As high society's social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town red...in their blood. The name on everyone's lips seems to be "Jack the Ripper" - and as a result, the name on Queen Victoria's lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, Ciel Phantomhive arrives with Sebastian, his extraordinary butler, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and...investigate a serial killer. And with the aid (and occasional interference) of a few of the Phantomhive house's numerous acquaintances, little stands in the way of the young earl getting to the bottom of this mystery. However, one question remains...can he handle the shattering truth behind it?
Continuing where I left off in the last Black Butler review, the second volume is an even better instalment. The art is still top notch but this the plot actually takes more shape. Where volume one consisted of mostly standard character introduction and exposition, volume two deals more with a new story arc and introduces some new characters as well. With some mixed results.
The plot picks up with Ciel Phantomhive (still remains wooden in comparison to the other characters), who's name is being smeared by Queen Victoria herself being accused as the infamous Jack the Ripper! Who is picking off prostitutes left and right. London is in fear of this dastardly villain, so it is up to Ciel and his trusty butler Sebastian (who once again, really steals the show), to clear the Phantomhive name.
What makes this volume work is the increase in character dynamics. Here we have five new character additions which are all fun in their own right. We have Madam Red, the sultry sophisticate along with her associate as well as nobleman, Lau, a Chinese trade minister with a penchant for gossip, and their butler, Grel Suttclif who is a clumsy oaf. The Undertaker who is well, an undertaker with a love for doggie treats and in exchange for information accepts jokes as a payment. Then finally we have Viscount Druit, a lecherous noble who is suspected of being Jack the Ripper and also suspected of holding evil occult rituals. While on the other side are the characters from the first volume which include all of the staff of the Phantomhive home, make their appearance as well they are put more on the back burner for more focus on the plot. Sort of. I must say though that while the characters of volume two are intriguing in their own right, too many of them are introduced at once which leads to less development for each one, creating some rather two dimensional characters.
Volume two also takes more of a darker approach, there are very funny moments involving The Undertaker with his own brand of black humor. Along the way we also have some drag comedy involving Ciel and a socialite party which was so-so humor wise. More often than not, Black Butler volume two is a darker adventure with hit and miss comedy thrown in. Compared to volume one, the plot elements that were established are not as balanced in volume two.
One a positive note however, when the humor does hit, it hits well. In the spirit of Victorian England, the story takes more of a whodunit approach and less of an action approach which was entertaining and intriguing, creating some creative twists and turns for some of the newer characters. Once again, the art is fantastic with crisp lining work and vibrant shading and toning which really make the characters bounce off of the page. The setting is also more apparent in volume two making it seem more like Victorian England while still maintaining a modern feel.
What this volume lacks in substance, it makes up in style with a darkly funny and edgy mystery-style plot leading to a few twists of it's own. The only problem is that it depends more on style and not enough on a substantial plot to keep a readers interested. If you liked volume one, then more than likely you will enjoy volume two.