The return of Batman: Black & White is a welcome one, especially if you were a fan of the iconic series before. Its ability to capture the noir and the macabre of Batman is second to none. The first issue blew me away, and this third issue does so in all-new ways. That’s the beauty of the anthology, but also the approach each unique artist can bring. This week, John Riddley and Olivier Coipel, Bilquis Evely, Bengal, Nick Dragotta, and Tim Seeley, and Kelley Jones all bring something new and fresh to the table. It’s all a matter of taste, but you can’t deny the creativity on display here.
The first story by Ridley and Coipel continues the next Batman’s adventures and he’s in a bad way. He’s tied up and literally being beaten with crowbars by a racist offshoot of Penguin’s gang. Set in the Future State universe, this story explores a familial relationship between Batman and a sidekick while also revealing the very real nature of racism a Black Batman would face in the field. Coipel’s art is incredible thanks to the hatching down to create volume and texture. It’s an action-focused short that has just enough exploration of this new Batman to whet our appetites for more.
Following this is Evely’s story, which she both writes and draws. This story uses Batman as a literal knight as he faces off against an incredible force who sees him as a threat. It has a storybook feel thanks to the captioning and incredible pencils. This story may make you want an entire series with this version of Batman, it’s that interesting.
Next up, Bengal writes and draws an action sequence involving Batman and some men in a getaway car. Bengal’s use of straight lines and flat blacks creates an interesting exploration of contrast. It’s a striking story and it comes complete with a fun twist.
Seeley and Jones’ story is where the macabre enters the series, and it’s delightful. Using some familiar magic and demonic characters, we get to see Batman track down some baddies, before coming to a rude awakening. Not only is this an interesting take on Batman, but it feels entirely new and worthy of a series of its own. It also ends with a harrowing and haunting take on Gotham that’s not to be missed. Jones’ style is one of the most iconic in comics when it comes to Batman (and especially Swamp Thing, for that matter), and it’s incredible without the usual colors.
Following this is a fantastic futuristic, dystopian science fiction take on Batman not to be missed. Dragotta’s deeply visual style works wonderfully with this tale — I dare you to not think of East of West when reading this. In fact, there are only sound effects for the first few pages, which makes the tale contemplative and absorbing. Again, this is a fascinating short that deserves fleshing out elsewhere.
Of the first three issues of Batman: Black & White, this might be the most diverse with its stories. From sci-fi worlds to ghost stories to conventional fight scenes, this book has it all. This anthology is so good you might just pray DC Comics lets its creators flesh out these shorts into miniseries. For the fan who is starved for an original Batman story, Batman: Black & White offers substantial nourishment.
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