Who fears the Reaper?
This book was pleasant to read. I am not very familiar with Max Raynor’s artwork, but I am familiar with Travis Moore from his work on Heroes in Crisis. Max and Travis’s pencils aided with coloring work by Tamra Bonvillain and Nick Filardi create a warm and inviting Batman tale. I am familiar with Bonvillain and Filardi from their time on the Young Animal imprint [ Doom Patrol and Cave Carson, respectively ]. It is interesting to see how their coloring styles fit in with Batman in contrast to the warm whimsy of their Young Animal work.
I’m a sucker for stories that take Bruce Wayne and Batman traipsing around the world on a case, especially the kind that involves Bruce hamming it up, and Alfred really getting into the operation. I much prefer that team dynamic to Alfred either being in a subservient role, being barked at by Batman, or with him cast as the sad dad.
Tomasi knows his Bat history in resurrecting Batman’s Black Casebook. Explained to the audience by Bruce, it’s his most unusual and unexplainable adventures along with his failures during his first year as Batman. Tomasi also brings back a rarely used villain, The Reaper, who has only been seen a handful of times since his introduction in the late 80s. I appreciate callbacks like this to help flesh out and solidify the universe that has been built.
This is an example of an annual that can stand on its own and could be handed to anyone to read with no foreknowledge. Everything that anyone would need to know is contained within this issue. A fully-contained single issue story is a rare occurrence in modern comics. Annuals are great places for these to happen, as long as there isn’t a giant event occurring that encompasses everything in sight. As with any good annual, it lays the seeds for something more to come. Tomasi is a skilled writer, and I don’t think he would reintroduce The Reaper just to let that character and the consequences of this issue's events to stay solely self-contained. I hope to see more of The Reaper in a future issue of Detective Comics.