Batman Annual #5 review – there is hope in Crime Alley clowning

January 8, 2021
Louie Fecou 0
Comics
5

Summary

Tynion and Stokoe have produced a truly beautiful comic that every creator in the business should have a look at to see how it can be done.

5

Summary

Tynion and Stokoe have produced a truly beautiful comic that every creator in the business should have a look at to see how it can be done.

This review of Batman Annual #5 is spoiler-free.


There is no doubt that James Tynion IV has made a huge difference in Batman’s ongoing run. Although not everyone agrees, it seems that his current run on the title is a hit for DC.

If you have perhaps drifted from Batman over the last few years, I do urge you to pick up Batman Annual #5. Although tied up in the continuity, Tynion makes sure that this double-sized story can be read by anyone who happens to pick this book up.

Basically, it’s an origin story for Clownhunter, a vigilante taking out Joker hoodlums all over Gotham, and it is almost a perfect book from start to finish.

We see Doctor Leslie Thompkins in Crime Alley, famous for being the setting for Batman’s origin, returning to her office but becoming the victim of an attempted mugging. However, one of Thompkins’s “patients” steps in to prevent this and shows the extent of her work with the downtrodden inhabitants of the city. In her office, Clownhunter has broken in, accidentally cutting his arm on the way. The good doctor engages Clownhunter, and what unfolds is a tragic story, somewhat mirroring Batman, and we learn the motivations of the character as we go.

It’s a great story, though one you may have heard before, but what elevates this book into something extra special is the absolutely stunning art and coloring from James Stokoe. There is no listing for a colorist here, so I am assuming he did it himself.

Batman Annual #5 review - there is hope in Crime Alley

Stokoe’s art is some of the best I have seen in a comic from the last five years. Every panel is a masterpiece of sequential storytelling. His attention to detail is quite astonishing; you have to wonder how long each page took to produce. In Thompkins’s kitchen, we are drawn into her small world: A comedy teapot, pictures on the wall behind the action, an owl bookend all seem redundant but they have all been placed there deliberately by an artist who is living with these characters as he draws.

When The Joker and Harley arrive, they are grotesque and terrifying. There is no beautiful Margot Robbie Harley here but instead a black and red chequered gangsters moll, leading the Joker into Clownhunter’s life, and destroying it forever.

With hints of Frank Quitely and Will Eisner, the art in Batman Annual #5 switches from small detailed panels to sweeping two-page spreads with ease, like a film director that examines every scene before committing it to film.

Batman is hardly present here. Although his presence never leaves the story, he actually only appears in person in the last three pages of the book. Brooding in the shadows of Thompkins’ office, crosshatched and backlit, he expresses his concern for Clownhunter. Thompkins, though, has made tea, and sits unimpressed in her chair, scolding him for the window that has been broken in her office.

This book may go under the radar, but if you can only buy one book this week, then pick Batman Annual #5 up.

Like a superlative of the 90’s animated series, this is a tale of normal people, who have been taken off their path in life, and deposited in a nightmare of the fantastic. Tynion and Stokoe have produced a truly beautiful comic that every creator in the business should have a look at to see how it can be done.

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