Batman Black and White #1 (June 1996)
Joe Kubert is a master. He's a master in color, black & white, crayons, whatever medium you want to view him in. But I'll skip the funnies for a second and make this statement - which I don't think is a stretch: Joe Kubert is an artist who looks better without color. You can add Gene Colan to that list. around a month ago we took our first look inside the hardcover collection of the 1996 Batman Black and White series, focusing on the Bruce Timm story. Today's art is quite different, but I'm certain you'll find it no less pleasing to your eyeballs. Enough of my prattle - let's get to the good stuff!
It is a supernatural story presented to us, as the Batman flies with his namesake, a colony of bats. While the bats hunt for insects and even fruit, the Batman hunts the darker elements of humanity. He soon finds it in a penthouse apartment, where the residents have been tied up. A gang of thieves holds the couple inches from death as they seek a most-valuable pearl. While the master of the house resists, the thugs’ pleas turn violent. At that point the Batman enters the scene and metes out his form of justice. But… was it real?
The Good: Well, the art, of course. It's moody, even creepy. Kubert's moody-and-creepy is different from Colan's. Colan relied on blacks to create mood; Kubert relies on figures and facial expressions. Although this is obviously a superhero story, I found that it looked and felt like Kubert's Enemy Ace, or Tarzan. That's in no way a knock, but rather speaks to my sense of familiarity and comfort with the artist. Kubert is especially adept at using the distance of camera to eye to create tension. Once we're inside the condo, the scenes with the crooks and the residents quickened my pulse. I could almost feel (or at least see motion as if it were a film) the slash of the girl's knife as she wounded the pearl's owner.
Kubert is an artist adept at drawing shady-looking men - almost rat-faced at times. Yet he equally excels at depicting pretty women. When we first see the female assailant, she's drawn as quite comely. That beauty belies her black heart, it seems.
The Bad: I was glad to see that the story had been a dream, because the Batman's behavior - and powers - were way off. My initial reaction was "What the...?!" But it didn't take me long to figure out that something was amiss. Even the Batman's speech patterns were off, and I know Joe Kubert's an accomplished writer. I was pretty sure it was headed that way, and the bullet holes solidified it for me. Unless there was some Bat-healing factor of which I was unaware. That scene, by the way, did take me back to the 1989 Batman film when slugs bounced off the Dark Knight, and the thugs then discovered that Batman was covered in body armor.
The Ugly: I mentioned it earlier, but the tension surrounding the potential for some painful physical violence was well-executed. Honestly, if the girl had never actually slashed the man it might have played even better. My mind was doing all the work - there was pay-off in the pictures, but my in-head visuals had already taken me there.