To end another year of Batman adventures on a high, Annual Batman 2022 #1 tells a self-contained story that fits right into the mainstream Batman (2016) line and the next batman inc. run (planned for fall 2022 release). Written by Ed Brisson of book of murder fame and written by industry staple Clayton Cowles, with art and colors by DC veteran John Timms (harley quinn, Superman: Son of Kal-El, young justice) and Rex Lokus (Injustice, Deus Ex), respectively, Annual Batman 2022 #1 offers an impressive, self-contained story.
Following the events of Batman #118, Annual Batman 2022 #1 shows Batman continuing to try to forge his Batman Inc. international superhero “franchise” into functional attire. As a single story, “Under New Management” portrays the first independent, non-Batman leader of Batman Inc., with the first nomination being Ghost-Maker (alias of Minhkhoa “Khoa” Khan, Batman’s longtime friend and occasional rival .), much to the chagrin of the rest of the group. However, Ghost-Maker’s casual attitude and questionable leadership style are overshadowed by a mystery that besmirches a remote small town. Now Batman Inc. must trust its controversial new boss if any of them are to survive.
Brisson’s talent as a crime/thriller writer is fully engaged for this comic, laying down layers of narrative to reveal and subvert as Batman Inc. goes deep on its first mission under Ghost-Maker. Annual Batman 2022 #1 fits nicely into current continuity, tied to the takeover of Batman Inc. and the loose threads left hanging by Lex Luthor. These choices feel incredibly organic and connected to any dedicated Batman readers, and yet, for anyone not in tune with 2016’s ongoing run, they’re self-explanatory enough to give the comic book world an extra spark of excitement. animation and gravity. As a single story, the pacing is terrific, with a plot that constantly intensifies but also allows each progressive stage of narrative time to breathe so nothing feels rushed or glossed over. Brisson also does a fantastic job of balancing high stakes and levity, with brilliantly profitable comedic beats alongside a tense, interesting story filled with menace and danger.
Timms’ art is typically rugged and stylized, sacrificing naturalism in the interest of packing an even more concentrated artistic punch. His brutal and sometimes minimalist linework amplifies the tone of Annual Batman 2022 #1, helping it straddle the line between black op and full caper in a way that allows both sides of the spectrum to shine without undermining each other. The panel layout is brilliant and demonstrates an incredible understanding and mastery of form, making the most of impact from chaotic action sequences and including cool perspective work and full-page panel reveals.
The colors of Lokus contribute enormously to creating the deliberately cold and uninviting, almost imperiously professional atmosphere of Annual Batman 2022 #1. From high-tech to tundra these days, cool tones dominate the comic, providing a stark contrast to the warm, mostly orange-tinged opening flashback. Strong color choices intensify the eerie atmosphere of various current settings and echo Ghost-Maker’s icy color palette. Cowles’ letters are terrific, sharpening Brisson’s mind to make the dialogue as impactful as possible. The use of alternate letters and colors for Icon is a nice touch that gives the AI a distinctly non-human voice, and the striking decision to exclusively use red sound effects provides great contrast against the blue tones of the art. The captions that flag the different sections of the story are exceptionally well done and blend in fantastically with the rest of the artwork.
Elegantly ending the story arc that the Annual Batman 2021 #1 has begun, Ghost-Maker has come full circle from vigilante to leader and is shaping up to be an increasingly important player in the Batman universe. Batman fans might be a bit frustrated that, for the second year in a row, their Batman Annual contains relatively little of the titular character himself, but the spirit of Batman the comic strip is nevertheless alive and dynamic in these pages. This annual is a stand-alone history of impressive strength that may well convert some relatively casual readers into Batman Inc.. fans, just in time for their fall return this year.