Written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Roge Antonio, "Batman Annual" #3 is branded as "An Endgame Tie-In." The entire issue is one story, focused on the Joker. As with many tie-ins, this isn't mandatory reading, but it does provide an entertaining, haunting look at the Joker's influence on the common man.
Set five years ago in the shadow of "Zero Year," the common man at the center of "Friends" is Tommy Blackcrow, intrepid reporter for the "Gotham Gazette," who finds an angle for a story that he quickly discovers should have been left alone. Tynion's treatment of Blackcrow is believable and familiar: a pompous reporter who thinks he knows, but quickly discovers that maybe, just maybe, it would be better to not know. The story brings Blackcrow close to the Joker, giving the two a chance to build up significant, revealing dialog. As with all things Joker-related, the sanity of the situation ekes away beneath a cracking outer shell.
Antonio is a fine, serviceable choice for this horror story that preys upon the psyche rather than ogling at the fantastic. Batman and Robin appear in this story for one page, making "Batman Annual" #3 much more a Joker story than a Batman adventure. The crux of the tale revolves on the humor Joker creates and finds in things, which is nothing but darkness and mayhem, so Antonio delivers in kind. His figures hover between Rafael Albuquerque, Shawn Martinbrough and Tom Mandrake, with less consuming shadow work and more color-dependent definition and depth. Colorist Nick Filardi answers the challenge, giving the story plenty of depth and grounding it in a palette that seems mundane in the shadow of the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime's trademark purple and green pop like crazy whenever he appears and Steve Wands supplies the now-trademark nails-on-chalkboard text to Joker's word balloons.
"Batman Annual" #3 is by no means a must-read in order to understand the "Endgame" story Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are delivering in "Batman," but it certainly does give readers more of the DC Universe's most famous madman at his madcap best. All too often, the focus on the Joker turns to the carnage and body count, but Tynion and company tighten the spotlight here, showing the true cost Tommy Blackcrow pays for his quest for knowledge. The Joker gets just a little more horrific by the end of this comic book and "Endgame" raises the stakes just a little bit more. Joker fans are going to want to pick this up and Batfans in general are certain to find "Batman Annual" #3 disturbingly entertaining.