Batman Black And White has a very fun and easy to understand premise; it’s a set of unconnected short stories by top tier creative teams. Oh it’s also in black and white, surprise!
Being an anthology, this has nothing to do with the preceding issue. It stands entirely on its own, as does every story within. There’s no continuity hurdles to navigate either, every story is just the core basic idea of Batman interpreted in alternative ways. This is arguably the most accessible Batman series DC are putting out right now.
There are five stories altogether, the first is by Dan DiDio and J.G. Jones, showing us Batman having to deal with the monstrous Man-Bat. Jones’ art has a very glossy painting look to it, it conjures up images of a classic movie or even a painting. The only downside is that it can coxme off a little bit static, it’s almost too photo-like to flow well in a sequential format. But it does mean every panel has a sense of realism to it that works well in the story. DiDio’s dialogue is a little off but it gets the job done, though it’s perhaps the weakest writing of the lot.
The second story, Into The Circle, is written and drawn by Rafael Grampá. His art is a fantastic creepy cartoon style with vaguely distorted characters. It’s a simple story that serves as an excuse to showcase his brilliant art, although with a smart twist at the end. It’s almost worth reading just to see his rendition of the Joker, an unnerving and imaginative depiction.
The third instalment is another one both written and drawn by the same person, this time by Rafael Albuquerque. It’s a dark short about Batman making a trip through the underworld. Shadowy and fast paced it’s a good punchy story that Albuquerque’s art brings a ton of bleak atmosphere to.
Fourth is Jeff Lemire and Alex Nino’s, a very action heavy story Batman is pitted against a group of goons in a freezing climate. Nino’s art is the most stylised of the set with long limbed characters and sharp jagged shading. The illustrations have a real feeling of motion, each hit feels like there’s a weighty force behind it, making it a very brutal and lively sequence.
Finally the last is a standout one by Michael Uslan and Dave Bullock. Taking a page to introduce it by imitating the credits of a silent movie, it’s unique in that there are no speech bubbles of any kind. All text is displayed in squared away caption boxes, again in the style of a silent film. The art itself , by Bullock, is retro inspired and immediately conjures images of 50’s posters, even Batman’s costume is more like his original debut than anything he wears now. There’s just spades of charm to it and the story is absolutely the perfect length. Almost every panel is something to marvel over.
With those five stories there’s a meaty amount of content here, but the price tag is still quite steep. That said, every tale is enjoyable and wonderfully unique amongst the bunch. Although the story work is overall strong, it’s the artwork that sells this package. It’s like a quick flashy demonstration of the artist’s talent through the familiar look and feel of Batman. If the premise interests you at all then there’s no reason to hesitate, this is good solid stuff.