Batman Annual #5
Clownhunter seeks out Leslie Thompson in her Crime Alley clinic to talk about the past and future.
As we close out 2020, it turns out DC Comics had one last, late Christmas gifts for fans of the Caped Crusader. This one-off annual precedes the massive Future State event but stands as a solid reminder of why, amidst publisher-wide shake-ups, James Tynion IV will still be the writer on Batman come March. As has much of the rest of his run, Tynion invests deeply in the heart of young Bao, The Clownhunter, serving up an atypical origin tale. Rather than run through the play-by-play of how his parents were murdered and what led to him putting on the mask and killing clowns, the story takes deliberate pauses along the way to flesh out the emotional impact of each moment and present alternatives, with stalwart Bat-ally Leslie Thompson guiding the young man to the conclusions he has already reached but can’t quite grasp. It’s more than origin; it’s an exploration that helps to ensure that Bao will be a character that sticks around and perhaps is even prominently featured (there was a reference to MIA Bat-family member Harper Rowe in this issue, which certainly had me concerned about Bao’s long-term staying power beyond this current run).
As lovely as the story was, the visuals on this issue were stunning. There was a point a few issues ago where I thought Clownhunter actually reminded me of an earlier Image Comics character just from a standpoint of design and flair and I wondered who would have drawn that comic. Now I know, unequivocally, that James Stokoe is the artist for this character. Stokoe brings an off-beat, punk aesthetic to the character (and Gotham) that works on every level. The neon lights of Gotham never looked as good as when Stokoe draws them pouring through the broken window of a free clinic on Crime Alley.
On a final note, I have commended Clayton Cowles a number of times already for the deliberate choice to do Bao’s font the way he does, with all lower-case letters. Be it coincidence or not, when Leslie insinuates that Bao isn’t living his life, that lower-case ‘i’ becomes strikingly relatable to Bao’s lacking sense of self that I found to be incredible powerful.
Batman Annual #5 features Clownhunter's origin and so much more. Do yourself a favor and check-out this late Christmas gift from #DCComics @JamestheFourth @HeGotGronch @ClaytonCowles !
Batman Annual #5: Not-So-Secret Origins
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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