Batman: Black and White #3 Review

Last issue of Batman: Black and White wasn’t too much to my liking outside of one story that was damn-near perfect. It was feeling less and less like a specially curated collection of Batman stories by top-tier talent and more like a favor. “Hey, we paid you to just have fun with Batman, you maybe work for us later?” Now, I’m not saying that’s the arrangement, but that’s the vibe I got from Batman: Black and White #2.

After having read Batman: Black and White #3, there’s clearly a different angle going on. There’s a direction to this anthology collection and I love not only that it is directed but the direction they’ve chosen. This is a much better collection. There isn’t a knockout perfect story here, but there are also no weak spots. Check it out:


The Cavalry

While I haven’t read much John Ridley, I plan on adding him to my list of writers to look more into. I have been meaning to read The American Way for a while now, with the release of the newest series. I think he does a great job here. I’m not too fond of Jace Fox in concept because I’m sick of the source of all black bat-themed characters coming from the Fox family, I would’ve much preferred Duke be made Batman but I’m not opposed to the idea of a Black Batman at all. I feel like Duke would be the Next Batman, even Luke, but Jace isn’t bad. Just not a fan of the infinitely expanding Fox family.

The Cavalry by John Ridley & Olivier Coipel

And that’s what this issue sets out to talk about. A group of racists that are beating up Batman and criticizing him for not being their ‘original’. I liked the writing and the story and everything, my only complaint is how it ties into current Batman stuff that Ridley is doing with The Next Batman from DC’s Future State. I think Batman: Black and White should stand on its own, as a timeless series, not tied to current events of DC canon. With that though, I still don’t mind if they do alternate Batman characters or Jace Fox, it’s just the timing of it feels like they’re tying into Future State.

Olivier Coipel is an artist that I am very familiar with from his time at Marvel. His art on Thor with JMS writing is some of my favorite superhero comics of all time. He nails it here again as if there was any doubt. The lines look so damn clean, and all his usual styles like the unique jaw and head shapes are all here for you to feast on. I love the design of this costume and the paneling. Shout out to Deron Bennett for some absolutely killer lettering. That color combo is awesome.

It doesn’t do anything special, nothing experimental in the art, has a good message and is concise. It’s a good first story to an anthology, even if it’s trying to tie into current events.

Final Score: 7/10 (Good)


A Kingdom of Thorns

I loved Bilquis Evely’s work on Wonder Woman so I was excited to see what she’d throw at us for her first writing gig. It’s interesting and unique. This is the type of stuff I like to see from Batman: Black and White, a creator trying something out of the box.

I think this story is a commentary on humanity’s relationship to nature as a knight (Batman) infiltrates an overgrown kingdom of plants, controlled by Mother Nature (maybe Poison Ivy?). He has almost no dialogue, and this is barely about Batman. Instead, it’s about Mother Nature’s POV on intermingling with humanity and society. At first, things were great, but then they kept taking too much for her. Strong Moana vibes from this one.

The art is awesome. It’s a little different than what I’m used to from Evely but not in a bad way. I really like the wavy lines and fluidity of the panels that make it apparent they are lost in a sea of plants, surrounded every way possible. And Batman looks super cool as a knight. Sometimes they go overboard with the Batman-knight look and add extra bits and bobs that overcomplicate the look but Evely keeps his design more knight, less Batman.

I guess the only complaint I can see is this has a lack of ‘Batman’ in it. If you changed the helmet design of the knight, he could be just about anyone.

Final Score: 7/10 (Good)


I Am the Bat

Writing & Art by Bengal

I’m a big fan of Bengal. This art has such an old-school feel to it, a mixture of a classic European style and almost anime. In the past, DC has let some really great writing talent jump onboard with artists but on this series, they seem more focused on letting artists get a shot at writing for their own art, which Bengal does here.

With this story, it becomes apparent that this issue of Batman: Black and White is also focused on alternate versions of Batman, not the strict, classic Bruce Wayne version of the character, as we’ll see in upcoming stories as well. Bengal pulls a good trick off by making us believe this is Bruce talking about his father, but it is in fact a daughter of Bruce. It works because Bengal is quick to hide some of the character’s features, particularly the lips.

I love the sense of action here. It feels like an old-school animated film with the car chase and the money flying in the air. The inner monologue is nothing particularly special, but that’s okay. Batman: Black and White hasn’t been focusing on writing, it’s focusing on art. Enjoy Bengal’s story for the quick, kinetic action and a classic feel. It honestly almost feels vintage. Like Darwyn Cooke, it takes me to a place that I’m nostalgic for that I’ve never really known, just felt somewhere inside.

Final Score: 7/10 (Good)


Unquiet Knight

To start, I must admit my adoration for both of these creators. The first comic book I can truly remember seeing was a Kelley Jones-covered Batman book. And I’ve always had a love for the extra-long bat-ears ever since. Then, when I was really diving into comics and learning about series outside of superheroes, Revival was one of the first things I happened to read. Fables was the first non-superhero book I read but Revival was one of the first not from the Big Two that I checked out. I’ve loved his work at DC on Grayson, Nightwing, Effigy, and other stuff.

