DC Comics has been on a tear this year with anthologies, including major characters like Joker, Batman, and now, Clowhunter. Back in September, James Tynion IV and James Stokoe teamed up for a story in Joker War Zone which gave us a story about Clownhunter. Teaming up again with Batman Annual #5, the pair aims to reveal the character’s full origin story. Running 35-pages long, peer behind the curtain to find out what made a young boy turn into the Clownhunter and murder as many clowns he could find.
This annual issue is a nice way to close out 2020 and satiate fans who want to know more about the brand new Clownhunter character before the two month hiatus. Much like most of Stokoe’s work, this comic succeeds thanks to his organic and deeply unique art style. Everything feels alive, like it’s taking a deep breath and holding it in only to let it out when the action kicks things up a notch. The city of Gotham comes alive with blues, greens, and purples permeating its brick faces. Clothing, beards, and expressions are so alive with detail it’s hard not to sit and linger on a storefront or a man’s shoes. Meanwhile, the design of Batman is quite cool and different, giving him an otherworldly presence.
The story opens with Leslie Thompson, who is accosted by a mugger. She’s soon protected by a man who knows her. As the story goes on we learn she helps young people in Gotham and she’s the woman Batman wants Clownhunter to meet. She rehabilitates, but more importantly listens. On that score, Tynion uses her to peer into Clownhunter’s past to reveal what happened the night Joker killed his parents. It’s a mystery that has demanded an answer since we know Harley was there and Clownhunter holds her responsible.
Deep within Clownhunter’s backstory–and we get to see his first moments preparing and killing clowns–there’s a message about a person who can’t stand by and watch injustice take place. Tynion connects Clownhunter to a popular past time of teenagers and the need to do something. From this many will gather a connection to the character. One might have assumed his origin had ties to Batman’s–they did both lose their parents–but ultimately it’s an uncomplicated origin that works within the confines of the Joker War model of hundreds of thugs dressed as clowns killing innocent people.
Plotting wise, the book takes its time to get to Clownhunter, then spends a decent amount of time showing him take out some clowns. These scenes pad out the book a bit not really showing us or telling us much. That’s where the art comes in though, since it gives Stokoe more room to play around. Seeing Leslie’s apartment or Clownhunter take out a clown in familiar ways we’ve seen before doesn’t add a lot to the experience aside from seeing how Stokoe can draw something that’s pure magic.
Fans of James Tynion’s impressive run on Batman and its various new characters will want to give this book a look. It finally details the moments that lead to a teenager taking it upon himself to kill clowns to deal with the loss of his parents. It’s also a comic that’s incredibly well drawn and colored by Stokoe, making it a worthy candidate for the prettiest book of 2020.
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