Writer: Tom King
Artists: Lee Weeks & Michael Lark
Colorists: Elizabeth Breitweiser & June Chung
Letters: Deron Bennett
Batman Annual #2 is a perfect example of what an annual should be. A story that bolsters the main title but not necessary or needed to enjoy the main title. I’ve always seen an annual as a bonus issue, a special tale to reward readers, and Batman Annual #2 rewards its readers with a wonderful tale that will both warm the heart and then break it.
Over the course of the past few months Tom King has orchestrated a compelling and believable romance between Batman and Catwoman. Not since the days of Earth 2 (the planet, not the comic) have we had a married Batman and Catwoman but King seems to be maneuvering the former antagonists to lovers to becoming newlyweds. Not everyone is on board but I’m a fan, I always enjoyed those Earth 2 tales when I read them (sadly after their demise in Crisis on Infinite Earths) and look forward to where this relationship goes. If this annual and the recent issues of Batman are any indication then we are in for some glorious reading in the near future.
Yet what we don’t know about is where this relationship began or why it began. Welcome to Batman Annual #2, which is the tale of the Dynamic Couple (trademarked if it catches on) and their early days or ‘dates’. The first part of the Annual is titled Date Nights and it tells the story of how Batman and Catwoman first came to acknowledge their attraction and it’s not just a game of cat and mouse (although mice are involved) but more along the lines of breaking and entering and grand theft Batmobile. What appears at first to be Catwoman simply tormenting Batman for fun actually has a deeper meaning and when Catwoman’s true motive becomes apparent the relationship between the two feels real. Over the course of this part of the story King does a stellar job of building this relationship, even in the limited space he has, and makes it believable. So believable in fact that Tom King will crush you with the last part of the Annual, titled Last Rites, and as anyone with any religious knowledge will know where this story takes us as we jump forward in time to see how this love will end. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I will say I had tears in my eyes and needed some time to compose myself before I could review the issue.
Joining Tom King on Batman Annual #2 are comic masters in their own rights, Lee Weeks (Date Nights) and Michael Lark (Last Rites). Both artists bring King’s vision to the page. Their style’s mesh perfectly and they have a classic aesthetic that is reminiscent of Batman Year One and the beautiful artwork of David Mazzucchelli. Lee Weeks tale could be dropped into a classic Batman tale circa the late ‘80s and it would feel right at home and blown readers away then just as it does here in 2017. Lark’s artwork fit perfectly with Last Rites and I’m sure with a lesser artist the payoff would not have been as impactful. Whoever decided these two artists were the perfect choices for Batman Annual #2 was dead on and deserves a raise.
Verdict: Do yourself a favor and go BUY Batman Annual #2. It’s a wonderful example of what an annual can be as well as a heartwarming story of love and solidifies what Tom King is doing in the regular Batman book.