Batman: Black and White returned in grand fashion last month with a first issue that hit all the right notes to deliver visual storytelling at its very finest. This is a series that has a long history of excellence and the premiere issue kept that tradition alive with a collection of tales that were funny, sincere, thought-provoking, and action-packed, but does the follow-up maintain that same level of quality? Well, just as with any issue of Batman: Black and White, it’s a comic for casual and longtime fans alike. You do not need an encyclopedic knowledge of the past 74 years of Batman comics or be up to date on what’s going on in the New 52. These are all easily accessible short stories that take place outside of any continuity. However, while the 2nd issue features some absolutely jaw-dropping artwork, the stories being told aren’t quite as entertaining or as haunting as what we saw in September.
I have no idea what I am looking at with this Jim Steranko cover but I’ll be damned if I don’t love getting lost staring at it. Speaking of Steranko, he once shared a story via twitter about the time he met Bob Kane and I highly suggest you all check it out.
There are no ads to be found in this book and for $5 bucks there definitely shouldn’t be. Instead, the only breaks we have between stories are these really well-done biographies on the writers and artists who made these stories possible and the book even opens up with a dedication to Archie Goodwin.
Manbat out of Hell
Dan DiDio’s story of the Dark Knight vs. Man-Bat with a twist is heavy handed, but worst of all it’s just totally out of character for Batman. The highlight of this short story is the highly realistic artwork by JG Jones, but I wish that he hadn’t gone so lifelike with Man-Bat. Man-Bat doesn’t come off as a monstrous half-man half-bat so much as he appears to be a natural bat that’s just been drawn to a much larger scale. But despite that criticism, everything else in this story looks absolutely gorgeous. Every panel is beautifully lit and Batman himself looks incredible. However, I can’t forgive Didio’s portrayal of Batman, who essentially gives Man-Bat the A-Okay to kill a man.
Into the Circle
Out of all the stellar artists featured in this issue, I was looking forward to Rafael Grampa the most and he didn’t disappoint. This short story about an orchestrated robbery that’s not all it appears to be has one of the most unsettling designs for the Joker that I’ve ever seen. At first glance it looks as though this extremely emaciated Clown Prince of Crime is missing the flesh from his cheeks and that is what’s giving him that abnormal grin. His eyebrows are also unusually high on his forehead and his blackened eyes could very well be sinking into his skull. This Joker looks like the walking corpse of a dead clown and it’s highly disturbing in the best possible way. But if you look closely at the finer details it’s apparent that these grotesque features are derived from makeup that Joker has applied to his skin. This man is very much alive and he isn’t smiling at all. Besides how unforgettable this Joker is, everything else in this comic looks equally great. Grampa’s Batman has so many minute details on his armor that you’ll spend several minutes inspecting it all and the angles of every energetic action scene are top-notch. I wish this story had been longer, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless.
A Place in Between
Batman is dead and the man ferrying him down the river Styx is none other than Deadman. As much as I love Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork (and he writes this short story as well), the tale being told is all too familiar. “A Place in Between” played like a lesser version of Christos Gage’s “Dreaming He is a Butterfly” that came out earlier this year. This short also wasn’t anywhere near as daring or memorable as Albuquerque’s other recent Batman story “Adaptation.”
I read this short story by Jeff Lemire and Alex Nino yesterday and I have already forgotten what it was about. Not only did I find the story dull, but it was also difficult to decipher what the art was trying to show me in many of the panels. A disappointment all around for me.
Silent Knight…Unholy Knight!
Many of us might not even be Batman fans today if it were not for producer Michael Uslan, who got the ball rolling on Tim Burton’s Batman and has ushered in every Batman movie since. Here, Uslan takes a stab at writing his own Batman story and it’s a very interesting take that employs artwork inspired by Max Fleischer to pay homage not only to the Caped Crusader but the silent film era. It would’ve been an amazing idea as a silent movie (as you can clearly see from the video above), but as a comic strip it doesn’t cast the spell over the viewer that it should have. It’s function following form rather than form following function. If the idea is for a silent picture, then make it a silent picture, don’t try to make that fit another medium. It’s like watching a stage play of Tetris, it would be better as a video game. That said, it’s still one of the issue’s most creative and experimental concepts and the artwork by Dave Bullock channeled Max Fleischer extraordinarily well.
- You want to see the uncolored work of some of the best artists in the business
- You hate ads. There isn’t a single advertisement in this comic
- The last issue was one of your favorite comics of September
- You love the variety an anthology series has to offer
- You have $5 burning a hole in your pocket. I can’t 100% guarantee your satisfaction this time around and it is a rather pricey book
The showcase of stylish artwork is about as impressive as the last issue, but the quality of the stories these images tell isn’t as satisfying. That being said, I still recommend that everyone go pick it up as it’s great to see so many unique takes on the character and while none of these shorts really hit home for me, your personal favorite might just be tucked away in here somewhere.