The final issue of Batman: Black & White hits stands this week! For the most part, this has been an incredible collection of stories with fantastic art. The real question is whether or not the miniseries will go out with a bang or a whimper. Find out below!

“The Second Signal”
Written by Brandon Thomas
Art by Khary Randolph
Letters by Deron Bennett

I recognized Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph from Excellence, so I was curious/excited to see what they could deliver in a Batman story. This story features Michael and Nathan, two, young, black teenagers who live on “The Hill,” a predominantly black neighborhood that is often overlooked and underserved by the city. When people from the neighborhood start disappearing, they make a point to build their own Bat signal to call on Batman.

Their attempt is ultimately successful, and Batman arrives on the scene a little while after they light the signal. There’s a nice moment where Batman congratulates the two on their work on the signal, offers some advice, then asks them why they called. The boys inform Batman that people have been going missing, and since it’s community members from The Hill, nobody is batting an eye. They also have tech that was found while tracking the teacher – one of their direct contacts who has gone missing. It’s immediately clear that the Mad Hatter is behind this. Batman does his Batman thing, confronts Mad Hatter, and things go as you might expect, but with a slight twist.

Overall, the story is solid. As far as the plot is concerned, it’s a decent story. The elements featuring Michael and Nathan are executed really well, and they feel like fleshed-out, believable characters despite the brevity of this story. The moments featuring Batman left a little more to be desired though. For me, the exchanges – especially those between Bats and Hatter – were really heavy-handed. They weren’t terrible, but it was off enough for me to notice. Other than that though, the story is solid.

On the art front, Khary Randolph delivers some great work. There’s a slightly unique approach to Randolph’s take on Batman, while also feeling like a combination of various, popular takes. The style is a good mix, and the sequential storytelling is executed rather well. Overall, it’s a success, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Randolph pop on a Bat-themed book again in the near future.

“The Second Signal” score: 6.5/10

 

“The Abyss”
Written by Pierrick Colinet & Elsa Charretier
Art by Elsa Charretier
Letters by Ariana Maher

“The Abyss” is a relatively simple narrative that touches on how different people’s perspectives can be. In this story, three characters recall their encounter with Batman as he battles Man-Bat. Two of the characters – an elderly man and a police officer – have very different depictions of what takes place, and shares what they witnessed with a therapist. Both of these individuals were are the same event where Man-Bat attacked, but their recollections – at least in tone – are vastly different from one another. One of the characters views Batman and his actions as a God-send and heroic. The other viewed his actions as reckless and addictive. Their varying opinions are even compared against an inkblot to determine what they “see.” It feels like a play into the notion that our attitude and outlook shape our perception and reality.

The third person recanting their encounter with Batman is a child. What’s interesting here, is that the kid is clearly a fan of Batman, but when Batman’s assault with Man-Bat result in the two flying into the child’s bedroom window, his perception of his hero changes. He no longer sees the fantasy that he always imagined, but if forced to come to terms with the reality of who and what Batman is.

Overall, it’s an effective and efficient story. The simplicity of Charretier’s art gives the story an “indie” feel that I enjoy. Each issue, there’s been at least one story where less is more in the art department, and this is that story for this chapter. I do recommend that you don’t used your guided view reading for this story if you opt to read digitally. The layouts and choices for the visual storytelling play much better when reading full-page.

“The Abyss” score: 7/10

 

“Opening Moves”
Script and art by Nick Derrington
Letters by Steve Wands

“Opening Moves” is the story that I was looking forward to the most from this collection. I’ve grown to become a huge fan of Nick Derrington since diving into his work on Batman: Universe, so when I noticed that he would be writing and covering art, I immediately became cautiously curious. If you were in the same boat as me, then fear not. This is quite good.

Batman is up against the Chessmen Blanc. Who are they? Well, imagine Chess pieces as actual people… Bloody brilliant, right? Well, Batman is attempting to rescue a boy that the Chessmen Blanc have kidnapped, and to get to the boy, he has to fight his way through Pawns, Bishops, Knights, Rooks, etc. He makes his way through the pieces until he reaches the Queen, but Batman may have met his match here.

Just as it looks like Batman has lost, the Chessmen Noir show up. The boy that was kidnapped is their boy, and they want him back. As an all-out battle breaks out, Batman does everything in his ability to get the boy to safety. There is a twist to this story though, and it’s one that probably carries one of the heavier themes of this collection. At the end of the day, we’re all products of our environment. That notion carries quiet a weight for the ending of this story, and wasn’t how I expected this story to end due to the light, action romp that it started as. I won’t give it away, because you deserve to experience the story, just know that Nick Derrington did an outstanding job in (what I believe) is his first attempt at writing professionally.

