‘Black/White:’ Graphic Novel Review

Andrez Bergen, writer of the comic anthology Black/White, may be one of the few people who loves noir more than I do. Noir elements are staples in a lot of his work, from the broadly comedic, supernatural, hard-boiled detective antics of his “Roy and Suzie” stories to the dark dystopia of his novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. Black/White is a collection of a number of Bergen’s specifically noir-based stories, illustrated in comic form by a number of different artists. Because of the different artists, each story has a completely different visual style, ranging from high contrast to realistic to somewhat cartoony. The only thing they have in common, other than Bergen’s words and a noir motif, is that they’re all in . . . well, black and white.

The first story, “Zig Zag,” just has the printed text of Bergen’s story alongside drawings by Drezz Rodriguez. It’s about cleaning a gun, which sounds boring, but is actually rather compelling in a dark, rather twisted way. Then, we move on to more traditionally formatted comics, with “Get Busy” drawn by Marcos Vergara and “Linoleum Actress” drawn by Michael Grills.

“Linoleum Actress” is probably my favorite of the bunch. Like all of these stories, it’s fairly short and, as such, picks up seemingly in the middle of the action. But, in that short amount of time, it still tells a great story. It’s less Humphrey Bogart noir and more Double Indemnity noir, with a beautiful femme fatale who—well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Nearly all of these stories previously appeared in text form in Bergen’s anthology, The Condimental Op, which I read and reviewed last year. Most of them take place in the world of his novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, which I still have not read but am basically familiar with from having read a fair amount of Bergen’s other works, which make references to it. The less familiar you are with Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, the less clear the background will be for the stories in Black/White. But, the actual action generally speaks for itself, and even when being thrown headlong into an unfamiliar world, the immediate circumstances are clear.

And, that’s all that really matters in the end. To be honest, “knowing what’s going on” has never exactly been a prerequisite for enjoying noir. Case in point: The Big Sleep. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I still have no idea what it’s about. So, even if this is your first introduction to Bergen’s works and the world in which they take place, Black/White provides dark, action-packed fun that’s totally enjoyable. If you’re a fan of noir, you’ll want to check this one out.

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