DC Comics has been lighting it up with anthology series this year, so what’s one more with this week’s Batman Black & White #1? This is an iconic series that hasn’t had a new issue since 2014, but it returns in epic fashion with some of the biggest creators in comics contributing stories. Running 46 pages long, this anthology features five stories rendered in black and white, only touching upon different aspects of the caped crusader. If you’re a reader who likes an unconventional comic book story that breaks away from the superhero mold, you’ll want to check this out.
This book opens with a beautiful pinup by Max Fiumara, then dives into a story written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Tradd Moore from the perspective of a Ra’s Al Ghul henchman. Aside from Moore’s customary curvy art style looking exquisite, the story delves into the mind of henchmen quite well. It’s quite clear the inspiration for the story comes from the many tales involving hundreds of ninjas descending on Batman and what each one must be thinking. With 99% of them being knocked out and thrown down by Batman, Moore explores what it would mean for one of them to land a punch. It’s a clever tale.
Following this is a gorgeously rendered story drawn and written by J.H. Williams III. Williams draws multiple double-page layouts montaging Batman’s history and the many forms he’s taken, even including a rendering from the cartoon. This reads like a love letter to Batman and his struggle. Capping off the story is an excellent symbolic gesture as we see Batman’s mother’s pearls break away into what looks like viruses. These pearls break away as we see Batman don a mask for breathing and prepares to dive back into the streets of Gotham. It’s an iconic image many folks will be talking about.
Paul Dini and Adam Kubert team up for the next story, and if you’re familiar with either name you know their collaboration is enough to know it’s a great tale. This story features Ninja Man-Bats who are attacking Batman. It has a fun story that features the bat-copter and a familiar foe of Batman’s. It also looks great, but I expect nothing less from Adam Kubert.
Next is a story written and drawn by Emma Rios which is visceral, moody, and quite different from any story I’ve ever read. Titled “Sisyphus”, the story mixes strange imagery of crows, bats, and a rebirth tied together with captions. This story is a bit too obtuse for my tastes, but it looks gorgeous all the same.
The last story is by G. Willow Wilson and Greg Smallwood which features a grittier more realistic depiction of Batman as he at-first ponders entering a crime scene, and then diving headlong in without enough information. It plays on Batman’s approach while weaving in a familiar supervillain. Smallwood’s clean style looks great depicting Batman in an older look that’s a more realistic choice to avoid the rippling 8-pack and gadgetry.
Closing out the book is a great pinup by Dexter Soy that plays with light as Batman stands still on a single pole with flashing lightning splashing across him and the cityscape.
Clever, cunning, thought-provoking… not necessarily words you’d expect to apply to a black and white Batman comic, but Batman Black & White #1 is a great return for the series with a lot of bang-for-your-buck action and storytelling ideas. Each story is gorgeously rendered, maximizing the dark shadows and flashes of light that bring so much drama to Batman, aided by clever ideas found in all five of its stories. Batman Black & White is no ordinary comic book.
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