Batman Black and White #1 Review

BatmanBlackAndWhite1Cover
Batman Black and White #1 Review

Cover: Marc Silvestri

“Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When”
Writer: Chip Kidd
Illustrator: Michael Cho
Letterer: Dezi Sienty

“Batman Zombie”
Writer/Illustrator: Neal Adams
Letterer: Erica Schultz

“Justice is Served”
Writer: Maris Wicks
Illustrator: Joe Quinones
Letterer: Rob Leigh

“Driven”
Writer: John Arcudi
Illustrator: Sean Murphy
Letterer: Sal Cipriano

“Head Games”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Illustrator: Chris Samnee
Letterer: Jack Morelli

Review by Eric Owens

If there’s one unifying theme in the first issue of the new Batman Black & White series, it’s in its total disregard for the New 52 in favor of fun stories with more classic interpretations of the characters. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho kick off the anthology with “Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When,” which takes its look and tone from the Golden Age to the point of name-checking Dick Sprang. The story about Robin tracking down a missing Batman doesn’t tread new ground, but has fun mimicking the era with its cumbersome “high-tech” equipment and wacky weapons. Cho’s art is simply gorgeous and every one of his heroes would be a welcome addition to the statue line. Along with the classic costumes and equipment, little things like the way he has Superman pace and listen to a recording invoke the style of those early stories. It’s a great start to the the book.

Next is “Batman Zombie” by the legendary Neal Adams. In a story with a message reminiscent of his and Denny O’Neil’s classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline, Adams reminds us that not all of life’s injustices can be fought with an arsenal of bat-shaped devices. It would all be pretty depressing if there weren’t something comical about his overly-polite undead Batman and the Silver Age-style villains who look like they’re about to perform a chorus line number. Adams sticks to pencils, which give a slight roughness to Bruce’s nightmare. They look great, unsurprisingly, but a few of the busier panels might benefit from the clarity and depth inks can provide.

Moving forward, Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones return us to a time when Poison Ivy didn’t wear a unitard and Harley Quinn did in “Justice is Served.” Not even fast food in Gotham is safe from villainy as Harley discovers when a hamburger dinner causes her darling hyenas to swell up and sprout branches. Harley makes the logical assumption that her old pal Ivy is to blame. However, things aren’t as simple as they seem and the duo must track down the real criminal before they’re hauled in for a crime they didn’t commit. Overall it’s a fun story complete with a brief Teen Titans Go!-style chibi Harley sequence. If DC Collectibles is serious about adding more villains to the Black & White statue line, there’s a panel of Poison Ivy revealing her lettue wrap of a costume that would translate beautifully.

In “Driven,” John Arcudi and Sean Murphy take Batman on a high-speed chase after Roxy Rocket, who’s stolen some potential bio-weapon. None of that matters much, though, since the thrust of the story is Batman repairing and upgrading the Batmobile afterward. It’s the kind of thing that you know has to happen off-panel, but would destroy the momentum of a typical story. That sounds boring if you’re not a gearhead, but the interspersed chase scenes prvide momentum and the reveal of how the fender got damaged is worth a chuckle. Murphy’s Batmobile is a boxy beast that shows signs of being repeatedly modified and upgraded.

Finally, in Howard Mackie and Chris Samnee’s “Head Games,” Batman has to solve the mystery of who’s murdering a group of mobsters who want to move up the ladder. With the bodies piling up and important meeting of the board of Wayne Enterprises hours away, can Batman put the pieces together in time? Well, yeah, he’s Batman. The question is, can you solve the mystery before the killer is revealed? It’s common to point out how Batman’s rogues reflect aspects of his own personality, but this might be the first time this particular connection has been made. Combined with the ax murders, Samnee’s inky pages and occasional wavy borders give the story a bit of a 50’s EC Comics vibe.

Any anthology risks having a mix of winners and losers, but it’s hard to pick a favorite here. Taken as a whole, the stories show how flexible of a character Batman can be while sticking to those core elements that have hung around through every comics era.

5/5

Eric is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @EricDOwens.

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