We’re near the end of the current Batman: Black and White run! For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed this book. There have been some nice stories and incredible art along the way, but I do feel as though the best overall quality was front-ended to earlier issues. Will that trend continue? Find out below!
“Father & Son Outing”
“Father & Son Outing” is written and illustrated by Jorge Jimenez. Yes, you read that correctly… Written and illustrated by Jorge. Now, Jorge has had some writing credits before, but they were co-writing credits with Scott Snyder on Justice League, so it’s hard to know what he contributed. As far as I can tell, this is Jorge’s first solo writing credit, and that has me excited. It’s rare that I feel most writers excel with both skills, but on rare occasions, it happens. Could this be one of those occasions?
The story features Bruce and Damian riding bikes to pre-scout a location where some criminal activity is supposed to go down. There are aspects of this that I really enjoy! We know Batman to be a strategist, but he’s often presented in a “Batgod” sort of way where he just has a resolution for everything. This actually shows him working on a strategy. It’s unique and quite refreshing. It also makes sense.
I also get the sense that this is one of Bruce and Damian’s first outings together. Bruce walks Damian through his plan and distinctly references the League of Assassins. There wouldn’t be a reason for that unless he were teaching Damian “his ways.” But, it isn’t necessarily the plot that’s important here, but the budding relationship between Bruce and Damian. You can tell that this is what Jimenez really cares about – and I feel his art is at its best when showcasing the nuances of relationships – and it’s this element that really hits home for me.
Speaking of art, it’s as good as you might expect. The panels and line-work do look a little more relaxed than what we’re used to seeing from Jimenez, but not in a bad way. I got the sense that it was an intentional and artistic approach to create more of a light-hearted mood. I personally love how expressive Jimenez draws his characters, and we get plenty of that here to really impact the story. It’s a great, fun read that ends on a humorous joke that should honestly surprise no one.
“Father & Son Outing” score: 8/10
Once again, we have an artist covering writing and art duties. This time, it’s Lee Weeks. If you’ve frequented our site, then there’s a good chance that you know we love Lee Weeks. The guy is an incredible artist, and, in my opinion, is the best sequential storyteller in the industry. So, that alone had me incredibly excited to read this issue. Where I viewed Jimenez’s story as having the potential to be strong (and, thankfully, it was), I felt certain that Weeks’ story would be stellar. And guess what? Not only is “Signals” the best story in this issue, but it might also actually be the best story of the entire collection!
For “Signals,” Weeks embraces the noir aspects of his art and tells a story that’s focused on James Gordon. An anonymous, coded message has been sent to the GCPD, and Gordon and some detectives are trying to work it out, while also debating whether or not to turn on the signal to call for Batman. Ultimately, they decide not to. Gordon lets his team take it and he leaves for the night… Or so it would seem.
As it turns out, the message was directly for him, pertains to his past, and he’s gone to pursue it. I don’t really want to say more because there’s an emotional journey here, and that deserves to be experienced rather than shared. What I will say, is that there isn’t much in the way of plot here – I’ve already given you the general concept – but it’s executed so well and with so much finesse. In an age of comics where everything but the actual execution appears to be the focus, it’s refreshing to get a product where it appears that every detail of the execution was considered and worked.
I also like this because it feels like a natural, untold story that could – and should – be explored a little further concerning Gordon’s past. So many comics are desperate to be fresh, different, or subvert expectations that they often don’t feel like a natural progression for a character. It often feels like change for the sake of change. “Signals,” however, feels in line with who and what we know of Gordon.
“Signals” is a masterclass representation of what a good comic book should be, and after seeing Lee Weeks’ scripting, I desperately want to see a long-form story from him. Perhaps something Black Label. Maybe give him his own little imprint…
“Signals” score: 10/10
“Blue” is written by Mariko Tamaki with pencils by Emanuela Luppachino and inks by Wade Von Grawbadger. Much in the way that Lee Weeks played into the history of Jim Gordon, Mariko Tamaki seems to look back at The Long Halloween and ask, “What would have been Gilda’s path if she were still around?”
