SYNOPSIS: Featuring a classic Batman tale of Gotham City Horror by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, and Kelley! And this issue’s Batman Black & White tale by Meghan Fitzmartin and Belen Ortega tells a powerful and brutal story about family, life and death!
No King and Gerads again, but we get the spooky stylings of artist Kelley Jones in a story written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzig as compensation!
Right off the bat, readers are reintroduced to Cullen Row, a character from Scott Snyder’s Batman run, as we see him become the latest victim of…something. While I noticed that Batman was in his Rebirth-era costume, it wasn’t until my second read that I caught that Alfred was alive, firmly setting this story before his death in 2019. It can get a little tough remembering that sometimes as his presence is felt across other media and in frequent appearances in stories not set in current continuity.
With Cullen missing, The Batman goes after the mysterious Jane Smith, a woman with no birth certificate or records who just so happens to have living shadows swallow everyone she gets close to wherever she goes. Batman soon finds himself embroiled in a battle with the darkness that has been in Gotham long before it even went by that name (a reference is made to “Gatham”).
With Jane Smith being our narrator, Kelly and Lanzing give us insight into her perspective of Batman, in addition to her thoughts on humanity across the ages. Hers is a lonely existence, sacrificing others for her freedom. It’s funny, and maybe it’s because of the Kelley Jones art, but the writing style feels straight out of a Doug Moench Batman story. The sense of the supernatural and the macabre is strong, with just a touch of quirky goofiness.
Kelley Jones is an artist that I didn’t appreciate when I was in my teens back in the ‘90s, but I have come to love his work as I’ve gotten older and that is still applicable here. His offbeat stylings are just pure brilliance on the page. For example, his Batman doesn’t just crash through a window! Oh, no! The shattered glass falls in a bat-shaped pattern on the floor! The living darkness that is threatening to consume the Caped Crusader looks like something H.R. Giger inspired, with bizarre mouths emerging from the bones and skulls that have accumulated under Gotham for centuries. And let’s not forget the moment when the Dark Knight first gets abducted into this underworld-Jones depicts it in such a manner that it looks like atman is folding in upon himself into infinity. It’s just brilliant!
With a conclusion featuring the equivalent of a Kenner action figure (let’s just call this one “Vampire Load-Out Batman”), I found a lot to enjoy, especially with a thematic resolution that reinforces that the shadows of Gotham answer to The Batman!
This issue’s Batman: Black & White, “My Family”, highlights not just the importance of the Bat Family to the legend of Batman, but the Caped Crusader’s resolute will and indomitable spirit. Writer Meghan Fitzmartin utilizes a near-death experience for Batman during a final battle with Bane and Hush to get under the cowl and see what makes the Dark Knight subconsciously tick. Artist Belen Ortega does a fantastic job on layouts, especially the flashbacks and younger versions of the characters, including Bruce Wayne the night his parents died. The gimmick of young Bruce and Batman meeting, causing a realization of truth is inspired and highlights one of the reasons why this character has endured for almost eighty-five years now.
The Batman-centric stories featured within the pages of Batman: The Brave and The Bold #4 might not be every fan’s cup of tea, and let’s face it-supernatural or Bat-Family stories don’t resonate with everyone, but these are some well-told tales with fantastic art, including several beautiful two-page spreads by both Jones and Ortega. If you’re in the mood for a bit of a throwback or a spooky tale, you can’t go wrong with this issue! – Javier E. Trujillo