Batman: Black and White #2 Review

The nice thing about Batman: Black and White is how DC is able to pull talent from different corners of the comic book map of artists. David Aja is a wonderful artist that has always sided with Marvel when it comes to the Big Two. Same thing with Dustin Weaver. So, it’s been nice seeing their takes on the caped crusader. Still, we get some appearances by DC regulars like Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Gabriel Hardman.


The Unjust Judge

Tom King and Mitch Gerads return to regale us with another short story where they attempt to tie Batman to a certain type of faith. In the last Holiday special that DC released, the duo crafted a tale of Batman intertwined with Jewish text. This one though deals with Batman trying to save a priest caught in the wreckage of a Gotham church.

I have to say, Tom King’s style is starting to get a bit old for me. Now, this feels awkward to say because I really like Tom King. I love Grayson, Omega Men, Vision, and Miracle Man like everybody else. I also like his Batman run for stretches. And Sheriff of Babylon is one of my favorite Vertigo titles out there. But, his style is starting to wane on me. It’s become formulaic at this point. Cue vague allegorical text, cue nine-grid format, cue unresolved plots, and out-of-character interactions.

Now, like I said, I like King’s work. It’s just… he’s used this trick a lot. It’s hard to take him seriously when he just had an EXACT story like this in the Holiday special.

Mitch Gerads is a genius. It’s no surprise, this book is really an artist showcase and Mitch brings it as always. I just wish that there was a more unique script for him to pen on this one.

Final Score: 5/10 (Neutral)


All Cats Are Grey

I don’t have a lot of experience with Sophie Campbell outside of Glory. But, I like what I saw. It’s a nice silent story, but I think it’s really fitting to Catwoman. For some reason, tons of exposition and inner dialogue just never strikes right for me with Catwoman. I feel like stories from her perspective work so well silently. Obviously, the story ‘Chase Me’ is pretty famous for being a silent, animated film about a similar concept of Batman chasing Catwoman.

Her uses of black and white are so cool. The way the little white and black cat blend into the background and are only distinguishable by their eyes is what makes this art such a treat to look at. For art that might be viewed as “simplistic”, there’s so much going on. Not to mention a killer white Catwoman costume. The best though is the sense of motion. The panels flow so well, it’s an extremely quick read. Some might view that as a bad thing because they tie time to a measurement of quality but this moves so smoothly, you’ll swear it’s animated. You can see the movement in your mind as you breeze through the panels. Flawless illusion of movement.

Final Score: 8/10 (Great)


The Spill

This one, I’m not so sure about. I’ve grown accustomed to a Gabriel Hardman/Corinna Bechko story in every DC anthology special released. It’s been a consistent staple of their quarterly releases. Sometimes, they strike gold. This time? Striking something less potent. Maybe copper? Maybe just iron.

Batman is pinned under the Batmobile in a giant drainage tunnel that is going to flood. Batman is trying to appeal to the Joker to rescue him. There’s some cool imagery and Hardman is a legendary artist, probably one of my favorites out there (I first fell in love with his work on Jeff Parker’s Hulk stuff, one of my favorite superhero comics ever). But, this story ultimately boils down to a discussion.

That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but here? I feel like it’s wasted potential for Hardman and Bechko. I don’t find the dialogue exquisite enough to justify the page space dedicated to it. They attempt to inject as much drama into the situation and fuel it with tension, but there’s not enough there. There’s not a credible reason for Joker to be there and to help him, they needed to find a way to tether these two together like Batman Europa did. ON the other hand, I can see the potential for a story like this, but I think this might’ve been better served with a writer that can nail a tense conversation from a Tarantino movie. Maybe Azzarello channeling some 100 Bullets?

Final Score: 6/10 (Okay)


Dual

It seems like there is always one. One that is above my head. I’ve never read Dustin Weaver’s writing so I have nothing to compare it to. It’s hard for me to tell if my questions with the story stem from a lack of experience as a writer or intentional vaguery and mystery? Either way, this one is difficult to decipher.

Still, it’s an interesting concept. And one I’d be fine with. But, I am not nuts about Dustin Weaver’s art here! I absolutely fell in love with Weaver’s work on S.H.I.E.L.D. with Jonathan Hickman. I wasn’t super familiar with him as a writer, having read a little bit of Secret Warriors when I first found the obscure mini-series they created together. It was a puzzle to decipher and yet felt like it was philosophically out of reach, his art elevating it to another level. It felt like a more coherent, and more mechanically complex version of Arkham Asylum for the Marvel Universe.

But, that same art isn’t quite on display here. And it’s been a while since I last read Hickman’s Avengers run, but I remember enjoying Weaver’s art greatly there. Here, it feels a bit rushed. I wonder if it’s because of the lack of colors, his style changing, or truly being rushed. But, it was a little disappointing to jump into a Weaver book and find none of the flair that I was captivated by a decade ago.

Final Score: 5/10 (Neutral)


The Devil is in the Details

This is the one to come for. This is the one that immediately caught my eye when I opened the book up. Something looked strange here when I got to it, this whole story was wide. Ah, the genius of Aja. He styles this one just like a Sunday Strip. Even down to the dates and ending each batch on a sort of endpoint that you can imagine the wait for the next story.

I mean, this is top-of-the-line ART. It’s not just the dot art. It’s not just the genius paneling. It’s not the amazing atmosphere created. It’s the thought that went into this. David Aja didn’t just kick out a Batman concept. He fully realized it. A Sunday Strip version of a supernatural detective story is so cool. And, that page where it is in a different language (it looks Italian), stroke of genius. Of course, it means we might not know what is happening in the dialogue, but the images should give you enough to go off to figure out the generalities.

But, simulating the experience of collecting these Sunday Strips and the only place you could find this one chapter was in an Italian newspaper? That’s inspired. Man, now I want to see what else Aja has got up his sleeve. Matt Fraction said Aja did a lot of the heavy lifting on the storytelling in Hawkeye and I want to see him solo more often, not something I really say often with artists as I believe in the symbiotic relationship between Writer-Penciler, but screw it, let’s see Aja unleashed! This has got me frothing at the mouth for more, I wasn’t planning on reading The Seeds because I’m not a Nocenti fan, but this has got me recanting that, I have to experience more just for another taste of something like this.

Final Score: 10/10 (Legendary)


Conclusions

This is a hard issue to judge. I really liked two of the five stories in it, the ones that feel simpler to me. The two stories that aren’t trying to be absolutely illuminating and aim for a concept, are amazing. It’s hard because I found the other three stories very uninspiring.

Tom King drums out another story to the exact same beat the rest of his work is. It’s nothing new at all, not bad, but stale. Dustin Weaver doesn’t feel like Dustin Weaver to me. The story is intriguing, although not exactly captivating, but the art is a letdown compared to his usual output. Finally, Hardman and Bechko opt for a story that doesn’t fit their strengths and it feels like a waste of great art and a decent concept.

On the other hand. Sophie Campbell’s story is awesome, it’s super fun and simple. Elegant. And the sense of motion is amazing, something we don’t strive for enough in modern comics. Finally, David Aja’s story is one that supports this whole thing.

Honestly, I might say you have to pick this up for Aja and Campbell. I’m not super fond of the other three, but if you haven’t read any Tom King work, this tale might be great for you to dip your toes into his style and if you like it, then my review won’t matter because his tendencies won’t be stale for you.

But seriously, you owe it to yourself to check out David Aja’s amazing work. It is a hefty price tag for 16-pages of excellence though.

Final Score: 7/10 (Good)


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