BATMAN ANNUAL #2 by Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Michael Lark
BATMAN ANNUAL #2 gives readers a glimpse of Batman as he struggles into his future role as husband and human being. With a brilliant focus on characterization, the plot feels like a tender balance to the punching and kicking of other BATMAN stories.
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Batman has faced every challenge imaginable in the DC Universe. Street level criminals quake at his sight. Metahumans fall at his fists. He has even defeated the likes of Darkseid, a New God with immense power. He’s been battered and bruised and killed and resurrected throughout his 75-year career. Still, there is one challenge left that the Dark Knight has yet to face. One task so insurmountable that this god-killer may fall at its heel. That challenge? A normal day-to-day life beyond the cape and cowl. When DC announced that Batman had proposed to Catwoman, I got excited for the many possibilities this offered. BATMAN ANNUAL #2 showcases our first glimpse at this new chapter of the Bat’s life.

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BATMAN ANNUAL #2 is told in two parts. The first opens in a flashback to the early days of Batman’s crime-fighting career. Selina Kyle breaks into the Batcave and takes the Batmobile for a joyride. After a series of encounters between the two characters, each involving Catwoman stealing from Wayne Manor, Batman finally tracks her down to an apartment in Gotham City. Here, the two share a heartfelt conversation on the nature of their loneliness and share their first kiss. The second half of BATMAN ANNUAL #2 actually flashes forward to Batman’s future. He and Selina Kyle have been married many years, and both are old and gray. After a doctor’s appointment, Bruce learns that death is imminent. What follows is an exploration of his last moments away from his former solidarity.

Into Normalcy

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I’ve been waiting for this type of Batman story since Rebirth began. We’ve seen glimpses of Bruce Wayne’s humanity throughout the course of his storied career, but each time he fell back into his dark and brooding shell. As a longtime fan of the character, I truly enjoy the “punch-bad-guys-and-save-the-world” aspect of the character’s stories. However, the best Batman tales delve straight into the heart of what makes Batman memorable. At his very core, Bruce Wayne is a profoundly damaged character that is only separated from his foes in Arkham by an obsessive need to stop crime. While experimental at times, Tom King’s work on the Rebirth BATMAN series has constantly wowed me in its exploration of this broken soul.

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 brilliantly balances two plot threads. King avoids the median moments of healing to instead show the readers Batman’s struggles in the past and his better self in his later years. It might be said that the latter half of the story suffers from slow pacing, but I understood by that point that BATMAN ANNUAL #2 isn’t a superhero story. It is a tale of two people, each broken by loss, coming together to heal. Something so satisfying lies at the heart of Bruce Wayne’s final moments. They come across as heartwarming and tender without dipping into sentimentality. The first half feels a bit more chaotic, with moments flashing in and out of existence, but this superheroic buildup manages to ground the reader in the familiar before upsetting the balance.

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Some of These Days

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 page 17. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 succeeds because of its astounding characterization. In 38 pages, Tom King manages to infuse more character into this story than some writers do in an entire novel. At the heart of Bruce Wayne’s dilemma from page one is why he became Batman. Why choose to put his life on the line chasing after the Joker and all the other Arkham rogues? Why can’t he recover from his parents’ deaths? There are no easy answers in this book, but they all lead back to Catwoman, the sole character who truly understands his drive.

I’ve talked a lot about Bruce Wayne here, but Selina Kyle’s character steals the show in BATMAN ANNUAL #2. Throughout BATMAN, King has given readers an update to Catwoman’s character that hasn’t appeared since HUSH. While the sultry, thieving seductress still survives, deeper layers come forward as well. The reasons behind her criminal life step into the light, and they give her love of Bruce Wayne deeper context. Selina Kyle, a character that has suffered similar tragedies but turned toward crime as a remedy, is the perfect foil to Bruce Wayne. As a result, these distinctive characters coming together feels incredibly satisfying.

Dual Perspective

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 page 36. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

There are very few stories where a change in artists feels entirely smooth. Comics are a visual medium, and when said visuals shuffle between pages, the feel of the story changes as well. BATMAN ANNUAL #2 doesn’t have this problem. Artists Lee Weeks and Michael Lark have very similar styles in terms of pencils and inks. They have a very true to life vision of anatomy in their work, and each panel showcases images that leap off the page.

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The greatest difference between the art in both sections is in the overall tone. Weeks’ work in the first half of the story feels murky and dark, with a heavier inking style defining the flow of events. This matches the flashback attributes of this section well. Lark, however, has a much cleaner, simpler construction to his work. This gives a deeper sense of calm and peace in the story, which again better follows the tone of BATMAN ANNUAL #2.

Final Thoughts: BATMAN ANNUAL #2

BATMAN ANNUAL #2 isn’t for every reader. If you come to comic books looking for monumental showdowns and crime-fighting antics, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you truly enjoy deep characterization and unique perspectives on your favorite characters, this comic is immediately appealing. BATMAN ANNUAL #2 digs deep into the heart of the psychosis behind the Bat, as well as his loneliness. This psychological examination, as well as the new challenges of a normal life, gives this comic lasting value. The story of love and loneliness could also act as a wonderful introductory point for uncertain readers. As a more traditional, isolated story with a deeper focus on humanity, new readers to comics will flock to this story alongside longtime fans.

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