by Andrez Bergen, Drezz Rodriguez, Marcos Vergara, Michael Grills, Nathan St. John, and Andrew Chiu
Don’t worry. The list of names attached to this book does not designate a creative mess of multiple inkers and colorists to finish a book. Black/White from If? Commix is an anthology book filled with six different shorts all in, well yes, black and white. Andrez Bergen, of Tales to Admonish has taken on writing on this anthology one-shot. For each story, he has employed a different artist and art style, creating complete shorts that each feel of their own. Maybe it’s the lack of color adding to the effect, but each tale in Black/White has a noir sensibility. They each work, to varying degrees of success, and provide a good bit of quality story telling in this singular publication.
The first of the six tales is the least conventional in what readers have come to expect in the sequential story telling medium of comic books. Over the few pages, artist Drezz Rodriguez pairs Bergen’s script with just a few images. The presentation finds a narrative constrained to the left column and only a few images, stacked vertically, to the right. It is a different reading experience and it stands out. It reads like a great monologue from a noir. A man reflects on polishing his gun, women, and alcohol. It’s so restrained in what it clues the reader in on and what it displays visually that it lends to a fascinating sensation of trying to see more. The structure is intentional, however, and allows for the book’s conclusion. Of the six stories, this one definitely is the most unique and possibly the most enjoyable.
There are several other stories within the title, each with their own paired art, that play to some other realm of this era of mob stories and crime. Bergen has a good handle on giving the different tales their own voice in how they are narrated and what the lead characters are written to be. Having proven his ability to handle such variety in Tales to Admonish, here in Black/White Bergen spends even less time with each story, and comes away just as successful. A few stories feel a bit short and pass by in a way that not much is gleaned. This is not necessarily a knock on those tales. They still hold up, but at times the brevity almost feels too abrupt. Readers may find themselves adjusting to a style or voice just as it moves on again.
Though there are no problematic stories in the six, a few are less successful. Whether it is for the aforementioned reason of length working against the writer, or the paired art, there are a few moments where the book does lose momentum. Possibly the most exciting of the six is a short involved a man and woman in an apartment. Titled, ‘Linoleum Actress,’ the fusion of writing and art is best here. While the previously discussed story is the most unique, this tale feels the most natural. Bergen writes the narration incredibly well, and the evocative art paired with it makes for a fantastic few pages. Suddenly, readers start to take note of what is truly occurring and it is a great pay off.
Bergen is stretching his chops here and has partnered with some solid talent on art. With no color to help differentiate the stories and styles, each artist comes with their own flare and there is no confusion or overlap to be seen. With an anthology book, the risk is incredibly lowered for readers giving the book a try and failing to find something to love. There are six stories here and each succeeds, some impressively so.