batman b&w vol four cover scanUntil TRIPWIRE kicks off properly around November, I am going to be reviewing graphic novels here. So to kick off On The Shelf, here’s a couple of reviews of books I’ve read recently… First up is Batman Black and White Volume Four, published by DC Comics, various creators. The first Batman Black and White stories ran in the defunct Gotham Knights series in the first decade of this century. This hardcover reprints the six part series published by DC last year and the beginning of this year. Editor Mark Chiarello has assembled another impressive line-up of creators to take full advantage of the black and white format. There are disappointments here: Batman Zombie by Neal Adams shows why he isn’t a writer, Damion Scott’s Hall of Mirrors isn’t my cup of tea as it is very cartoony and Javier Pulido’s story Cat and Mouse story, written by Keith Giffen, looks rushed. But there are some truly stunning shorts here: Richardo Burchielli, with writer Marv Wolfman, channels Gene Colan, former Superman artist Kenneth Rocafort actually shows that he can tell a story very well, Alex Nino shows that he has lost none of his visual panache and British artist Dave Taylor (2000AD, Batman Death by Design) offers a beautiful tribute to deceased master Moebius in a tale that is one of the highlights here. But there are almost too many high points to draw attention to here. Anthologies are by their very nature eclectic and no one reader will connect with everything in its pages but Volume Four shows Chiarello’s rare skill at bringing together the best of today’s talent with a selection of old masters. If you are a fan of Batman and an admirer of what can be achieved on the comics page, then you should pick up Batman Black and White Volume Four. I am also going to recommend two other DC series, well actually they’re Vertigo/ DC series. The first is 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, and the other is American Vampire, by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque and various artists. 100 Bullets has been reprinted in five beautiful hardback collections, topped off with an interlocking Dave Johnson image done specifically for the new collections. Azzarello and Risso have created a wonderful modern noir tale of crime families fighting among themselves. Risso’s art is magnificently cinematic with every page brilliantly composed, making you want to stare at them for hours. Cover artist Dave Johnson’s contribution here mustn’t be marginalised either: his spectacular covers set the scene for each story and he is one of the most elegant artists currently working in comics. American Vampire is one of Vertigo’s more recent hits and you can get six hardcovers reprinting the first volume of the series plus various spin-off series. There is real chemistry between Snyder and Albuquerque and this story of vampires in the modern world, taking in the Wild West, Fifties America and even World War Two Europe, is inventive, smart and a compulsive read.