Welcome to my first actual comic review. In the future, when I return to the land of ice and snow, I will be reviewing quarter bin comics on a regular basis along with my compatriots (a teamup of Captain America, Jack Flag, USAgent, and Miss America). Until that time comes, however, I will be reviewing the only type of comics better than those for a quarter.
That’s right, I’m talking free comics.
Comixology is a wonderful site that allows you to sign up for free and download and view comics on your computer or mobile device. I am cheap, so I only get the free comics. There aren’t too many to choose from, and most only have one issue of a series, but they work as a taste for what the book is all about.
Again, I enjoy it because it’s free.
Today, I’m happy to actually be reviewing FIVE comics, all free, and that are all from the same series, Batman Black and White. It was originally published in 1996 and is made up of many eight page stories. All are, of course, in black and white.
The first issue they have, A Black and White World is written by none other than Neil Gaiman, who most people know from his work on Sandman and his various novels. This story actually made me think more about the episode of TMNT that I reviewed the other day over here (see the comment at the end). The story is short, as they all seem to be. Batman and the Joker are meeting up at a studio to film their show. They read from scripts and compare stories. It’s an interesting concept, and the writing, as par for Gaiman, is well done. It’s funny at times, and almost poignant at others.I don’t think that the artwork works for this story though. I’m not saying that it’s bad, but it just doesn’t seem to meld with the story being told. It’s too gritty, the Joker and his henchmen look seriously deformed, and the scenery itself is grimy. Batman, clad in shadows, looks like his normal, comic book self, which still seems out of place considering he is supposed to be in the studio. So story? Great. Art? Just not the right fit.
The second story, An Innocent Guy by Brain Bolland, focuses on an ordinary person in the world of superheroes. This short tale poses a philosophical question being asked by this man. He answer to the question involves the Batman, but as we never actually see him follow through on what he will do, it’s kind of a waste. Just some guy talking to himself in his bedroom about Batman. To me, not worth the time, although the art is well executed.
The third one you can get for free is Good Evening, Midnight by Klaus Janson. It centers around Alfred, who is preparing for Bruce Wayne’s birthday it seems. Only written words in the story come from a letter Alfred is reading. The letter was written by Bruce’s dad for Bruce, on his third birthday. As he reads, we can see the Batman out doing what he does best. It’s a touching piece, both because of the letter itself and the selfless dedication that Alfred has. The artwork is nicely done. It is heavy on the lines, but doesn’t end up looking sloppy. It’s very realistic, yet not too gritty, and captures the somber mood.
Fourth up is Perpetual Mourning, by Tim McKeever. When I looked into the series a little more, I discovered that this was actually the first story published. It’s a different sort of tale of the Batman. He’s not out fighting anything, but rather using his detective skills in the morgue to help identify a Jane Doe. We see his skills of deductive at work as he examines the body to recreate the scene in his mind. It’s a gentler side of the caped crusader, but also shows us that he never stops working. The use of light is stunning. In the morgue, Batman is illuminated brightly, and appears to be white instead of black, harkening back to the days where the good guys only wore white. There are street lights and spotlights elsewhere which add to the dramatic effect. The artwork overall has a pulp-y feel to it (think crime novels not orange juice) which echoes the story well.
The last story available right now for free is Two of a Kind, by Bruce Timm, who worked on Batman: the Animated Series. The comic uses the same look as the television show did. not overly detailed, and a little more cartoonish than the others I had seen. As the name might hint at, this story deals with Two-Face. He has his face restored by a plastic surgeon and tries to reintegrate himself into society, getting a girlfriend (the surgeon herself) and a job. He soon learns that his fiancée has a twin sister, and the path back to a life of notoriety starts to open back up. While we end up with the status quo, it’s an interesting ride there.
So there you have it. Five short stories, all FREE for the reading. In my opinion, the order of best to not as great is Perpetual Morning, Two of a Kind, A Black and White World, Good Evening, Midnight, and An Innocent Guy. So go read them and come back and tell me what you think. Agree? Disagree? And then look for the next free review.