We’ve reached the half-way point in the latest Batman: Black and White mini-series and this time the talent includes such names as Damion Scott, Paul Dini, Marv Wolfman, and Lee Berjmejo– but does it live up to the Eisner Award-winning standards that this title is known for? I found issue #1 to be a triumph filled with a variety of different artistic styles and unique approaches to the Batman mythology but while issue #2 was a good comic it ultimately didn’t feel as imaginative or as memorable. So how does part 3 fair?

The Cover

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I love the cover by Olly Moss a lot! The way the shadowy umbrella interior makes a bat symbol marks one of the more creative visuals of the entire comic, BUT what’s with the color? This is Batman: Black and White, not “Batman: Black, White, and Beige.”

No Ads

There are no ads to be found in this book and for $5 bucks there definitely shouldn’t be. Instead, the only breaks we have between stories are these really well-done biographies on the writers and artists who made these stories possible and the book even opens up with a dedication to Archie Goodwin.

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Rule Number One

This story written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo was a great way to kick off the comic. I absolutely love Bermejo’s(Batman Noel, Joker, Batman/Deathblow) realistic artwork. The level of detail on everything from the characters to their surroundings and even key props like the motorcycle are astounding. Bermejo creates the most believable Gotham around and the more Batman stories he does, the better. As for the writing, it’s a solid short story about a side-kick in training. Batman is bringing down a drug operation from the shadows, while the new partner must confront the problem head-on and deal with all of the complications that come with that. The situation may be tense, but the dialogue and the sidekick’s inner monologue keep it fun, plus it has a satisfying ending– something many short stories lack. One element I found particularly interesting was that it was never clear which Boy Wonder we were watching. This could easily have been Dick, Tim, Jason, or someone totally different. Rule Number One is one of the best stories to be featured in Batman: Black and White so far both narratively and visually.

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Hall of Mirrors

Damion Scott’s story is all too similar to one we saw just a couple of months ago in Legends of the Dark Knight. Batman is in a dream sequence set in a funhouse hall of mirrors and he sees a number of his worst enemies. It’s essentially an excuse for the artist to draw all of the coolest looking villains, and that’s fine. While the narrative may be almost identical to Rafael Albuquerque’s short from Legends, Damion Scott’s artistic approach is entirely unique. Scott employs a graffiti style and the compositions can be hard to read but if you take the time to really look at all the intricate lines it opens up your imagination and you have to be amazed at how much was squeezed into a single page. If you enjoyed his style here, I suggest checking out SOLO Deluxe Edition, which features even more of his work.

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 An Innocent Man

Marv Wolfman and Riccardo Burchielli’s story about Batman hunting for evidence that could pardon an innocent man on the night of his execution has as many good elements as it does bad. Overall I liked this story, but I did feel that it was very derivative of a very popular graphic novel from the past decade, which I’ll put in spoiler tags because the very title would give away the surprise at the end of Wolfman’s tale.

Spoiler
It’s a lot like “The Joker: Devil’s Advocate”
Also, the non-linear fashion in which the story begins was made all the more confusing by a lack of clear borders on some of the panels. Many of the borders were finely drawn and with artwork as busy and detailed as Burchielli’s things start to look a bit cluttered and I can’t help but wonder if this all might have looked better in color.

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Namtab

I don’t know what writer and artist Rian Hughes was going for with this one. The throwback cover with Tal-Dar was probably my favorite part, but everything after that… well, I was just wanting it to end but it just kept going. What starts out as a plot similar to Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel mixed with some Silver Age nostalgia quickly mutates into a strange post-modern commentary on the art of sequential storytelling told through characters that look like they stepped out of those Erin Esurance commercials. “Namtab” looks like fun, but I found it overly wordy and obnoxious.

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Role Models

Batman: The Animated Series‘ Paul Dini and Stephane Roux close out the comic with a bang. What starts out as a rather dark tale about Batman and Gordon investigating a string of child abduction cases turns into a lighthearted episode of Gotham City Sirens. Roux’s artwork looked great and I especially liked seeing Harley Quinn in her old outfit again (although Poison Ivy’s costume looked a bit too skimpy). The use of shadows, expressive characters, and attention to detail, particualry with the streets of Gotham itself, really created a great atmosphere perfect for the Bat. Role Models and Rule Number One are definitely the high-points of this comic.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see the uncolored work of some of the best artists in the business
  • You hate ads. There isn’t a single advertisement in this comic
  • You love the variety an anthology series has to offer
  • Harley and Ivy are two of your favorite characters

Overall

You’ll surely enjoy some of these stories more or less than I did, that’s what’s great about an anthology comic– there are so many unique takes on the character that there should be something here for everyone and at least 1 tale that really hits home for you individually. I don’t think that the past 2 issues have been quite as rich as issue #1, but I still think there’s a lot of value here and Bermejo and Dini’s stories definitely stand out as some of the best the series has had to offer so far.

SCORE: 7/10

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