The very first thing I’ll say about this book, and its basically how I feel about DC’s New 52 in general, is the greatest sin DC ever committed was not allowing Scott Snyder to explore Dick Grayson’s Gotham. Between this and Gates of Gotham its obvious that the young blood Snyder brings to the Batman series is a perfect fit for Dick Grayson. It’s a shame he’s the lead Bruce Wayne writer now, because I’ve never quite felt that he fit especially since he’s recreating Bat-Universe history in the New 52. It’s almost as though Snyder is writing himself as Grayson, filling the shoes of his predecessors.
But now for the stuff you came here for.
The book itself is split into seven chapters: The Black Mirror, Skeleton Cases, Lost Boys, Hungry City, Skeleton Key, My Dark Architect, and The Face in the Glass. I’m unsure of how these were originally published, but I hope it was the way they are laid out in the trade, because it tells the epic beautifully. In fact, Snyder’s strengths often lay in his ability to tell longer stories. It’s great for me because I love trades, but for those who follow the monthly issues it could get easily tedious (e.g. Batman: Zero Year).
The Black Mirror contains a couple of the most fascinating additions to Batman’s rogues gallery: a dark auction society called the “Mirror House”; and the re-introduction of Commissioner Gordon’s son, James Junior. The Mirror House arc was not as original as it could have been. Some rich, underground villain has somehow assembled various items from various villains’ past and uses them against Gotham, and ultimately Batman; it doesn’t add up to anything particularly exciting. But it definitely serves its purpose for the bigger narrative surrounding James Jr. who is the thread that ties all seven chapters together. Snyder pays close attention to Commissioner Gordon and the struggle with his son’s return to Gotham, and expresses his struggle beautifully through a mix of flashbacks and misdirects interspersed through the main focus of the Batman story. The daughter of Tony Zucco (the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents in Haly’s Circus all those years ago) shows up as bank manager trying to do good, but doesn’t, or something, and its fine. Grayson shows he’s better than her, and its over.
What I loved about this book was the way it kept me on the edge of my seat with the James Jr. arc. With the binary of Jim Gordon and his psychotic son set up using flashbacks and a fascinatingly tense expository conversation in a diner, Snyder also invites a comparison between Dick and James Jr. as well. By bringing in the post-Morrison Joker, I believe Snyder could have been setting up James Jr. to be Dick’s arch-nemesis. This is some of Snyder’s best Batman stuff, and will likely go down as some of my favorite Batman work ever.
One writing nit picky thing, there were a couple of moments where Dick spouts off information that is relevant to the situation but comes from nowhere, for instance, the name of a random 17th century priest, or the name of three super rare, nearly extinct animals. I do not like the fact that this can basically be chalked up to “because he’s Batman.”
The art from Jock gets the job done. I have to say I’m not a huge fan. In the Black Mirror chapter, it serves its purpose of being haunting and emphasizing the creepiness of the Mirror House environment, as well as some other haunting moments, but that’s about all it did for me. Francavilla’s art served the seedy noir feel of the James Jr. parts of the book, and did so beautifully. While there are times Francavilla’s art comes across as more simple, I felt that he was holding back for the bigger punches of the story, like the Joker’s billionth escape from Arkham, and Commissioner Gordon’s loss of renewed hope in his son.
Just a small lettering note, since I’m getting into that myself with my own comics: I love that the Joker gets a different font. It’s completely appropriate, and should always be done.
If you like DickBats, but didn’t get enough of a feel from him with Morrison’s run, pick up Black Mirror. You won’t regret it. Try Gates of Gotham, as well, for Snyder’s love letter to Gotham City history.
Batman: The Black Mirror
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock, Francesco Francavilla
Colorists: David Baron, Francesco Francavilla
Letterers: Jared K. Fletcher, Sal Cipriano
Overall rating: (9 ½/10)