Review: “Batman Black and White” (DC Comics – Monochrome May Special)

Welcome back to The Splintering’s Monochrome May event! Today we’re featuring the trade paperback edition of Batman Black and White, the four-issue anthology miniseries published by DC Comics.

The individual issues of Batman Black and White included five stories that were eight pages long, and the first collected edition was released in 1998. Each story features the work of a different creative team, and the credits include a number of celebrated creators such as Chuck Dixon, Simon Bisley, Archie Goodwin, Katsuhiro Otomo, Bruce Timm, Brian Bolland, and Dennis O’Neill.

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As an anthology, it’s not a simple task to break down the entire book as a whole. Each short story has its own merits and detriments, but overall, Batman Black and White is a really satisfying package. There are elements of action, noir, sci-fi, horror, and hard-boiled detective stories, so everyone should be able to find something to enjoy, no matter what flavor or Caped Crusader they prefer. Though the flip side is that there will undoubtedly be stories that aren’t to your taste.

And Batman himself is the focus, too. Are you one of the many Bat-fans who is tired of the bloated “Bat-Family” and the extended cast of Gotham’s support characters? Batman Black and White reduces to the Dark Knight to his core, with minimal appearances of legacy villains and supporting characters. Robin only appears in a single panel.

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As intended, the artwork is the main attraction throughout. Stark, sharp, raw, the Dark Knight is a natural fit for monochrome interpretations. The pages are built completely in black and white – even the gray tones are approximated using black and white techniques such as hatching or stippling. Each tale reads with its own pace and tone, built upon its own unique building blocks of line art, paneling style, and  lettering.

The short, 8-page length of each story does not necessarily mean that they aren’t substantial. The vast majority of the tales were quite satisfying reads, mostly without being too crammed with text or dialogue. Only Bill Sienkiewicz’s story felt overburdened with text and was therefore a bit of a slog for me to get through, but given that the subject matter involved Batman enduring the nearly endless excuses of an abusive parent, the exhaustive text was quite possibly part of the point.

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If you were disappointed in 2019’s Detective Comics issue #1000 (which sometimes felt as though the creators hated the main character), you’ll be happy to know that the contributors to Batman Black and White demonstrates a respect and understanding of the Dark Knight, with the best of the stories deftly tapping into the rich history of the Batman mythos. My own personal favorites? Bruce Timm’s Two of a Kind, Tanino Liberatore’s and Andrew Helfer’s In Dreams, and Gary Gianni’s and Archie Goodwin’s Heroes.

For those who want stories where the Caped Crusader is presented at his heroic best, Batman Black and White is a good fit, particularly if you’re looking for something to keep at the ready as a coffee table book or bathroom reading. If you’re already a fan and want even more Batman Black and White, DC published three more trade paperbacks which collected stories originally found in a later miniseries and as back-up stories from the Batman: Gotham Knights series.

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Thanks for reading! To check out more of The Splintering’s Monochrome May content, go here.


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