In Batman: The Black Mirror, Scott Snyder charts the turbulent first year of Dick Grayson's (a former Robin to Bruce Wayne's Batman) role as Gotham City's Caped Crusader. Pitted against several new villains, Batman soon finds himself in the web of an elaborate game being conducted by a dangerous new psychopath with close ties to his allies, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter, Barbara.
Set prior to DC Comics' launch of "The New 52," The Black Mirror follows on the heels of writer Grant Morrison's game-changing work involving the Dark Knight and the global franchising of the Batman legacy in Batman, Inc. Although Morrison was responsible for placing Dick Grayson in the role of Batman, it is Snyder who ultimately owns the character. It's to Snyder's credit that his Batman tale is instantly accessible and independent of Morrison's world building, making it an easy book for new readers or longtime fans simply looking for an excellent read.
Snyder's star power has been on the rise since releasing American Vampire in 2010 and has rightly earned the praise of critics and fans alike. While his work on that series has been consistently good, his handling of the Batman mythos elevates him to a whole new level and his scripting of The Black Mirror is both intricate and sublime.
The book is densely plotted, its multiple layers building slowly and suspensefully. Split between several story arcs, which at first seem disconnected but are soon enmeshed through the machinations of the primary antagonist, Snyder populates his story with numerous conflicting characters and charts them on a collision course. Although the inevitable confrontations are clearly established early on, Snyder still manages to surprise, oftentimes with horrifying viciousness.
His command of language, and its interplay with the art, provided in turns by Jock and Francesco Francavilla, shape the aura of Gotham's latest psychopath and prime the audience for his nastiness before he is ever introduced. Snyder works hard at setting the stage, using terrific dialogue between Gordon and Barbara to prepare us for the worst, building remarkable tension and then letting it all unravel to chilling degrees.
The Black Mirror is that rare superhero book that is rich in history, character, setting, and thematic concepts. The theme of Gotham's generations is prevalent, as is the notion of violent contrasts and dark reflections. The book's opening chapters, in which rich socialites turn some of Gotham's most heinous moments into mere memorabilia up for auction, are a crowd of anti-Waynes who revel in the city's darkest depravities. The heroes and villains are each twisted, mirror images of one another, and long-time Batman fans will recognize the opposing contrasts of style between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne in their actions under the cowl. In some ways, one might even say that Snyder himself is a “black mirror” to the preceding (and, in the case of Batman, Inc., concurrent) work of Grant Morrison. While the latter invoked nearly everything from pop-psychology to quantum physics in his handling of the material, Snyder, in contrast, tells a far more relatable street-level story, focusing on character over concept in order to tell his own brand of smartly engaging story.
Between the book's artists and its writer, there is a supreme amount of synergy that keeps the work firing on all cylinders. Jock's art is detailed and edgy, and flows with cinematic grace. With The Black Mirror, he's created several instantly iconic representations of Batman, along with what is easily one of the best Joker images put to paper. Francavilla puts in equal effort, handling many of the Jim Gordon-centric story bits, and pays lovely homage to Batman: Year One illustrator David Mazzucchelli in both style and colors.
Batman: The Black Mirror is an example of several of the comic book industry's strongest producers collaborating in order to craft phenomenal work. There is a reason Scott Snyder has been given the keys to the Batman franchise in the wake of "The New 52," and there is a reason he has been hailed as a rising star since blasting onto the comic book scene, virtually out of nowhere, two years ago. It almost feels like a cop out to just say he's damn good, for that assessment is far too plain and obvious. It is impossible to miss the love and care that went into crafting this book, and it's clear that Snyder has been a longtime bat-fan. With Black Mirror, a heroic epic that is easily on par with other celebrated bat-books like Year One and The Long Halloween, he has created one of the very best Batman stories ever told.
Reviewed by Michael Hicks on March 23, 2012
Batman: The Black Mirror