Batman Annual #2 from DC Comics by Tom King, Lee Weeks, Michael Lark, Elizabeth Breitweiser, June Chung and Deron Bennett continues the trajectory that King and his many wonderful collaborators have taken the Dark Knight on: an emotional exploration of the heart of the Batman and the importance of his relationships with the world around him.
This annual issue focuses on his relationship with Catwoman/Selina Kyle, a relationship that has taken a significant new course of late with their engagement, and this issue looks at one of their earliest encounters, and takes us all the way up to their final encounter.
It's a wonderful, moving story, and once again King et al. prove adept at moving the audience to tears through the subtle yet powerful employment of the medium and the emotions of the characters.
The majority of the issue looks at a fun, flirtatious early rivalry between Batman and Catwoman that is at once filled with frenetic action set-pieces and strong emotional underpinnings.
Illustrated by Lee Weeks with Elizabeth Breitweiser on colours, this section looks delightful. Weeks has a proven aptitude for handling the Dark Knight and presenting the character as a broad, powerful figure but also one capable of energetic leaps and bounds, and his Catwoman is suitably lithe and athletic too. What Breitweiser's colours add to Weeks's thick, inky blacks and strong line work, however, is a tactile sense to the colours making the scenes look lived-in and full of texture more than a flat colour block.
Ultimately, this leads to a drastic change in scenario as we move to seeing an older Bruce and Selina in a quieter, more intimate time. This has an air of slow desperation to it as we see the end of their relationship, all the way up to an quiet, emotional final page that would move even the most heartless of people.
This section is again beautifully illustrated by Lark and Chung, but in a subtly different manner, as the lines become scratchier and less bold, but still definitive and concrete. The colours become cooler, real, and dimmer, with the exception of flashes of brilliant vibrancy.
Through this masterful use of the artwork disciplines in the comic, the team aptly illustrates the feelings of a love lived, just as much as the action and drama of the dialogue and story does.
King has shown something that so many creators miss: the Batman is a man all about emotion and heart, as damaged as it may be. King has been fortunate enough to have worked with a great many incredibly talented individuals that have worked together to bring this more emotional and heartfelt look at the Dark Knight to life, and this Annual issue is no different.
An absolute must-read of an issue.