Written by Tim Seeley/Art by Kelley Jones

This is my favorite story from this anthology issue. Sometimes I’m not thrilled by Batman mixing it up with the magical characters, was never a fan of him being involved with Justice League Dark, etc. So, I was timid coming into this one. But, I ended up loving it. The idea of Batman haunting Gotham after he dies is amazing, I don’t know why we haven’t seen something like this more often!

And Kelley Jones. Perfect rendition of gothic horror and so expressive. The panels of Zatanna where we see her true appearance are so creative, just glimmers of her real face. Kelley Jones displays his usual tendencies. If you don’t like the slightly grotesque anatomy and the most muscular ribs you’ll ever see? You might not like this, but I think he’s a legend and I love everything he works on.

While I love the artist spotlights, this is what I prefer from Batman: Black and White. A meeting of the minds, the top writers, and top artists in the game doing whatever the hell they want.

Final Score: 9/10 (Amazing)


Legacy

I’m a huge Jonathan Hickman fan. My first run-in with him was on Fantastic Four. I’ll never forget seeing the black bagged “final issue” of Fantastic Four where someone died, called ‘3’. I had to have it. I carefully opened it and saw who died. But, I needed the rest of the story so I collected the rest of Hickman’s FF run at the time and continued on with Future Foundation. Since then, I’ve been hooked. That’s especially impressive because I really did not like Fantastic Four before I read his stuff.

Now, this isn’t Jonathan Hickman. But, I first remember Nick Dragotta from FF and then in East of West. This is really reminiscent of his East of West work. The lines are so damn clean, that it looks like stippling or dot art somehow, there’s no way someone can draw this smoothly! He’s a robot! I’m just kidding, but it reminds me a lot of the manga, Appleseed. With giant mechas and abandoned worlds that are getting blown up, extremely uniform panels, usually in clean rectangles for that widescreen action-look.

To be honest, I’m not sure what’s really going on here but the imagery is ultra-impressive. I honestly barely care because it all looks so cool. From the giant robots to his take on Batman, the party being invaded by rebels, this desecrated world. Once again, this anthology issue is focusing on just displaying good art and doing alternate Batman stories.

If you like post-apocalyptic worlds, Appleseed, East of West, or anything like that, check out this story. It’s worth it for the art.

Final Score: 8/10 (Great)


Design (Cover/Pinups/Etc.)

Let’s start with the cover. Joshua Middleton handles the cover for Batman: Black and White #3 and I’m not in love with it. For starters, this and the two pinups are almost in the same position. It’s Batman flying at the POV with his cape spread. I’m not a huge Middleton fan, as someone who read all of Dan Abnett’s Aquaman run. I think his art looks really nice but stilted. The poses he draws characters in are also a bit uninspiring to me. It’s not bad, it’s a good cover, but I prefer something more moody, something more evocative. And this is a bit too safe for me.

Ariela Kristantina handles the first pinup. It features Batman, Batgirl, and Robin in Gotham City. I like the heavy blacks, really deep inks being used here. I love the way that it almost looks wet, or washed out, maybe like it got damaged in a storm or something? It’s a really interesting look for a pinup and probably my favorite this issue.

Andie Tong handles the second, giving us a Batman Beyond pinup, which is strange. Although I shouldn’t be surprised considering the nature of this issue was all about alternate Batman characters. And Terry is one of the most recognizable. I feel like this one is a bit bland. I like the Bruce super-imposed on the background, but I once again feel like it’s just a safe picture. It’s not something I’d show people in excitement or catch my eye if I was scrolling through social media.

Darran Robinson handles the design of the book and it’s pretty much the same as the original two issues so I won’t bring it up again except to compliment him on an awesome job.


Conclusions

I think Batman: Black and White #3 fares better than issue #2 did. There’s not a weak title among the bunch. The first two stories have some things I don’t like about them (tying in TOO much to current continuity and not tying in ENOUGH to Batman), but I still liked them. Last issue, I felt like there weren’t enough good stories surrounding the one amazing one. Here, I’m not sure there is an anchor per se, but it doesn’t need one.

I loved The Unquiet Knight but that may be biased because those are two of my favorite comic book creators in the business, I’m not sure it’ll be a tentpole for others though. But, all stories are strong. Bengal, Nick Dragotta, and Bilquis Evely have such unique styles that every story looks very different from the others. And then, to have Olivier Coipel onboard too?

I wasn’t nuts about the writing for most of these stories, but that’s okay because the art was a treat. And I think DC really wanted to focus on that with this Black and White series. Also, having a direction like ‘alternate Batman’ is a good thing here. I like having a bit of curation to the stories we’re getting, but it’s still loose. It’s not strict like ‘only Joker stories’ or something like that, which gives the creators a lot of freedom to do their thing still.

This might be my favorite issue of Batman: Black and White. I hope #4 is just as good.

Final Score: 8/10 (Great)



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