Batman Annual #4
Just how packed is Batman's schedule? This book tells you exactly why it's so difficult for this guy to meet Clark and Lois for coffee.
This annual contained some moments of undeniable beauty, some deep meditations on the nature of the character, and some well-considered humor, but this level of thought was not sustained for the entirety of the issue and the book left me unsatisfied as a whole. Tom King managed to examine some of Batman’s sillier stories, as well as a few more melodramatic snippets of his history, and re-examine them through a clear psychological light. A scene of Batman chasing a criminal across the roof whilst mounted on a fierce black charger became a meditation on The Bat’s dedication to hard heroin reality over idealistic romanticism while an encounter with a dragon showcased his fabled determination and a meetup with an old flame showed exactly how much of his humanity he has sacrificed in order to embody a role — while also highlighting the fact that innocent people have suffered because of his goals.
These examples are some of the best of the books, both in terms of layout and pacing, but they are interspersed with episodes which carry absolutely no narrative weight at all, beyond serving to prove that Batman is, well, very, very busy. Throughout the rest of the story it was emphatically clear that King was operating under editorial mandate to stretch the tale to nearly forty pages. And this is unfortunate. Had King been either a tad more creative (certainly there’s more to the Batman mythos than this?) or else not pushed to pad out his fare with so much frail stuffing, this issue could have been something really special.
Certainly the artwork deserved a bit better than the script it got. George Fornes and Mike Norton brought their A-games to their pages, conveying a surprising range of emotions with tenderness and skill. I imagine that it’s not every day that an artist gets paid to draw Batman slaying a dragon. That was an unquestionable spread.
In any case, while this book is entertaining and thoughtful in places, it’s not a must have. It would have served better as a filler issue than a standalone Annual.
Beautiful art is forced to work in concert with a mediocre script in Batman Annual #4 (King, Fornes, Norton, Steward, Cowles).
Batman Annual #4: Time After Time
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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