More than half of the comics I picked up this week are $5, including all the comics I’ve reviewed today. Of all the extra-sized issues though, this is the only one that’s a collection of short stories by a collection of comic writers. Some of them are well known in the Batman world, like Tom King (current main series writer), Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes. One others I haven’t heard of, like Paul Dini and Scott Bryan Wilson, and I’m not sure how involved Steve Orlando usually is with Batman.
I won’t bother summing up which story is written by each writer, but I’ll sum up what each story is about. The first story is all about Alfred, who spends several months helping a dog recover from trauma inflicted by the Joker. It’s a nice story about how dedicated Alfred is, and that while Batman appreciates him, he doesn’t always notice the hard work that Alfred puts into everything. The second story is Batman checking out what he suspects to be a crime in progress, only to find a bunch of surprise acrobats in a public performance. It’s a nice and relaxing story, one that fits with the Christmas season quite well.
The third story is probably the most fun of the bunch. Harley Quinn tries to sneak into the Gotham Police department, apparently planning to drop in a bunch of gifts and candy, but Batman sweeps in and drives her away. What could have turned into a hostile argument or a fight ends up being Quinn trying to get Batman to sing Christmas songs, while they drive by some citizens managing to defend themselves from attackers without help. It’s fun, often funny and kind of sweet all at once. The fourth story ends with a dark teaser, but before that, there’s a hilariously easy fight for Batman. The villain calls himself Minister Blizzard, and he’s trying to bring back the Ice Age. A Batman comic like this isn’t complete without some sort of insane villain, and this guy is way up on the crazy charts. The fifth and final story has the only actual fight scene in the comic, with Batman re-arresting a criminal with a connection to Scarecrow. It’s alright, but it’s probably my least favourite story in the comic. It just feels like a lighter version of a Scarecrow story, with a serial killer that doesn’t manage to do much before Batman recaptures her. That could be personal taste though.
There are also a lot of artists and colourists in this annual, so I won’t bother describing each of them in detail. Artists include David Finch, Declan Shalvey, Neil Adams (who also handles his own colouring), Riley Rossmo and Bilquis Evely. Colourists include Gabe Eltaeb, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia and Mat Lopes. The art always fits the story’s mood, with some stories more detailed and conventional, some stories more simple in their look, and Harley Quinn’s story with a touch of a watercolour feel, but the colouring is still normal. Alfred’s story is the most detailed of the five, with cracks in the wall at the pound where Alfred picks up the dog, good sue of blood from Batman’s stab wound near the end of the comic and a well decorated Christmas tree in the mansion, with the fire place lighting up the room.
As a whole, this comic is enjoyable as both a Christmas issue and a collection of stories. And just because I didn’t like the last story as much, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It might just not be in my taste. Each story has a different mood, from moving to amusing. It’s 38 pages of story for $5. If the concept of a Christmas themed Batman annual interests you, definitely give this a shot.