Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Batman: Annual 2014 / Superman: Annual 2014 (2013)

Author: Various | Illustrators: Various | Page Count: 74 (each)

"That’s what Superheroes do. They hit people."

Annuals used to be eagerly awaited jumbo-sized hardback editions with specially commissioned stories. There was little or no reprint. The dates for year of first publication as stated on the copyright page of both these individual titles suggest a lot of reprint, although I can't be entirely sure of that.

Yes, that qualifies as an old man, "back in my day…" grumble. But £7.99 for 74 pages? In Britain we call that a rip-off. The last regular DC comic I bought was three days ago. It had 100 pages and was half the RRP of just one of these.

Even more insulting is that both publications have adverts! They’re relevant to the character, but still, I'm heavily opposed to that kind of thing. It means we're essentially paying for advertisements. Not good.

Happily, the content is worth reading. The Superman annual is targeting a slightly younger audience than the current monthlies, so the stories have a younger focus; but it's not exclusive, there are still a number of things that'll also ring true for adults and perhaps, in some cases, even leave a deeper resonance.
The highlight is a story by Devin Grayson with art by Ariel Olivetti. It begins with two kids arguing over who is the better hero, Superman or Batman, and develops into something more than the sum of its parts.

The Batman book is darker in tone than the Superman one, like it ought to be. The stories chosen are more diverse. Each one shows a different facet of Batman's character, so new readers will, without their knowing it, be seeing the result of a lot of history filtered into short, self-contained one-shots. They explore in very different ways and in varying levels of detail what Batman is and what he isn't, what he stands for morally and what people think he stands for.
One in particular, written by Andrew Dabb and illustrated by Giorgio Pontrelli, uses a fictional world as a contrast to deepen the 'reality' of Batman’s world. The motivations of the second lot can't ever be fully understood by the first, but the story is crafted so that the reader, who belongs to neither world, will garner a deeper appreciation of the hero.

Value for Money: 1 wallet moth out of 5
Superman: 2½ schoolyard squabbles out of 5
Batman: 3½ defining moments of darkness out of 5

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