I’ve been a bit mixed on James Tynion IV‘s run on Batman. The various arcs so far have had great ideas but each has felt like an incomplete stand-alone story instead they’ve built upon each other to set up a new status-quo. One of the more interesting aspects and additions is Clownhunter, a young man named Bao whose parents were killed by the Joker. During the “Joker War” storyline, Clownhunter struck brutal terror in the clown gangs dealing “justice” by executing those who themselves terrorize. Batman Annual #5 delivers more of the history about the character as well as his dealing with the after-effects of his actions.
Tynion is joined by James Stokoe who handles the art for an interesting exploration of a character that is Batman without his “no killing” policy. Clownhunter visits longtime Batman friend Leslie Thompkins, a suggestion by Batman himself. Clownhunter talks his motivation and evolution from Bao to Clownhunter. We get the story of a young man whose faith in “the system” is let down. The Joker murdered his parents and Batman never delivers the justice promised. It’s an interesting discussion and evolution and one I can’t really blame.
Bao’s story is one of a broken system, one where morals are cherished more than stopping the hurt and destruction. It’s an interesting debate and we get all sides of the discussion. Clownhunter feels violence should be met with violence. Batman believes that violence should be met with violence but draws the line at killing. Thompkins feels that violence should not be met with violence and absolutely no killing. Each has their view and we can debate whose is more effective. The issue delivers no answers to the question, nor should it. Instead we’re left to ponder it ourselves. By killing, is Clownhunter no better than those he hunts? What about Batman’s inability to end the killing, does his line make him responsible for the death others commit?
Stokoe’s art enhances the experience. His style delivers a slight horror tinge to the story. There’s a fit to the art to what Bao experiences and how he’s feeling. Batman, Leslie, Crime Alley, the Joker, there’s a look to them all that fits the experiences depicted. It’s a weird exaggeration that one might experience in a dream. It made me the reader question the reality of it a bit as well, much like you would a nightmare. It’s very fitting for the annual and story as a whole.
Batman Annual #5 delivers both concepts and story. It feels more like an example of what Tynion’s run has been missing up to this point. There have been concepts thrown around but not much of an exploration of them and definitely only a slight exploration through the events of each arc. Batman Annual #5 asks philosophical questions while delivering no answers. It makes me want to read more to see if I can ever come up with my own.
Story: James Tynion IV, James Stokoe Art: James Stokoe Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review