Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla
Earlier, when I reviewed Severed, I explained that I wasn’t a Scott Snyder fan yet, that I just didn’t quite get it. Reading another volume of American Vampire got me closer. But The Black Mirror has made me understand, with one of the Batman tales that should end up on any fan’s bookshelf.
Taking place during the time where Bruce Wayne is back from the dead but Dick Grayson is still Batman, The Black Mirror follows several Batman cases. Dick has to deal with a black market dealer who specializes in items from Gotham’s villains, a killer whale that ends up in a bank lobby and the Joker escaping. At the same time, Commissioner Gordon’s son, James, is in town—a son who may or may not be a psychotic killer.
It is the latter story that’s truly the winner of the book. Don’t get me wrong, the Batman cases are extremely well done. The second story, Hungry City, shows just how well Snyder writes mystery. Nobody is who they seem they are, you’re not sure who you can trust, and you’re not quite satisfied with the resolution, not because of any failure of the writer, but because that’s just how things turn out. But the story of James Gordon, which also brings up Jim Gordon’s past cases, turns things up. Nowhere is this better than a tense conversation between father and son in a diner. Of all the Gotham setpieces possible, you wouldn’t think a random diner would be one of the showcases, but it’s very memorable and leaves you hanging on until the final page.
In a way, Commissioner Gordon is really the star of this book. Batman solves some big cases, and we get a look at the different between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne behind the cape and cowl. But Gordon is one of those characters who’s become such a part of the Batman mythos that it’s easy to push him to the side, easy to have him do little besides tell Batman what the cops know. Snyder does not go the easy route here. Gordon is a man who’s been a police officer far too long, and yet, for the many, many points in his life where he should have finally hit his breaking point, he’s still around. He’s still trying to solve cases that have been forgotten or trying to improve the worst city in America just a little bit. And yet again, this book gets so close to hitting that breaking point, but it’s the decisions that Gordon is forced to make in the very end that show just the kind of man he is.
Consider The Black Mirror to be an instant addition to the must-read Batman stories. We have other stories to tell us about Batman or the relationship between Batman and the Joker. We have this story to tell us about Commissioner Gordon.