April 21, 2024

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Comic Review: Batman: The Black Mirror

Scott Snyder's Batman run began here though it was Dick Grayson wearing the familiar cape and cowl.

When the New 52 launched, I gave a number of titles a try.  I enjoyed some more than others, but ended up having to quit due to financial reasons.  One of the titles I was sorry to have to quit was Batman written by Scott Snyder.  Snyder’s still working on the Dark Knight’s various adventures, and he’s added some great twists and innovations to the character and his world.

But he actually started before the New 52 with a Detective Comics storyline collectively known as “The Black Mirror”.  Review after the cut.

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This story was actually fantastic.  Dick Grayson has always been a very different sort of vigilante compared to his mentor/adopted father Bruce Wayne.  Where Bruce was at best melancholy, Dick was generally a light-hearted man who found some sense of inner peace despite also witnessing a criminal murder his parents.  As a result, he’d have to be a different Batman.  That actually comes up as a plot point very late in the book, but that’s all I will say about that.

But as Dick always had problems putting down roots anywhere given his circus performer background, he’s filling in for Bruce for this storyline as Bruce is doing more Batman-related stuff abroad.  Dick still has his allies, like Red Robin Tim Drake, and Barbara Gordon, here in her role as Oracle and not Batgirl.

But the real crux of the story comes from the relationship between Commissioner Gordon and his son James Junior.  Young James was a minor character in Frank Miller’s work, where Barbara was actually the Commissioner’s niece adopted after the tragic deaths of her own parents.  Now, it seems, James Junior, often forgotten side character, has come into his own as a self-confessed psychopath.  The Commissioner has seen it.  Barbara has seen it.  Even Dick has a feeling for it.  The downside is, James Junior has only ever been suspected of committing horrible crimes.  There’s never been any proof.  He’s just suspicious enough to cause people to doubt him, but also smart enough to cover any tracks he might leave behind.

This actually creates an interesting potential dynamic considering the main antagonism is between a second-generation Batman and a second-generation Jim Gordon.

Snyder has some real fun here.  New villains like the Dealer, Roadrunner, and Tiger Shark make colorful entrances, while the Dealer’s buyers look like a nice forerunner to the Court of Owls that came after the New 52 arrived.  The artwork by Jock and Francesco Francavilla makes for the right moody noir feel for the story that follows, the final panels suggest a potential for future problems that, given the way time passes in a comic universe, will probably never be addressed.  And I am fine with that.  Nine out of ten Joker sweat attacks.