Hello comic-crazies, Marc here with a Slam-Bang review! After hearing all the hub-bub over the first issue of Batman: Black and White, and knowing their value from previous runs of B:B&W I’d bought from the 50 cent bin, I decided to get the rest of this on-going anthology series. With all anthology series, you have to be prepared to take some bad with the good, and this issue had a range of great-to-poor stories, both in art and writing. First of all, though, let’s talk about this cover-
It was drawn by comics legend and Renaissance-Man Jim Steranko, and it is AMAZING!!! I can’t tell you how much I love this cover. It’s a Christ-like Batman, complete with crown-of-thorn-like spikes coming out of his head, looming over a stormy, barren landscape. Then there’s the puzzle pieces and ants around. I have no idea what it means, but I love it. To show off a little of my Art History Minor from college, the whole image is reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s works, with the obvious surreal tone of the cover. Dali also incorporated ants, barren, flat landscapes, and Christian images in his artwork. I think Steranko checked out some Dali art books from his local library. Finally, I love that he used only pencils in this work (As far as I can tell). You can see every single pencil stroke, and the shading and darks he gets from this are astounding. I can’t even guess how long this took him. But enough about the cover, let’s talk about the stories!
#1- Manbat Out of Hell, Written by Dan Didio, Illustrated by J.G. Jones
This one is terrible. Basically, some creeper took Manbat’s kids and is doing a pedophile photoshoot with them. Batman goes to stop Manbat from attacking this guy, realizes what this guy’s been up to, and then let’s Manbat possibly kill this guy off-screen. First of all, I don’t like pedophilia. I don’t really want it in my comic stories. I realize this kind of thing happens in real life, and ignoring it isn’t going to solve anything, but an 8-page Batman story may not be the place to talk about it. Also, I HHHHAAAATTTTTEEEEE when writers have Batman stand aside while bad guys die. That’s not what Batman does. Ever. Even to creepy pedophiles. The art is terrific.
#2- Into the Circle, Written and Illustrated by Rafael Grampa
This was an interesting story. Basically, Batman tricks this gang of bankrobbers into his home turf so he can rough them up some. The artwork is really strange, but thrilling in its unique-ness. Grampa reminds me a lot of Paul Pope, which is a good thing.
#3- A Place Inbetween, Written and Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
Another interesting story with a surprise ending, which is a good story structure for a quick entry into an anthology book. This story features Batman heading down the river Styx with Deadman filling in for Charon. Albuquerque is another great, unique artist, whose work on American Vampire is great. It’s nice to see his style on some capes-and-cowls stuff. Also, the look on the villain’s face on the last page is priceless.
#4- Winter’s End, Written by Jeff Lemire, Illustrated by Alex Nino
A cool Arctic-Batman tale, with a ticking-clock of a sort driving the story. I hate the art in it, though. Batman’s in some sort of arctic survival suit, but I can’t tell what’s what, due to the muddled, angular art.
#5- Silent Knight… Unholy Knight!, Written by Michael Uslan, Illustrated by Dave Bullock
This was a really cool story. It’s presented like a silent movie, with title cards explaining the story, instead of word balloons. It’s set in the 20s or 30s, with a technologically-toned-down Dark Knight fighting a guy in a medieval knight’s costume who is killing people due to his child-hood trauma. The artwork is my favorite in the issue, being in the spirit of Bruce Timm and the Animated Series. It’s clean, precise, and dynamic, all things I love in comic art. This was my favorite of the five stories, for its original storytelling format and the stellar artwork.
Overall, this book is a lot of fun. You don’t get a lot of self-contained stories in comics anymore, and this book has five of them. Sure, there were some stinky elements to some, but that’s part of the point of an anthology series. You get to try some different creators and styles that you may not see otherwise. I’m definitely going to pick up this book as long as DC prints it, and I may go back and get the first one, as well.