We’ve reached the end of Batman: Black and White and it pleases me to say that it finishes strong with some of the best stories featured in the entire 6-part collection. As always, these are stories that take place outside of any continuity so anyone can pick it up. It’s an anthology series packed with a variety of different stories crafted by some of the most talented people working in comics today. I think this mini-series will make a wonderful hardcover, but if you only want to buy the floppies, issues #1 and #6 are a must. 

The Cover

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Joker being gripped by the lapels is a classic image we’ve all seen a million times but rarely has it looked this good. Doug Mahnke’s cover is very eye-catching.

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 well-done biographies on the writers and artists who made these stories possible. There’s even a dedication to Archie Goodwin!

Clay

Clay

Cliff Chiang, I salute you! You wrote and illustrated an excellent short story that addressed something about the Batman mythology that I had never considered before! As you all can see by the image above, what I’m talking about is the fact that Dick Grayson would likely not have been accepted by his fellow students at whatever prep school Bruce would undoubtedly enroll him in. Not only is it a fine point, but the theme of acceptance runs throughout the entire story, our own villain reflects the idea, and it’s punctuated at the end by just an all around great Robin moment. In fact, it’s a perfect Robin story from beginning to end and one of my favorite Black and White features of this entire run. I have much admired Chiang’s work on Wonder Woman but now I desperately want to see him not only draw a Batman title, but write it as well. In just 8 short pages I saw perfect characterization, a really fun and creative action sequence, a smart and capable GCPD, and the best use of Clayface in  the entire time I’ve been reviewing comics!

Spoiler

Chiang approaches Clayface’s powers differently and I welcome the change. Whereas Snyder gave Clayface the ability to mimic a person’s DNA– an attribute that was never fully utilized and actually feels quite forgotten already– Chiang gives us a Clayface who seems to constantly be able to regenerate and he uses this to great effect by making his own theater audience. It’s creepy. Unlike the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Growing Pains,” this Clayface can’t continue to control the gunk that’s no longer connected to him so we wouldn’t have to worry about this alteration overpowering him either.

Bruce

Bruce

Although Olly Moss doesn’t illustrate this issue he makes a fine writer and Becky Cloonan’s visuals perfectly suit the tone of this funny and thought-provoking story, which like “Clay” does not follow The Dark Knight himself, but a supporting character we’ve seen often. However, unlike, “Clay” it’s not another superhero but one of the countless dates that Bruce has left confused and alone in an almost endless mansion the morning after. This is exactly the sort of thing I love to see from Batman: Black & White, gorgeous artwork and a meditation on the little details of the mythology that we take for granted. Not only do we hear “Ms. Price” give her account, but one of her friends tells another entertaining anecdote about a night out with the mysterious playboy. It’s fascinating to  see how these women view Bruce Wayne and how even though they’ve been kept in the dark their view of him and the path he’s on isn’t that far from the truth.

Hiding in Plain

The Batman: Hiding in Plain Sight

This was the only chapter of issue #6 that I was disappointed by. I found Dave Taylor’s story of Batman uncovering a robot-themed mystery to be too ambitious for only 8 pages and it shows in the gigantic, exposition-filled speech bubbles that devour the page. And the way the words crowd the panel doesn’t do the otherwise spectacular artwork any favors. Taylor’s style doesn’t utilize much shading at all and it makes for busy visuals that bleed into one another so much that it takes a moment to fully decipher what you’re seeing. It seems as though much of “Hiding in Plain Sight” would have functioned better in color and with more pages to tell its bizarre and intricate conspiracy. Also, the voice of Batman never sounded quite right and hearing Alfred remark, “Codswallop!” didn’t particularly feel very Pennyworth-esque either but maybe that’s just because I’ve only ever heard that word spoken in a southern American accent.

She Lies

She Lies at Midnight

Just because I guessed what was really going on from the first page doesn’t mean I was any less impressed by its execution. “She Lies at Midnight” is the best. It just shot up to #1 on the list of Best Selina Kyle Stories I’ve Read in My Time as a Reviewer and I think we should all launch a campaign telling DC to put writer/artist Adam Hughes in charge of the New 52 title because this guy ****ing gets it! His style is too time consuming for him to illustrate it from month to month (although it is a stand-out performance every time like what Norman Rockwell would’ve done if he loved superheroes), but this issue proves he can write the character better than anyone else who’s touched the subject in years.

He nails the characterization of Catwoman absolutely. You know the key to knowing when Catwoman has been written well? You ask yourself two questions: “Did she do something terrible?” and “Do I still like her?” If the answer to both is yes then Catwoman was captured perfectly. Amazingly, she’s actually only featured for a small portion of the book yet her presence is felt throughout. The protagonist for this piece is Batman and even he is written superbly, as is another Detective Comics staple who was thrown in for good measure. I found the final line of this episode to be a little out of place– funny, but out of place– however, I was just so ecstatic to have completed such an intricate and amusing Catwoman story that I could hardly be bothered.

*Note– if anybody who worked on this comic reads this, there’s a lettering mistake where the narration says “I’m ankle-deep in punks whining about their broken legs and split kneecaps A and for the first time tonight I feel good.”

To Beat the Bat

To Beat the Bat

The slow burn of the collection. I had my doubts at first, but this short told from the thug’s perspective has a hell of a payoff and ends the latest Batman: Black and White in a way that’ll haunt you. What makes a man turn to crime in Gotham? What makes him return to crime after getting trounced by The Caped Crusader? And why on earth would anyone take a henchman job for one of the city’s known super villains? These questions are all addressed in this character-driven story that features plenty of beautiful, screen-tone shaded artwork that gives it a nice retro look. Trust me, it begins simple and funny, but brace yourself. It gets heavy and the final panel is a punch to the gut. Dave Johnson delivered a fine example of sequential storytelling.

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 ad in this comic.
  • You love the variety an anthology series has to offer
  • You’d like to see Batman stories told from different perspectives. This comic has amazing tales from the point of view of Robin and the nameless characters like the beautiful ladies Bruce Wayne ditches in the morning and the goons Batman leaves on the GCPD’s doorstep at night
  • You’d love to remember what it was like to read a great Catwoman story

Overall

There was only one story in this collection that I felt could’ve used some work, but issue #6 as a whole is one of the best chapters of this mini-series and it ends Black and White in grand fashion. A very memorable issue.

SCORE: 9.5/10

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