krakoa's Batman Black and White #1 - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When; Batman Zombie; Justice is Served; Driven; Head Games review

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Batman Through the Looking Glass

I'll say right off the bat, (hahaa) that this is one of the best comics I've purchased in a long time. Batman Black and White was an anthology miniseries in the 90's that featured Batman drawn and written by top talents in a variety of stories largely out of continuity. Now, the concept has been revived. At $4.99 the price is pretty steep, but honestly I feel like lately I've been paying slightly less for significantly less interesting content. The art is gorgeous start to finish. The writing is mostly solid, but I'll nitpick a bit.

In the first story feat. Chip Kidd & Michael Cho, we have an interesting juxtaposition. Michael Cho's art is carefree and fun, and looks a little like Golden/Silver Age Batman sprinkled with a little Bruce Timm (and if you squint, maybe some David Mazzuchelli). The juxtaposition is with Kidd's modern writing style. Although due respect is paid to the past with easter eggs like the "Sprang Building" honoring comic great Dick Sprang, the story feels current and seamlessly integrates familiar elements to make a Batman as dynamic and interesting as the masterful character portrayed by Grant Morrison at the various apexes of that run.

The second story is Neal Adams. Let that sink in... NEAL ADAMS. The man could draw blades of grass, and I'd pay to see it. Rightfully so, the bio in the comic refers to him as a living legend. Along with Steranko & Sienkiewicz, I can't think of anyone who so dynamically changed the comic medium post-Kirby. But I digress. Here we have a nightmarish vision of Batman as a zombie. Ironically, it's the story written and drawn by the old master that I believe will shake things up and cause the most polarization amongst fans. Neal is a bit heavy handed with his politics and social commentary in this one. Did I have a problem with it? Absolutely not, when I call it heavy handed, I'm speaking comparatively. Comic books on the whole, like to water down or sugarcoat political issues when it comes to their mainstream characters. Yet, Mr. Green Arrow/ Speedy dope saga himself vents frustrations here to what he sees as a broken legal system. What's so profound about this story is that one of the all time great Batman artists is depicting the Bat as a sad caricature that serves a system of justice that is deeply in need of an overhaul. This is definitely one you'll want to talk about and have a dialogue on. [Feel free to PM me] I kinda wish he'd been paired with a writing because sometimes I find that Adams' writing is a bit clunky, in start contrast to his exquisite art, but overall this was a cool tidbit.

The third story is a little weird. I feel like it was a little too dark, to be a whimsical romp with Ivy and Harley, and a little too whimsical to be a dark gritty Batman tale. That's not to say it was bad, or not enjoyable, I just had a tough time trying to nail down the tone Wicks was going for. She did however, make me want to see her write these characters in a more extended story because Ms. Wicks definitely has a knack for setting up a fun yarn. I was a little confused with Dr. Glyson's ultimate fate, but it was a minor gripe. The art is what really shone for me. Quinones did a fantastic job. Ivy was sensual! Harley was impish! And in Batman's brief appearance he's both fluid and heroic looking! I think Mr. Quinones would benefit from some vibrant colors, and to see him do an on-going with an equally talented colorist would be a real treat. Otherwise, the art pops!

"Driven" is a short little slice of life, look at Batman & the Batmobile. The first thing that stands out is Sean Murphy's art. I wasn't too familiar with him before this, though I know what he's done. This story was so insanely KINETIC. The best compliment I can think of was that at times it reminded me of Bill Sienkiewiecz on "Elektra: Assassin." It was just so dynamic I had to physically restrain myself from reading through the story too quickly and went back to re-read panels that the art blazed through. With respect to Mr. Arcudi, the writing was largely incidental to the art. It overall, contributed nicely, but the best thing it did was not hamper the frantic speed.

The final story was a fitting conclusion. Mackie reminded me of a softer version of Neal Adams's writing. There was a message injected into the story, but Mackie puts the story first, and incorporates a villain we don't get enough (if you're a fan that is). This was a well-rounded straightforward Batman story that was the perfect way to end this highly enjoyable comic. Chris Samnee's art is very beautiful. At times it reminded me tiny bit of Sin City, but overall I think he did an excellent job of using the comic book medium to his advantage. I say that because often we compliment artists and writers of comics by referring to their work as being cinematic. I find this to be a trifle sad because at the medium's height it is strictly its own animal. Sure, it can have influences from the silver screen, but it must be fresh and original and play with panels, and artistic flourishes that simply don't work on the big screen. Samnee certainly proved his ability here.

Overall, I can't stress enough what a fantastic comic book this was/is. I definitely recommend that lovers of art, Batman, or comics pick it up. It was certainly a refreshing break from what is often a sea of mediocrity.

2 Comments
Posted by lykopis

Sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation and well written review.

Edited by Krakoa

@lykopis: My pleasure, thank you for the kind words.

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