Batman: Black & White
by various writers & artists
(DC Comics, 2000)

Originally published in comic-book format as Batman: Black & White #1-4, this is a stunning collection of 20 eight-page-long short stories by some of the industry's best.

Included in this landmark series are the Eisner-award winning "Heroes," by the late Archie Goodwin and artist Gary Gianni; the Eisner-nominated "Perpetual Mourning," written and drawn by Ted McKeever; and "A Black & White World," by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman. There is art by Walt Simonson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Klaus Jansson, Matt Wagner and many more, with stories by Dennis O'Neil, Chuck Dixon and others.

It's a perfect combination, really: give the best writers and artists in the biz a chance to write an eight-page tale about the industry's most complex hero. The result is a stunningly incisive exploration of the history and possible future of the Batman, as the tales run the gambit from the earliest days of the Bat to a distant future. Placing the art in its original context of being a black-and-white enterprise gives the stories a noirish feel, which seems to be the best setting for the kind of Batman stories that you feel right in your gut.

Many of the stories are dark, some are tongue-in-cheek and all are quite possibly quite perfect takes on not just who and what the Batman is, but all the elements that comprise his creation. In a world of digitalized colors and eye-catching visual story "hooks," this volume is a real treat for those who want their Batman black, no sugar or milk; just straight up, tough, hard, sometimes hilarious storytelling. The stark artwork keeps Batman grounded on the visceral plain. He remains a dark, brooding presence throughout the collection. In fact, his character, in spite of being treated by 20 different authors of varying points of view, is so consistent and clear that it's hard to believe all the authors were working independently. Yet they were, and their unique, oddly unified vision of Batman is the clearest and most comprehensive in years. This is unequivocally the best Batman ever presented to the public, and perhaps the most finely and beautifully drawn. No Batman fan should be without a copy.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 26 April 2003

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