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Batman (2016) Annual #1

Review By Paul Bowler

The hush of winter snowfall settles over Gotham City as Christmas draws near in the Batman (2016) Annual #1, but as we all know, there can never truly be a “Silent Night” in Gotham for the Dark Knight, his allies, or even his enemies, in this quintet of special festive tales from the Bat-Caves finest talent!

So, considering Gotham City can be a bit of a gloomy, crime ridden, place for much of the year, you’ll be pleased to know that this Batman Annual brings some surprise Christmas cheer for Batman and Gothamities alike as the holiday season fast approaches.

First off, we have Good Boy, written by Batman series writer Tom King, with pencils and inks from David Finch, and colors by Gabe Eltaeb. Ok, well, I have to admit the first page of this one freaked me out a little. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been very, very weary of dogs, so the start of this story put me on edge a bit. Still, its testament to King’s writing and some rather fine art from Finch that I found myself, along with Bruce, being won over by Ace and this story that turned out to be a far more heart warming tale than I first expected.

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Scott Snyder returns for the next story, together with Ray Fawkes, to bring us Silent Night, a thoughtful and moving Christmas story with Declan Shalvey on pencils and inks, and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Snyder and Fawkes bring an ingeniously techno-themed spin to the Bat-Signal with a new system designed to guide Batman’s actions, and one that ultimately leads into the eponymous silent night of the title itself. Its a lovely story, beautiful rendered by Shalvey and Bellaire, and one that gives us all call to take some time out from all the technological noise and clutter of our haphazard modern world to enjoy those small moments of grace and wonder while they fleetingly last.

Not So Silent Night of the Harley Quinn is actually every bit as festive as its title suggests. The script by Paul Dini throws Batman and Harley Quinn together for a jaunt around Gotham in the Batmobile while Batman patrols. This was easily my favourite story in the Annual, mostly for the distinct style, tone and look of this story because of the pencils, inks, and colors by the brilliant Neal Adams. It was great to see this more classic take on Batman’s costume again, and the Christmas spirit also permeates every aspect of this fun story.

On the flipside, Stag, written by Steve Orlando, with pencils and inks by Riley Rossomo, and colors by Ivan Plascencia, proves an altogether different affair. There’s a sound Christmas message beating at its heart, well-meaning and indeed quite thought provoking, but I felt the coda to this story jarred somewhat. It sets up something for 2017, but it all just seemed a little too grim to me, especially considering the other stories around it.

The Insecurity Diversion rounds of this Batman Annual with a trip to Arkham and an audacious escape attempt by one of the inmates. Scott Bryan Wilson’s script builds a concise and complex narrative as the mystery unfolds, with Batman shadowing the escapee every step of the way until the real villain of the piece – who isn’t really a surprise – is revealed, but it is a journey that is nevertheless a compelling and insightful one. Excellent artwork and inks from Bilquis Evely set the scene perfectly, and Mat Lopes colors nicely complement the festive tone with cool icy tones, before the story closes as Batman turns the tables on his enemies in fine style.

I don’t normally tend to read comic book annuals as a rule, however, considering the great writers and artists involved in this Batman (2016) Annual #1 from DC Comics I simply had to check this one out (especially with its gorgeous cover by David Finch and Brad Anderson), and I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great little anthology of Christmas themed Batman stories, each is uniquely different and brings something new to the table, and while I enjoyed some more than others, overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this annual.

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