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Monday, March 19, 2012

Batman. The Black Mirror. Scott Snyder (Writer), Jock, Francesco Francavilla (Art), David Baron, Francesco Francavilla (Colours), Jared K. Fletcher, Sal Cipriano (Letters) DC Comics (2011)

A superb Batman story that uses the story possibilities of Dick Grayson becoming Batman in Gotham City in the absence of Bruce Wayne to the full. The plot is very nicely structured as Dick Grayson does more than don the costume, he becomes Batman and Jim Gordon confronts the possibility that his son is a murderer. A violent incident at a school leads to a trail of a man who holds very specialized auctions, where the lot are from crimes that are from some of Bruce Waynes's most personal cases. This is followed by an extraordinary crime at a Gotham city bank that is owned by someone who has a very close connection to Dick Grayson's past. Along side these cases Jim Gordon is faced with a terrible problem, his son James has come back to town and Jim Gordon has to establish if his son is a merciless killer or not. Both story lines neatly overlap and intertwine and finally come together with a bloody and very satisfying climax.
Among the numerous wonderful aspects to this book is the multiple ways that Scott Snyder uses the possibilities of a new person taking on the role of Batman. With Bruce Wane there is always the sense that the civilian identity is merely a shallow mask, the real substance lies behind the mask. In this story there is a much more complete and complex character who puts on the costume rather than being defined by it. Dick Grayson has a long history and it is used to wonderful effect as he struggles to become Batman and not loose himself in the process. He makes mistakes and has to struggle very hard to be successful, at the same time he is competent and very effective. A nice mix that give real life and force to the costumed action and give the narration a very satisfactory bite. It is also a great pleasure to have opponents whose motivation is greed and the lust for cruelty, the simplicity makes them considerably more dangerous.
The James Gordon story is beautifully paced, a carefully set up series of reveals that push and pull the reader as much as the cast. When the die is finally cast the story continues to move in unexpected directions and use the brutal possibilities with skill and determination. There is a distracting sub-plot featuring the Joker, it is a considerable tribute to the combined talent involved in the book that the intrusion of such a threadbare sequence does not deflate the whole book.
The art by Jock on the Batman  sections and Francesco Francavilla on the Jim Gordon sections is a joy to read in each case, both a distinctive and neither clash nor confuse. Jock's art is angular and sharp edged, it gives a great sense of the razor edges that surround Dick Grayson all the time. The cast are full of energy and force, there is a restless energy in them even when they are still. Francesco Francavilla has much softer edges for his cast, the real action is most often clearly revealed body language that shows the tensions that wrap around everyone. The intense calm of James Gordon may be good news or very bad news. There is a very welcome horror aspect to the story that the art bring out to the full without every loosing it footing in superheroics.  The colouring by David Baron and Francesco Francavilla is virtually a full blown cast member, it is prominent and outspoken while always lifting the story.  The lettering by Jared K. Fletecher and Sal Cipriano manages to be so attuned to the story that it is virtually invisible while giving weight and timbre to the words. A brilliant comic and even better a brilliant Batman story.

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