Batman Annual #5
(w) James Tynion IV (A) James Stokoe
The issue takes place after the last encounter Batman had with Ghost Maker and has Clownhunter crossing paths with long-time Gotham stalwart Leslie Thompkins. There’s a lot of time spent developing this relationship as well as showing us how Bao became Clownhunter.
First of all, this issue is absolutely beautiful. The art by James Stokoe is always worth the price of admission alone. His art style is somewhere between classic comic and Manga. It is highly stylized and always has beautiful unique colouring.
The opening scene is wonderful as Leslie’s importance and reputation is underlined. There is an attempted mugging, and she is saved not by Batman, but by a local neighbourhood heavy called Big Henry. He explains to the mugger that Leslie has saved so many in the district via her free clinic. The mugger is scared off and Leslie heads to the clinic.
There she hears a crash and finds the wounded Clownhunter, who tells her that Batman always said to come to this clinic if he needed help.
When it comes to the story, there are lots of interesting themes at play. Clownhunter is losing faith in the Justice system, and in Batman in general. For Leslie, this is almost a second chance, as she has been trying to help Bruce for decades and has never gotten fully through. She is able to get Bao to open up and explain what happened in his past to lead him down this dark path.
His origin in a sense is very close to Bruce’s, though instead of a chance mugging, it is The Joker making an impromptu visit to Bao’s parents’ restaurant. They do everything they can to please him but this being The Joker he kills them anyway for his own amusement. It’s therefore understandable to see how this drove Bao over the edge and to a point where he saw only violence as the answer, especially once The Joker War starts and Batman is nowhere to be seen.
We also understand his feelings more towards Harley as she was present the night his parents are killed.
There are lots of nice touches to the past, including Leslie coming across Clownhunter in Crime Alley, which just seems to attract traumatised souls! Just the appearance of Leslie alone is most welcome as she is always on hand to provide wisdom and experience in a rotten city that she tries to heal on a daily basis in her own ways.
Batman appears at the very end, thanking Leslie for getting through to Bao, as that is something he has found difficult to achieve himself.
Wonderful one shot story, beautiful art and fulfils the job completely that any good Annual should do.