"How easy for a mask to be a blindfold"
I'm going to level with you now: you must pick this up one of these days and read it. You'll be glad you did. I spent about a week reading and reviewing each issue included for this stellar graphic novel written by the current Batman writer for New 52, Scott Snyder, and illustrated by artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla alternatively. Comprised of ten issues from Detective Comics #871-881 from the old DC continuity, The Black Mirror is set right after Bruce Wayne's supposed death and so, in his absence, the role of Gotham's Dark Knight was filled in by no other than Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Though it's not Wayne underneath the cowl, Dick as Batman is definitely a daring and compelling one.
In Snyder's stories about him being Batman and as illustrated by Jock, Dick faces questions similar to a person who is having an identity crisis, particularly on the aspect of his roots. Though intimately familiar with Gotham's horrific landscapes and feels personally obliged to protects its people, Dick never felt that he belonged in this city of nightmares and most of his character conflict stems from the fact that he's a bird constantly trying to be imprisoned in a cage by forces which he could not always comprehend but nonetheless fights back with much vigor and resilience. In Dick, we get a Batman whose contemplative monologues are as self-centered and personal as they could get with some touch of vulnerability and self-doubt here and there, the likes of which we have never seen in Bruce Wayne before (though Snyder will go on to write Bruce in a more humanized sense in Zero Year for New 52 later on).
His issues follow him in his investigations and findings pertaining to Gotham's usual scum and criminal element yet more often than not he gets caught up in a cycle of deception and greed that forces him to re-examine the way he views Gotham and his role and participation in all of its endless stream of violence and despair. I found Dick to be remarkably admirable yet pitiful as well especially in those quiet moments when I see glimpses of the Boy Wonder who is still lurking somewhere in the more matured and fiercer fighter Dick has become after leaving the Robin persona behind. It gives his Batman a presence that lacks the hardness that Bruce placed into it but still manages to be just as formidable. Jock's art and illustrations of Dick gliding across pages or diving into places remind you that this is the Robin we all love and who is now all grown-up and yet someone who remains as an adventurous aviator who longs for freedom and can only achieve it when he's flying over the dark city he is bound to serve.
In fact, those brief moments he soars in the skies are the happiest that Dick has ever been, right until he lands back on earth and faces the evils and malevolence that is required of the Dark Knight he now has to embody.
The secondary key character for the other half of the issues is Commissioner Jim Gordon. His issues are illustrated wondrously by Francesco Francavilla whose limited color palette of dark colors (hues of orange, red, blue and purple) make the stories a chilling visual adventure as it is able to echo the depths of horrors that Snyder's writing purposefully and, at most times, masterfully brings out with atrocious clarity. In these issues, we see Gordon stumble upon an enigma he could never seem to get a hold of in solving, one whose dark nature perplex and wound him most: his own son James Jr. whose psychosis brings devastation wherever he goes. Now that he's back in Gotham, James Jr. has unleashed uncomfortable memories that his father had buried for so long. Each issue builds up to the ultimate collision and, just like with Dick, Jim Gordon needs to meet the reflection he sees in the glass and recognize that its potential for evil has gotten stronger and he may not have enough time to stop it.
The Black Mirror may as well be Snyder's audition for becoming the current writer for New 52 Batman and if that is the case, then it was rewarded graciously with much deserved praise in the end because this was such an impressive body of work, I must say. His poetic prose when describing Gotham City as a living character and not just a setting piece in his stories is something we can now read and appreciate in his The Court of Owls storyline. I would recommend this to anyone, long-time Bat-fan or novice.
This is a rather moving yet very tragic story about the inconvenient truths in people's lives and how chaos can be the most undiscriminating force of nature that often rules the choices we make; and that the ideals we cling onto and comfort ourselves with may be more fragile than we are led to believe--much like the people we love the most can be the very ones who will have the ability to betray and destroy who we are.