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Monday, August 12, 2019

Batman Black and White's "The Hunt" - a Review

Batman Black and White #1 (June 1996)
"The Hunt"
Joe Kubert

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!

100-Word Review:
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.


I'll be back into this collection, which I am thoroughly enjoying. When next we meet, I'll show you a futuristic Batman story, delivered by Walter Simonson. It's pretty nifty-looking, and checks a lot of boxes for what we have valued during Simonson's career. Stay tuned!


  1. It didn't really bother me whether this was a dream or not Doug - the Batman B&W stories are really just vehicles for the artist, and judging them like anything from a regular Bat title seems a bit pointless.

    Completely agree on Kubert's artwork, which I've always loved, but dare I suggest that maybe he wasn't quite right for superheroes, or at least not Batman? Everything looks great here, except... for me the weakest image is the semi-splash of Batman crashing through the window.
    Not that its bad of course, just that all the other stuff - the noirish mood, the villains - is so much more convincing; that last shot of Bruce Wayne is fantastic.

    Enjoyed the post and look forward to your take on Simonson (one of the stronger Batman B&W pieces imo)


    1. Hi, Sean -

      You're right about these Batman stories. "Elseworlds" or whatnot seems the best way to view them. Although I've attempted to break my slavery to continuity and canon, as you can see - old habits can die hard. Enjoying this little 8-pager for what it is seems the best strategy. And it really was well done.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Here's another fine tale from my favorite Batman TPB. For any fan of comic art, those Batman: Black and White volumes are a veritable smorgasbord. As Sean noted, the stories aren't really canon, but function as great opportunity to sample the styles and imaginations of the best artists and writers in the industry. Part of the fun is comparing the wide range of approaches and techniques. For example, the vast difference between the Bruce Timm story you reviewed previously and this Kubert offering. Both great stories, but vastly different in style. And yes, the upcoming Simonson story is another example.

    1. Agreed, Redartz - the editors basically serve as curators of fine art. Because that's truly how one could characterize the entire Batman Black and White series. I think when creators get an assignment like that, they really ply their craft with an eye on what others might turn in. That sense of competition elevates everyone's game!


  3. I tend to agree with Sean above, in that I've never liked Kubert's version of Batman - the few times I've seen him draw the character (in fact, even his Bruce Wayne in that last panel doesn't quite look right). Otherwise, everything else in that story looks pretty amazing. And yes, his art really does look great in black and white.

  4. I never knew this existed, will have to hunt it down! Kubert was a master of comic art.


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