While the story itself is ok – I found myself confused as to who certain characters were early in the issue, but everything does become clear by the end – I feel that the general concept is a worthy one. The story is divided between the present and the past. In the past, we have Gilda and Harvey’s union and wedding, while also exploring the toll of him becoming Two Face. In the present, Gilda is working as a bartender and is serving men who are reveling in the moment of a bachelor party.
I mentioned the narrative is confusing at first because it isn’t completely clear who certain characters are in the present day. For example, Gilda narrates the story, but it’s not clear that she’s actually the bartender, so I found myself questioning whose perspective this was from, and actually thought it was the soon-to-be bride of the gentleman in the bar. As it turns out, the future husband isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, and this is when things begin to fall into place.
There’s a strong theme of people not presenting themselves honestly, as well as the other party choosing to ignore certain signs or red flags. Gilda may have acted out in a certain way while with Harvey to protect him during The Long Halloween, but she has a new path, and one can’t help but feel that she’s the embodiment of the phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That’s definitely an oversimplification, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to explore this idea a little further… And hey! Would you look at that… Mariko Tamaki is on Detective Comics…
Luppachino and Grawbadger both deliver solid work here. The art is crisp and is easy to follow. There are aspects of Luppachino’s pencils that remind me of Paquette, and I consider that a good thing. There were moments where the soon-to-be husband is featured as having some sort of powers or abilities. It may have just been me, but I got a little too caught up in trying to figure out if they were abilities, and then what they actually were. If you find yourself getting hung up on that detail, don’t… It’s not important.
“Blue” score: 7/10
Wow! First off, I need to say that I started reading this as a traditional comic, and this is not a traditional comic! If you read this panel, to panel, to panel, you’re going to hate it. However, if you read this as a role-playing game (al Dungeons and Dragons) – and actually play – then you’re going to have a blast! In fact, while this is a comic book, I don’t even want to call it a comic. I want to call it a game.
Kieron Gillen crafts this masterpiece, and I have the utmost respect for the creativity that’s put forward here. The fact that this is a story/game featuring the Riddler as the villain only makes it that much better. Some of the threads and outcomes will seem a little and cheesy and weird, but if you let yourself go on the journey (and start over again, and again, and again as I did), then it can be a blast. This isn’t a story, this is an experience. I can’t stress that enough. So, dive in, have fun, and play this game! I had so much fun with this one, and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Jamie McKelvie delivers the art for this issue and does a solid job. This is an interesting situation where sequential storytelling isn’t as important as it typically is for comics. Regardless, the images are crisp, clean, and convey exactly what they need to!
“The Riddle” score: 10/10
“The Man Who Flies”
As an avid Nightwing fan, I don’t know if we could have ended this issue with a better story. Jamal Campbell delivers an incredibly simple story that touches on the big moments in Dick Grayson’s life, and the story serves as a perfect representation for who Dick Grayson is, what he stands for, and who has impacted him. There isn’t an actual plot here, but Campbell embraces and theme of the character. And, quite frankly, that is enough.
Accented by Campbell’s incredible art – because, seriously, it is beautiful – we get to see what Dick Grayson’s universe is… The people around him. His parents. Bruce and Alfred as his father figures. His loves, Babs and Kori. His brothers, Jason, Tim, and Damian. His drive. His realizations. His failures. His inspirations. This story is so simple, yet so touching and poignant, and I really hope they include this in some future Nightwing collections, as well as the Batman: Black & White Collection.
As for Jamal Campbell… Seeing what he did with Naomi, how he managed to impact Young Justice, and now this… I feel pretty confident in saying DC needs to give him more freedom to tell more stories. He seems to get it, and DC could use a dose of that right now.
“The Man Who Flies” score: 10/10
- You’re looking for solid, one-and-done Batman tales.
- You need some quality comics in your life.
- This is probably the best overall issue of Batman: Black & White out of this run.
While I don’t feel that any of these individual stories pack the punch as some of the stories from the first two issues, I do think the is the best issue overall! Every story in this collection was an absolutely delight to read, and worthy of praise. I was losing hope in this title after watching the quality slip the last few months, but this issue restored my faith. Hopefully, it will close out just as strong next month.