels like it was plucked right out of another decade.  The tail end of the story is a flash forward and shows us how King would choose to bookend Bruce’s life.

I thought it was interesting that King did this, because in the never ending world of the serial comics, we seldom get a solidified ending.  Instead, a writer passes the torch along, never getting to write a definitive ending to the overall story of any given character.  And while this can’t truly be looked at as the end-all be-all definitive ending for Bruce, it does show us what King would do if he was allowed to write Batman for the next 30 years, aging the characters along the way to their ultimate end.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of my favorite elements about this tale was how it very much felt like it was placed in another time.  Yes, it’s a flashback.  So, it’s naturally not in the present.  But this past isn’t the past of the year 2012, or even 2002.  This is a past that feels much further back than that.  There’s not a bunch of overly complicated tech on display (smoke bombs and bulky glass cutters are the extent), and the world the characters inhabit just feels intrinsically simpler than anything you’d find in the last 3 decades.

Along with the world feeling simpler, the plot has a more simplistic quality to it as well.  We aren’t given some convoluted narrative that you’d need a white board and three degrees to decipher.  And, in may ways, it’s just the characters doing what they do and being themselves.  I always feel odd pointing this kind of thing out as a positive when I’m writing reviews because, really, you’d think this would be a given in any story where an established character is being portrayed.  But yeah, since that isn’t always the case, thumbs up for King on how effortlessly the characters simply feel like themselves.

I’m also a big fan of timeless Batman stories.  That is, stories that you can pick up no matter what decade they were written in and not feel lost.  Essentially, stories that are in large part not dependent on continuity awareness to make them work.  I think it would be very easy to slip this particular issue into a run from the 80s and have the reader be none the wiser that it was written today.

This story also establishes that the Batman/Elmer Fudd Special (which is arguably one of the best Batman issues of 2017) is actually in continuity.  When I originally read Batman/Elmer Fudd, I saw it more as an elseworld tale than anything else.  But this annual provides pretty strong evidence that it’s part of Batman’s main history.  At least in the King-verse.

I’m also giving bonus points to this story for actually involving detective work.  While the hows and whys of it aren’t explicitly elaborated on, you can pretty much extrapolate what went down: chemical analysis, researching records to find what the component was used in, and further research to find where the established product was used.

When it comes to the art, Lee Weeks is definitely a cut above the rest.  In many ways, I feel that the atmosphere he projects is similar to that of David Mazzucchelli.  Incidentally, it does seem that the Catwoman design for this story is based off of Mazzucchelli’s work from Batman: Year One mixed with Catwoman from Batman: The Animated series.  The first thing that really caught my eye about Catwoman was the inclusion of the belt from Batman: The Animated series.  It’s hard to mistake that design.  I also think that Weeks’ work goes a long way to establishing that simpler/other-timely nature that I was discussing earlier.

Usually when I talk about art, I only discuss the penciller.  But this time around I felt compelled to bring up the colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser.  I really enjoyed the muted/dulled color palette she chose to work with.  It added a somber feeling that, once again, reminded me of Year One.  I also liked the fact that even though the Catwoman suit from this story was clearly grey, the lighting in certain scenes made it come off almost purple-ish in nature.  Which, in turn, made her look more like the Tim Sale Catwoman.

Now onto some of my less favorable elements.

There’s a song that appears twice in this story (it also features as the title).  Some of these Days by Sophie Tucker.  Personally, I don’t think it always makes sense to utilize songs in written works.  If we were watching a film that had this song, we’d have an instantaneous response.  We’d hear the music, we’d hear the singer’s voice.  And because people are conditioned to respond to the human voice and musical cues, we’d have a lot more to go on than just the lyrics.  When you consider that more than half the enjoyment of a song is derived from hearing it, just reading it ends up being a huge disadvantage for the reader.  And even if the lyrics are meaningful, you’re missing out on the delivery of the singer.  That can be very impactful and often dictate the manner in which we are intended to feel.

There’s also the problem of not having an emotional attachment to a given song.  Songs can be very personal things, and in the course of a few short minutes, we can sometimes see our entire lives played out within them.  Or, simply decide that a song doesn’t speak to us at all.  To attach a song to an iconic couple like Batman and Catwoman and have it not gel with the listener can really ruin the mood.  Personally, I didn’t even know this song existed till I looked it up.  I did think it was cool since it played into the old-timey vibe that other parts of the story were playing up, but it doesn’t fit into my mindset of what I think Batman and Catoman’s song should be.  Personally, I’ve always thought I’ll Stand by You by The Pretenders was a perfect song for these two.  If you’ve never heard the song, give it a listen.  I think you’ll see what I mean.

I didn’t really care for Catwoman’s explanation as to why she was doing all that she was doing within the issue.  To me, she was doing it cause that’s just who she is.  It’s part of their game.  It’s how she flirts with Batman.  To say that she was doing it all to make him become a better person was just weird for me.  Like, is she already at a place in their relationship where that was her goal?  Seems way too early for this kind motivation in my opinion.  Heck, I’d have preferred no explanation at all over what was given.  At least then I could just assume it was their same old game.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the ending.  I’m no spring chicken, and I don’t really want to dwell on when/how my eventual death is going to happen or when it might happen to the woman I love.  Comics are a form of escapism.  So, to come here for escape and be faced with my own mortality wasn’t all that fun.  And while this is something I can understand and relate to on some level, it had me wondering how much a 20-something or teenager could really get out of it.  Not only with the focus on mortality, but about being able to relate to things and feelings that are typically only understood after one has been in a long term committed relationship.  That’s not to talk down to younger readers.  But, a lot of time, you need to experience something to truly understand it.  That’s all.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see how King would end Batman’s career if he were allowed to write the final Bruce Wayne story.
  • You like the cat and mouse games played between Catwoman and Batman.
  • You like when a story uses elements from many different time periods causing the story to feel as if it fits everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.
  • You want to see Batman and Catwoman simply acting like themselves.

Overall:

There’s plenty about this comic to applaud: ambiance, art, character portrayals, streamlined  storytelling, etc., etc., etc.  In my opinion, the only thing that really held this story back from being truly great was a desire to make it too real.  While I’m fine with certain levels of realism, I guess I’m just the kind of guy that prefers old-fashioned stories where the hero rides off into the sunset.  That’s not to say that the journey needs to be nothing but glittery rainbows and soft fluffy kittens.  You definitely need the hero to experience hardships along the way.  But I’d at least like to end on an uplifting note.

SCORE: 8.5 / 10

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