By Chip Kidd, Michael Cho, Joe Quinones, Neal Adams, Maris Wicks, Sean Murphy, John Arcudi, & Chris Samnee
Batman Black and White is a brilliantly simple premise: put big name talent on short, self-contained stories, render it in black and white, and let them loose on the Dark Knight. Previous volumes of this series have yielded stories from some very unexpected names, and even some who later went on to work on Batman stories considered to be modern classics. For those wanting to play catch up, the original Batman Black and White is collected in two beautiful, slightly oversized volumes. For those unacquainted with the series, prepare yourself for some of the best superhero reading you can get your hands on.
Structuring a complete, self-contained story in eight pages is no easy feat, not to mention avoiding any ties to continuity. Such endeavors are seen in fewer and fewer comics these days, and seeing one of the big games in the comic industry dedicating an entire comic to the form is encouraging. Short form comic storytelling is as important a story structure as grandiose, universe-spanning crossovers. As short form comic narratives seem like an unspoken taboo in the mainstream these days, when a comic does come along dedicated to the short form the stories within deliver a profound impact. The necessity to anthologize short form comics stories is certainly an appealing temptation, but most comics on the rack used to contain a primary and backup story to deliver as much bang for your buck as possible. Thus Batman Black and White not only reunites us with a somewhat forgotten sub-medium but exemplifies the rewarding qualities of buying comics in single issues.
Beyond its importance to the medium, the stories within are an absolute treat to read, each with its own approach, thematically and stylistically adhering to a common consensus that Batman stories should be fun. More than once per story readers are afforded an opportunity to smile, and heaven forbid, even laugh at Batman’s adventures. For too long has the overbearing Dark Knight Returns dark and gritty influence invaded and persuaded the minds of Batman creators. But Batman Black and White reminds us of a fleeting truth: even Batman is allowed to smile.
Taken as a whole is most certainly a preferred approach to looking at this inaugural third volume issue because every story within is an exceptional read. But Batman Zombie by Neal Adams deserves a special shoutout. Alongside his appropriation of George Romero’s zombie metaphor, and his very punctuated political statement, Adams makes an important assertion about Batman’s character as a whole: without Bruce Wayne, Batman is merely a hollow shell. The idea that while Batman may be able to punch bad guys and be successfully entertaining without the Bruce Wayne side of his character, Batman will ultimately be unsuccessful.
If your budget only permits you one comic this week, you should, without a doubt make that comic Batman Black and White. Comics like this have the potential to enrich our view of the medium as a whole on top of being quite entertaining, and give us a very critical position on the characters we love.