1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: DC Comics. 288 page softcover graphic novel. Price: $19.99 (US), $22.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-1354-1.
check out website: www.dccomics.com
The third and final volume, so far, of ‘Batman Black And White’ continues to highlight thirty-six writers and forty-two artists spread through thirty-three stories that was originally seen in Batman: Gotham Knight # 17–49. The reason for the difference in creator numbers is where credits are marked for pairs of people working together, especially the artists whose inkers contribute so much with their inking to the final pages and without colour you can see just how much work they contribute. There’s an even greater range of artistic skills in this book which is a little larger than the earlier volumes but, ultimately, you would be pushed not to find a lot that would appeal to you, whether it’s in pure fine art quality to experimental rougher texture. Like all anthologies, there’s a wide range to ensure most tastes are catered for. As with the second volume, there is also a presence of some of the Batman’s rogues gallery as well as a few more character pieces, occasionally showing the Dark Knight has a softer side.
Picking out favourites in a book such as this is always going to be down to a matter of taste which in my case tends to go along with the finer detail that comes to life on the page cos I admire the skill involved. Unlike the rougher paper used back in the 1960s-70s with black and white comics, the paper quality today can show the quality of the art that when the occasional artist uses purely marker pen, it tends to lack the finish of the other artists. Yes, marker pen can be very effective but when it comes to needing absolute blacks, it needs a fresh pen. It isn’t as though there aren’t some effective inks out there that aren’t indian ink.
‘The Call’ written by Mark Schultz and artist Claudio Castellini definitely springs to mind for fine work and in that respect and shows a Jim Aparo/Neal Adams influence in its opening page before a bit of a mixed bag in other parts of the story. I wasn’t sure if this was to contrast between light and dark places but the story carries it when Batman has to request Superman to help with some quick surgery on a victim to save her life and a reminder of how the Dark Knight still needs friends who might not always be around to help.
‘Last Call At McSurley’s’ brings writer Mike W. Barr together with artist Alan Davis inked by Mark Farmer with a hefty tale of Batman rescuing a small girl. Those of you familiar with Davis’ work knows his attention to detail which makes for an enjoyable read.
Oddly, ‘No Escape’ by Paul Kupperberg and artist John Watkiss goes for a more, shall we say newspaper comicstrip technique that is gotten away with purely because the script does wonders with the Riddler. I wish I could say the same for ‘Hand’, written by Scott Peterson and artist Daniel Zezeij, that combines chiaroscuro – contrast between black and white - with texture although he does do a nice thing with mood as the Batman discovers the proof an underground railway incident.
‘Snap’ written by John Ostrander and artist Philip Bond looks like it was drawn at the same size as the final page but its saving grace is the story. ‘The Best Of Gotham’ has a slightly more ‘Mad’ magazine look, at least in the work by artist/writer Jill Thompson, to it as does a tongue-in-check look around Gotham City via a tourist guide pamphlet. ‘Riddler On The Roof’ has to make for a decent musical next time you visit the city.
‘The Gasworks’ by Mike Minola and Troy Nixey actually answers the riddle what is black and white and red all over, although it’s actually adding red colour to indicate hazardous material could be perceived as a bit of a cheat as a toxic spill.
The final piece in this book is showing the designs and the final statues of Batman based on this series of books. It’s interesting seeing the different variants on body and costume design and how much a few tweaks can make the difference between them.
I doubt if you can buy just one of these books. From a continuity point of view, I think you might be hard pushed to fit any of these stories into regular continuity for either Batmans from Earths 1 and 2 but then again, they are here primarily to show off the talents of artists and writers and should be enjoyed for their own sake. It makes for an interesting experiment and I wonder how long before we see stories where we just see pure pencil work.
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