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Batman Black And White Volume 1

1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Batman Black And White Volume 1 in the USA - or Buy Batman Black And White Volume 1 in the UK

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pub: DC Comics. 235 page softcover graphic novel. Price: $19.99 (US), $22.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-1589-7.

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This three volume ‘Batman Black And White’ series reprint came about from comicbook artists taking a break in the evening at some unnamed comicbook convention back in the 1990s debating if they were trapped on a desert island which comicbook series would they choose to take with them. Although it centred on a choice between ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’ as a choice for the biggest number of artists involved, it did lead to thoughts as to giving a certain Dark Knight a similar black and white treatment.

This first volume contains twenty-two short stories, assorted sketchbook material and covers from the original four issue mini-series run of the same title and a positive lack of work for the colourists.

If you’ve picked up DC’s ‘Spotlight’ range, then you should be familiar with seeing a lot of their earlier comicbooks sans colour. These stories are more dependent on the artists relying on going monochrome throughout. Granted, that is how they see their work in the first place, it must have come over as a reality shock for the modern comicbook reader, assuming of course that they didn't read too many independent comicbook companies output printed that way in the first place.

There are twenty different artists involved in this volume alone and I suspect it will be up to individual taste as which ones you prefer. Of them, I have seen two before fairly recently, ‘Two Of A Kind’ by Bruce Timm and ‘A Black And White World’ by Neil Gaiman and Simon Bisley, which if you’ve been picking up on the DC books I’ve been reviewing, would have seen as well but this way you know where they were first used and still very good. Oddly, these are two of the three stories that use any of Batman’s rogues’ gallery.

No matter the format of the story or art, my main concern has always been content and from the half-way point, things really began to sparkle with Klaus Janson’s ‘Good Evening Midnight’ with Alfred reading a letter left by Bruce’s dad while we see scenes of the Batman in action. ‘In Dream’ drawn by Liberatore and written by Andrew Helfer showing a girl’s trauma sleep being sorted by Batman. ‘An Innocent Guy’ is a rare reminder of just how good Brian Bolland is when he does comicstrip, telling a story of a boy planning his one serious bad thing, assassinating Batman. Really jarring.

Of all the stories, ‘Heroes’ drawn by Gary Gianni off an Archie Goodwin script is the one that would fit in nicely style-wise into the ‘Eerie’ magazine. Set in WW2, it has to be the Earth-2 Batman to the rescue of an inventor and his son being kidnapped by a Nazis spy. In an odd contrast, ‘Leavetaking’ written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Brian Stelfreeze is a direct contrast depends more on chiaroscuro – contrast between black and white – shaping which would not work if it was coloured.

This is an interesting experiment and two volumes to go. If you’re into artists more than what they are doing then this will satisfy you. If you’re into stories, it’s going to depend on personal taste but there are some nice gems here.

GF Willmetts

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