Earlier this year, Batman died while fighting the Joker in Batman: Endgame. The same formula that keeps the Owls alive resurrected Bruce, but left his mind completely blank. No memories, no fighting skills and no emotional connection to his older self. Since then he’s built a new life for himself, a normal, relatively happy life. So what happens when this new Bruce Wayne faces off against three of Batman’s classic villains? That’s exactly what happens in this year’s Batman Annual.
The first half of this comic is a good exploration of Bruce Wayne’s current mindset and values. He’s not sure how he feels about returning to his old mansion, and he keeps passing by paintings of people he knows about, but has no emotional connection to. You can’t help but feel the strange sensation he must be going through. It’s a good start, but the comic really gets good after The Riddler, Clayface and Mr. Freeze show up.
Writer James Tynion IV does a great job at writing these three villains and their motivations. The whole setup is a game trying to make Bruce Wayne admit something about his older self, while trying to stir emotions that simply don’t exist. This is just as good a villain piece as it is a Bruce Wayne story. It’s also fun to see that, even though Bruce’s mind is completely different than Batman’s, he still has the determination to at least try to fight back. It’s a hint that while Jim Gordon may be Batman for a while, Bruce could eventually return to the role even if by necessity. The solution also feels realistic, especially when Bruce surprises the villains by doing something Batman would have refused to do.
The art by Roge Antonio is good. For the most part it’s a simple look, but the style matches the comic’s mood perfectly. The dark shading in the old Wayne Manor enhances the creepy atmosphere while the comic’s building up to the villains’ attack. Facial expressions capture characters’ emotions well, from Bruce Wayne’s distant look as he explores his childhood home to the menacing grin on the Riddler’s face. The colouring by Dave McCaig is dark, but it’s still easy to tell what’s going on.
Although this isn’t quite the original Batman, those clamoring for the real Batman’s return should read this. It will at least help tie-over the wait, while giving us a great villain story and some good action. If any of this sounds appealing, be sure to pick this up.