What I’m most fond of when DC releases Annuals for their books is that they’re usually a standalone story – and usually a prequel too – that doesn’t require you to be reading the mainline book. Of course I am reading Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman on a regularly basis, but to others who aren’t (why not?), it could/should entice them into buying monthly issues. Batman Annual #2 does tie into the current Zero Year story arc ever so slightly, but it cleverly doesn’t restrict new readers from jumping onboard and enjoying it just as much.
Written by new writer Marguerite Bennet (with Scott Snyder helping out with the story) and drawn by newcomer Wes Craig, the tale is told from three different characters – Batman, (new guy) Eric Border, and Arkham’s oldest inmate The Anchoress. There’s one central theme though: Arkham Asylum. Batman’s there to test out Arkham’s level of security, which is like being put through an obstacle course of death (though he seems to be enjoying himself). Eric’s there on his first day as an orderly, and most of his time is spent exploring the asylum. And The Anchoress’ story focuses on how and why she’s in Arkham Asylum.
It’s the interesting dynamic between the sympathetic orderly Eric Border and antagonist The Anchoress which is most interesting, though. Everyone has forgotten and lost interest in Arkham Asylum’s oldest inmate, apart from newcomer Eric. Her tale of how she was first put into the asylum is heartbreaking, but years have passed and she’s clearly become delusional. She claims that the locking up of familiar rogues has turned the asylum into a place that was once used to treat those who needed help – and she’s holding Batman solely responsible. She does a pretty good job of painting Batman as the villain, actually. Considering we don’t get a whole lot of monologue from Batman in the latter stages of the book to see him verbally defend himself, we don’t get to see his point of view or side to the story, unfortunately.
Greg Capullo has really raised the bar with his artwork of Batman since the New 52 debuted, but I’m happy to say I have no qualms whatsoever with fill-in artist Wes Craig. He does a really good job of making The Anchoress look both crazy and creepy, and I hope we see him on another Bat book in the future. What could be potentially labeled a throwaway story, as The Anchoress doesn’t quite fit the bill of the usual Batman rogue gallery and isn’t someone we’ll likely be seeing again anytime soon, writer Marguerite Bennet should be credited for introducing a new villain into the fray and running with it, where so many others would’ve played it safe. Batman Annual #2 won’t go down as a classic standalone story, but it still makes for an interesting and enjoyable read.