REVIEW: ‘Batman Annual,’ Issue #5

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Batman Annual #5 - But Why Tho?

Batman Annual #5 is written by James Tynion IV, with art, pencils, and inks by James Stokoe, and is published by DC Comics. It’s another night in the infamous Crime Alley, and longtime Batman friend and ally Dr. Leslie Thompkins finds another traumatized soul to help heal. Bao has lost his parents to a horribly violent criminal. Increasingly and understandably losing faith in the justice system, and in Batman to bring justice, Bao takes matters into his own hands, becoming the vigilante Clownhunter. Leslie has her work cut out in reaching him and preventing him from following Bruce Wayne’s tragic path.

Batman Annual #5 is a story about the heart of who Batman is and why he does what he does, with him being absent for the broad majority of the issue. In Bao/Clownhunter, we have a direct Bruce Wayne/Batman parallel. He is someone whose life has been destroyed by violent criminals and seeks justice and vengeance on that group of criminals. For the most part, this framing device works. Tynion does a good job imbuing heartfelt anguish and empathy with Bao, even while some things could have been better. It’s overall a brutally heartbreaking issue as it explores this anguish and resolution, and Dr. Thompkins’s efforts to reach him.

The issue attempts to explore themes of vigilante justice and where violence is justified. Smartly, Tynion does not side one way or the other with Bao and his actions. Instead, he presents the justifications and determinants of his vigilantism from as many (reasonable) sides as he can, and has the reader sit with where to feel about this. Should we trust the justice system, with all its various problems and inefficacies, or take matters into our own hands? This is the fundamental question about Batman and his vigilantism, but the issue also questions how effective Batman is as he tries to have it both ways when it comes to his sense of justice. Through the reader understanding Bao, who is a very relatable and understandable character, we’re meant to understand the dilemmas that Batman and his closest allies face every day. It’s overall well done, even when it begs to be explored more in detail.

The art by Stokoe and Chew is fantastic. It’s a plethora of colors, shadings, and textures that jump out of the page. It’s a striking art style reminiscent of comic books of the 1980s, with some modern updates. The action is bold and sometimes graphic. There are some horrifying images that the art does well to present without making them too disturbing (though your mileage may vary). The graininess of the art works to great effect and immerses the reader easily in Gotham. The lettering is also very good, never interfering with the action or the more contemplative moments on the page.

Overall, Batman Annual #5 is a great one-off comic. Exploring the origin of Clownhunter, it’s a psychological analysis of the vigilante. Through our empathizing with this kid, we get to explore the themes of Batman and justice in Gotham in a unique way. Ultimately, this comic may remind you of why you’re a Batman fan.

Batman Annual #5 is available now wherever comics are sold.

Batman Annual #5
4.5

TL;DR

Overall, Batman Annual #5 is a great one-off comic. Exploring the origin of Clownhunter, it’s a psychological analysis of the vigilante. Through our empathizing with this kid, we get to explore the themes of Batman and justice in Gotham in a unique way. Ultimately, this comic may remind you of why you’re a Batman fan.