For years, we have seen many iterations of Batman. There was the regular version that we all know and love with Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl, but, there were also many other characters who have donned the costume over the years. Dick Grayson. Jean-Paul Valley. James Gordon. Even Harvey Dent wore a version of the Batman costume at one point in time. All that this proved to us is that even though Bruce Wayne IS Batman, the name will live on regardless of who is in the costume. But, we have always been asked to question who would Bruce Wayne be without Batman in his life? That was the question that this annual posed to us.
Usually an annual in DC is a way to create a filler issue or a loosely based tie-in to a present set that really has no bearing on what is going on in the normal comic series. James T Tynion IV goes one step further and actually creates alot of closure that was present in the Batman series for the last few months and gives us an adventure that makes Bruce Wayne, not Batman, the hero of the story. It is exciting because we really don't know what to expect from Bruce right now. He has no memory of his past, has no fighting skills at all, no detective skills at all and is just a normal human being. But, he is a human who has alot of enemies(similar to the number of foes that his alter-ego would have). This issue closes up the story of Arkham Manor, which was housed in Wayne Manor and has 3 classic villains trying to get their revenge on Bruce Wayne cause of all the harm that he has done to them in their life. What makes it interesting is that all of them do have a form of "beef" with Bruce, even though none of them knew he was Batman. Batman Annual #4 is a shining example of how to use Bruce Wayne following his memory loss, and that despite no longer being the Caped Crusader, you can have a good Batman tale focusing mainly on him. While there is some action, particularly in the back half of the issue, this is a mostly character-based psychological drama, and a welcome one at that. Without actually featuring Batman in or out of costume, Tynion gives us some answers around the fine line between heroism and madness. As Bruce explains "what crazy is" to the Riddler, he sums up exactly what separates any version of Bruce Wayne from a villain, and exactly what kind of stuff he is made of at his core. If you're following the present Batman series then I recommend picking this issue up. If you just wanna read a really good one-shot story, then get this also. I give this issue a 8 out of 10.