"Batman: Black and White" #2 offers another solid collection of short stories concerning the Dark Knight himself as well as his rogue's gallery, featuring the talents of Dan Didio, Rafael Grampa, Rafael Albuqurque, Jeff Lemire, and Michael Uslan, among others. Each story provides a great contrast from the one before it and navigates Bruce Wayne's world with a clear, distinct voice that will steer the reader right into the next story with no hesitation. Though some stories are certainly superior to others, the anthology is more than worth it.
The first story, "Manbat out of Hell" by Dan Didio with J.G. Jones on art, showcases some truly incredible art that benefits from the book's black-and-white theme. The style reminds of classic 1960s Batman from Wayne's costume to the scenery, wrought with lovely shading and stunning character design. Didio's story comes together adroitly and succinctly for its short amount of space; it includes some particularly effective plot twists that prompt a second reading just to get the full impact, an easy thing to do when the story comes in such a bite-sized portion.
"Into the Circle," written and drawn by Rafael Grampa, follows up nicely with a complete stylistic change, with a far more advanced narrative and art that is a little more comic standard. This brilliant little story utilizes its "circle" theme to its fullest potential, employing a circular narrative and prompting a discussion on the metaphorical nature of circles, and -- like the preceding story -- it contains a clever twist that enhances the storytelling. What's more, Grampa isn't afraid to get a little outlandish with his character design, which makes for the manifestation of some fascinating and whimsical personalities. The amount of detail that went into the background was absolutely incredible; his painstaking effort, shown through the intricacies of the streets, buildings, and wallpaper.
Like "Into the Circle," "A Place in Between" presents the work of a singular contributor: Rafael Albuquerque. Unfortunately, however, "A Place in Between" isn't quite as riveting as the story it follows. The art can be blocky in places; in some panels, the characters' teeth are so huge that it makes them look a little mulish. Other than this, Albuquerque employs some more effective techniques rarely seen in other stories, like emphasis on Batman's eyes behind the mask and a smudgy, shadowy feel that sets the tone for the story. The story itself, however, feels contrived and rehashes random events from Batman's life that have already been done in comics multiple times before this. Though it has an interesting premise, the story doesn't quite live up to its potential.
Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Alex Nino's "Winter's End" lacks the luster of the other stories in the anthology. With a hard-to-follow narration, the story comes across as confusing and uses plot devices that are over-the-top, up to and including snow ninjas. Though the plot picks up in medias res, no real explanation is given to how or why things escalated to such a point, opting to focus instead on rushed action sequences. Nino's art is sketchy and looks unfinished; though the internal glimpse of Batman's artic suit is interesting, all other details are muddled and hard to discern.
"Silent Night… Unholy Knight!" by writer Michael Uslan and artist Dave Bullock is easily the best piece in the collection. From the opening credits to the dialogue cards, this inventive story moves and feels like a silent film. Uslan's story -- visually stunning and genuinely unique -- manages to include all the right details and clever nods, from a suit up montage to a marque boasting the movie title "Zorro" (the original inspiration for the Dark Knight himself). Bullock's art pays homage to "Batman: The Animated Series" in its gorgeous design; his work enhances the story through its fluid layout and cinematic atmosphere. With an exceptional concept and excellent parallelism, this story alone makes the anthology worth a buy.
"Batman: Black and White" #2 spans a wide variety of topics and time period and offers some refreshing new takes on Bruce Wayne, his friends, and his ever impressive rogue's gallery. This collection is sure to please new and longstanding Batman fans alike.