Now, on to what we know Derrington can do well… Art. As I said, I’m already a huge fan of Derrington, so imagine how surprised I was when I thought, “Wow! This might be the best linework that I’ve ever seen from him.” If there’s an artist that should be doing black and white artwork, it is Nick Derrington. I only thought I knew how good he was, and he completely proved me wrong here… on two different fronts…

“Opening Moves” score: 9/10

 

“Like Monsters of the Deep”
Written by John Arcudi
Art by James Harren
Letters by Tom Napolitano

In a strange turn of events, “Like Monsters of the Deep” is a story where I actually prefer the narrative over the art. Now, James Harren’s art isn’t bad. There are actually aspects of it that I really like, and he seems to really excel when depicting panels that have more of a horror slant – and there is plenty of that here. But his human characters appear really cartoony, and those two styles just don’t mesh very well, especially when infused with the darker tones of the story. Also, some of the character designs are change from panel to panel. It results in some panels and pages that I absolutely love, and others that I don’t care for at all.

Concerning the narrative, young girls have been getting kidnapped off the streets. Batman recruits one  of his rogues to help him with this investigation, and it leads to an interesting altercation. Unfortunately, as you might expect, Batman and the rogue (I’m purposely not revealing which villain it is for the sake of a reveal in the narrative) are ultimately on different pages, and that results in in-fighting between the two. While the altercation between these two characters is entertaining, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, “Ok… But what about all the bad guys who were kidnapping women? We’ve completely abandoned that at this point.”

John Arcudi doesn’t abandon that plot, but it does feel like an afterthought in the end. Overall though, the premise and execution of the script works, but I do feel that this particular story would’ve been better suited as a full issue or smaller arc. With all of these anthologies hitting stands currently/ in the near future, I can’t help but think that DC should tap Arcudi for more stories.

“Like Monsters of the Deep” score: 7.5/10

 

“A Thousand Words”
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita Jr.

A play on the phase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. deliver the story that has the most emotional resonance from this collection… If you don’t stop to think about the logistics of the story itself.

Rather than focus on Batman, we learn the story of a forensics photographer for the GCPD that was on the roof of the GCPD the first night that Gordon used the symbol. He famously took a picture of Batman arriving, and that photograph serves as the crux and the hear of this story. I’m completely sold at this point.

In the present day, we see that this man is now much older and has become known as “Shutterbat,” capturing numerous photos of Batman in action. No longer working in forensics, “Shutterbat” made a career as a photojournalist, snapping pictures of Batman and selling them to various media. This is where I can’t help but ignore logistics, and the plot gets in its own way. We’re supposed to believe that this man, somehow, ended up being at the right place at the right time as Batman encountered the likes of Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane, etc. and managed to get all of these glorious pictures… It’s just a bit much for me.

Alas, that is not the point. The point here is that every tabloid had a different take on Batman, and would alter his photographs to help their narrative. (We’re seeing this theme pop up a few times in this chapter.) Now that he’s older and reaching the end of his life, he wants to see who the real Batman is, from Batman’s own perspective. It’s an interesting notion and one that I quite like. In fact, I wish we had just stuck with that first, original picture and excluded any talk of him becoming the “Shutterbat.” Because, for me, the emotional beat of the story is reminding himself what Batman started as and still is… Hope.

John Romita Jr. isn’t one of my favorite artists, but I’ve come to respect his craft over the years. That being said, you can tell when he’s invested in the story he’s telling, and when he isn’t. For this story, he delivers. This is probably some of the best work that I’ve seen from Romita in quite some time, and it serves as a nice reminder as to why he became so popular and respected to begin with. The man is in incredible storyteller, and he knocks it out of the park here!

“A Thousand Words” score: 7/10

Recommended if:

  • Come for Batman, stay for the art!
  • If you’re looking for some quick, one-and-done stories, then this is for you!

 

Overall:

The final issue of Batman: Black and White doesn’t pack the same punch as some earlier issues, but it still delivers some solid stories. And while it doesn’t hit any homeruns – aside from Nick Derrington’s incredible “Opening Moves” – it also doesn’t ever dip into the depths of being terrible. It’s just solid work from start to finish, and if that’s something that we’re going to turn our nose up to, then we’ve become some incredibly jaded fans! If you haven’t been picking up the monthly issues of Batman: Black & White, then you’ve been missing out. Catch up or trade wait – I don’t care – just make sure you add this to your collection in one way or another.

Score: 7.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.