Top positive review
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All families are psychotic
on 26 December 2011
With Bruce Wayne busy setting up Batman Incorporated, Dick Grayson (the first Robin) dons the cowl and becomes Gotham's Dark Knight. But as Grayson has been finding out since he became the Batman, it's not easy being the Caped Crusader and "The Black Mirror" shows him going up against a macabre and monstrous auctioneer of Batman paraphernalia called "The Dealer", a cyborg carjacker called "Roadrunner", a blind-folded pirate called "Tyger Shark", the Joker (of course) and the double-dealing Sonia Branch aka Sonia Zucco, daughter of Tony Zucco who murdered Grayson's parents. But of all the colourful villains lining up to take down the Batman, none are more disturbing that James Gordon Jnr, who makes a murderous return to Gotham...
Having just read "American Vampire" I wasn't sure Scott Snyder had the writing chops to create a Batman series this good, but he proves in "The Black Mirror" that he is easily as talented as the more experienced Batman scribes out there and can create a menacing, taut storyline to boot. I particularly liked the nuances he gives Grayson's Batman: when meeting with Jim Gordon he doesn't suddenly disappear when Gordon turns to switch off the Bat signal, much to Gordon's surprise; Grayson's banter with fellow hero Red Robin, aka Tim Drake (the third Robin), is much more comradely and friendly as the two are really equals than teacher/student as is the way with Wayne/Grayson.
Snyder writes the James Gordon Jnr storyline brilliantly, where the suspense between whether or not he's telling the truth is kept up tightly until the right time, and the way the character is written is both chilling and captivating, like Kevin Spacey's performance as John Doe in "Se7en". His normality is what's so disarming, and the artwork by Francesco Francavilla who draws/paints this storyline adds to the creepiness. He draws James as this normal looking kid but the expression on his face is as scary as anyone you'd find in Arkham Asylum.
Jock's artwork is fantastic throughout. His covers are amazing, particularly the Joker one which was partially made up of bats, but really they were all excellent and I loved the way he draws Grayson swooping through the Gotham skyline as if he were still in a circus big top on the trapeze.
"The Black Mirror" is one of the best self-contained Batman storylines in ages. Like all the best Batman books it's focus is on crime and the evil ordinary people are capable of rather than the cartoonish villains and the overly dramatic superhero elements some other Batman books have (though there are moments of this here too). Refreshingly with Grayson as Batman, while the story is dark, Snyder focuses on hope and light making this Dark Knight book not quite so dark and bleak while maintaining its heart and soul. It's one of the best Batman books out there and is destined to become a classic - what're you waiting for? Sit back and enjoy a Gotham moment.