Batman: The Black Mirror (Review)

Review by Ryan Scicluna (Graphic Novels Library Malta)

Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder, Jock (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 29th 2011 by DC Comics (first published 2010)
Collects: Batman: Detective Comics # 871-881
Original title: Batman Detective Comics: The Black Mirror
ISBN 140123206X (ISBN13: 9781401232061)
English language edition

Dick Grayson as Batman, now that is a story to read! The only time Dick Grayson (the first Robin) donned the cap and cowl was during the Prodical story-line way back in the 1990’s. ‘The Black Mirror’ offers a continuation of Grayson’s career as the Dark Knight following the event of Final Crisis and Battle for the Cowl. Scott Snyder‘s writing is simply brilliant. We can see the main differences of Bruce Wayne vs Dick Grayson in their batman… and neither is bad. Dick is much more fun in his attitude and more acrobatic (thanks to his circus training). Even his interactions with Damian, Batman‘s Son are funny. With Dick, taking the role of the loving big brother instead of the father figure which Damien desperately needs.

The story plays like a dark reflection of the main character. It basically signifies how Gotham is a living thing, challenging its champion with his worst fears. In fact, what Dick as Batman has to face is more personal than the usual villain threats. It is not easy to fill in for Bruce Wayne as Batman and Dick realises that straight of the bat. However, as the story progresses, we see him becoming more his own man than just trying to be Bruce Wayne’s Batman. The City itself is a character which brings out an ancient evil to torment Grayson with.

Another interesting way the story develops is by bringing a certain character that has been mostly ignored from the Batman universe into the main spotlight. I am talking of course about Jim Gordon’s son, James. We know about the character as a baby from the ‘Year One’ story by Frank miller. Now we get to know the behind the scene of this character in particular. It is also another way to distort the mirror theme in the book. What I mean is that as Bruce and Gordon were friends as Batman and Commissioner Gordon, their “sons”, Dick and James, are also friends in person but enemies in their secondary lives. There is also the difference of how Bruce’s adopted son readily takes the legacy that his adoptive father had built and preserves it, while on the other hand, Gordon and his biological son couldn’t be more different than this.

The art by Francesco Francavilla complements the story in perfect harmony. The art makes is more a Dick Grayson story rather than a Batman story. The different colour palette changes the moods from one panel to the next in accordance with what Snyder wants the reader to feel. This story has a lot of feelings and it shows the dynamic relationships between the Bat-Universe characters in a world without Bruce Wayne.

I highly recommend this book.

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