Watching Batman come face-to-face with a dark version of himself isn’t a new experience; Last year, DC churned out an extensive event primarily focused on the idea. Still, in Detective Comics Annual #2, writer Peter J. Tomasi revitalizes an idea plenty of Batman stories have explored over the years.
Story by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Travis Moore and Max Raynor, color by Tamra Bonvillain and Nick Filardi, letters by Rob Leigh, cover by Guillem March.
In many ways, Tomasi’s self-contained adventure organically connects to Tom King’s Batman. From Alfred’s sass to Bruce’s introspection, this annual borrows several elements from King’s successful run. The only significant difference between Tomasi’s Bruce and King’s version comes when Bruce semi-dates an eligible bachelorette who isn’t Selina Kyle. Otherwise, the two iterations of the character are practically identical. Some readers may wish to see more differences between Detective Comics and Batman, but this overlap is satisfying because it feels like Tomasi is playing off of King’s narrative. Nonetheless, in addition to the main story, Tomasi packs several compelling snippets into this issue.
Bruce Loves Coffee
Witty exchanges between Bruce and Alfred are often the best part of any Batman story. Here, Tomasi delivers several delightful moments. Early on, everyone’s favorite butler bemoans Bruce’s lackluster sleeping habits. Alfred calls to Bruce, who’s in the shower, and begins to tell him that his coffee his ready. Bruce interrupts his butler and completes his sentence by loudly saying, “coffee?” The comedic timing of the line is elevated by letterer Rob Leigh’s use of bold text, which allows the reader to hear the eagerness in Bruce’s voice at the prospect of a fresh cup of joe. At least for this coffee addict, Tomasi delivered one of the most relatable moments in a Batman comic in recent memory.
Batman Gives Gordon Lollipops
Another brief scene comparably boosts another strong issue. When the Dark Knight catches up with Jim Gordon, the two friends engage in small talk, and one particular sequence stands out. Gordon, who always has a cigarette in his mouth, thanks Batman for giving him a box of lollipops because it’s helping him cut back on smoking. With a hint of a smile, the Caped Crusader says, “my pleasure.” There might not be a more wholesome moment in Batman comic for the rest of the year. These snippets aren’t significant in the main story, but they make the issue even more enjoyable.
Bruce’s Profile of The Reaper
It’s likely that the reader didn’t pick up this comic for those moments alone. The primary hook here is the return of the Black Casebook and, specifically, the Reaper, or Judson Caspian. Using streamlined exposition, Tomasi recaps Batman’s history with the villain while also establishing Caspian as a foil to Bruce. The information, which is primarily delivered on one full page, conveys the striking parallels between Batman and the Reaper. Both men experienced a tragedy and used it as the catalyst for a war on crime. Caspian only diverges from Bruce in his willingness to kill. (Obviously, Batman would never kill anyone…right?)
At times, Tomasi makes the characters are too similar for their own good. The best foil characters diverge in a number of ways whereas Batman and the Reaper have one key difference. Otherwise, every time Bruce talks about Caspian, he might as well be talking about himself. But this parallelism allows Tomasi to show some tangible growth between the Batman who initially encountered the Reaper years ago and the one who faces off with the villain today. Tomasi’s version of the Dark Knight has a (mostly) secure grip on his no-killing policy and there’s a clear line between him and the criminals he fights. (King’s version of the character, as seen in recent issues of Batman, clashes with Tomasi’s vision, which softens the resemblance between the two.)
The Debut of The Reaper
From the first time the Reaper appears, the villain instills the reader with a sense of dread. He silently kills criminals, who don’t scream or react during these violent acts. The first appearance of the Reaper makes this eerie effect even more notable. When he arrives, the reader can practically hear the soundtrack of an old-school horror movie in the background.
The First Fight Between Batman And The Reaper
The work of artists Travis Moore and Max Raynor, as well as colorists Tamra Bonvillain and Nick Filardi, repeatedly captures the idea that superheroes and supervillains are the modern world’s answer to ancient mythology. With one panel, in which the Reaper flies through the night sky in front of the full moon, the art makes the villain feel like a macabre demon. In the same scene, Batman and the Reaper both get full-panel shots where they swoop in front of a background lit up by street lanterns. The lights add a sense of surrealism to the inevitable fight between the two characters and make it feel like a clash between mythological Titans.
Detective Comics Annual #2 features many memorable moments, and we’ve only outlined a few of them. What’s your favorite moment from this issue?