Review: BATMAN ANNUAL #5
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: James Stokoe
Colours: James Stokoe
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman Annual #5: The riveting new vigilante known as Clownhunter was a breakout star of “The Joker War”- but what’s the tragic origin of this teenage assassin? How did his parents die at the hands of The Joker, and is there a place for him in the evolving Gotham City? Can there be redemption for the infamous Clownhunter?
In Batman Annual #5, James Tynion IV presents the origin story of Clownhunter, newly introduced during his “Joker War” storyline. Clownhunter visits Leslie Thompkins’ medical aid for an injury. Just as she does with Batman, Leslie patches him up, while giving him a friendly ear to talk to.
There is a lot of similarity between Batman and Clownhunter. Both have lost there parents to crime and both are trying to impose order on a violent and chaotic world. Batman recognizes this similarity and instead of just stopping Bao and handing him over to the authorities, Batman is trying to steer him onto a better path.
This is his motivation for urging Clownhunter to speak with Leslie. Leslie had no small influence on a young Bruce Wayne, having comforted him the night his parents were murdered. Leslie has failed to convince Bruce to follow a non-violent path, but I suspect that she was a strong influence in his adopting a strong code against killing.
The story’s title, “There Is Hope In Crime Alley”, is a callback to a classic Batman story that is especially relevant. Detective Comic #457 ( March 1976) featured a story titled “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley”. This story was notable for being the first time that the Waynes’ murder was tied to a named location. But more importantly, it was the first appearance of Leslie Thompkins.
In that story, Batman declares that Leslie is the hope of Crime Alley. And even though the character of Leslie Thompkins has been redefined since that first story, this core facet remains. As Leslie tells Batman, “I am never going to approve of the mission of the Batman, but I will always be there to tend to the frightened, angry children broken by this city… until the day it stops making frightened, angry children”. That’s the hope that Leslie represents, that someday Gotham City will become a place where the Batman is unnecessary.
I quite like the art style of James Stokoe. It’s a different rendition of Batman than what I’m used to, but Batman is a character that suits many different artistic styles. Each time I encounter a new artist’s depiction of the Dark Knight, I am delighted to see yet another visual interpretation. I would definitely love to see Stokoe’s take on other DC characters in the future.
I think DC really has to ease up on their use of the term “breakout character”. The solicitation text, Clownhunter is a “breakout star” of the “Joker War” story arc. DC doesn’t seem to realize that they don’t get to decide which character, if any, is going to be the breakout character – that’s for the fans to decide. DC also declared Punchline and Ruin (from The Dreaming: Waking Hours) to be breakout characters before they even made their first appearance.
Of these three, however, I think that Clownhunter holds the most potential to be a breakout character. I don’t think he’s quite there yet, but he has the potential. I am optimistic that Tynion can realize this potential, but he hasn’t quite done so yet.
Ever since the title’s relaunch as part of Rebirth, the annuals have been the best issues of the series. I am delighted to see Batman Annual #5 continue this trend of superb annual issues. If you enjoyed “Joker War” and have wanted to learn more about Clownhunter, then this is a must read.