Thursday, 19 January 2012

'Batman: The Black Mirror' Review

Batman: The Black Mirror contains issues 871-881 of Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla's acclaimed run on Detective Comics last year. It's been hailed by IGN as the "definitive Batman comic of the 21st century" and I can't really argue with that. I'd been looking forward to reading this for a long time. I unfortunately got back into the world of comics at the wrong time, just as Snyder's run on Detective Comics was coming to it's end. In fact I remember standing in my local store the day the final issue was released, after I'd read an article by the folks at iFanboy urging people to pick up that final issue. I had a quick flick through the pages but decided against buying it, since I'd already missed the entire story and didn't want to spoil the ending before I even knew what the beginning was all about. But it stuck in my mind nonetheless and I knew I had to get my hands on the whole run when it was released.

It took a while though. Christmas came and went without The Black Mirror so I turned to the trusty Amazon for a copy. 24 hours after my order their availability status changed to 'Temporarily Out of Stock' (which it still says at this current time). It wasn't looking good and I couldn't stand to wait much longer - everywhere I looked people were raving about it, every review full of praise. Through my workplace I managed to get one transferred from Chelmsford and within a couple of days I finally had The Black Mirror in my hands. And boy am I glad I didn't wait any longer.

I was already somewhat familiar with writer Scott Snyder's work, as his current run on Batman is blowing me away every month (issue 5 came out yesterday and is staring at me right now as I type). And I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed with his skills on The Black Mirror. His script is second to none, a powerful mix between a terrifying horror story and an old fashioned crime/detective narrative. For me, Snyder has supplanted Geoff Johns as the golden boy on DC's writing staff. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Johns' work, especially his Superman stuff, but Snyder's ability to immerse the reader into the gritty world of Batman is incredible. I feel like out of all the Batman stories I've read over the years, only an elite few have ever really got what Batman is all about. You can tell when the author really understands the character and successfully relays Batman's world to the reader: Snyder is up there with those elite few, there's no doubt.

I mentioned earlier about The Black Mirror being part crime, part horror; I wasn't kidding about the horror part. There were moments when I was genuinely shocked, where I had to stop and say out loud "God, that's pretty wrong right there." My girlfriend was not impressed when I showed her one particular page (I won't spoil which one, but it's downright nasty). And this is where the artists have done such a great job. The pages have been shared between British-born artist Jock and the Italian Francesco Francavilla, both of whom help to bring Snyder's epic words to life. Jock handles the majority of the Batman orientated storyline and Francavilla covers the Jim Gordon areas. I wasn't familiar with either artist's work before this and on that day I picked up the last issue in my local shop, I was put off a bit by Jock's unconventional style. His work isn't the traditional realistic look I'm accustomed to but I put any misgivings I had to the back of my head and immersed myself in the work, which quickly won me over. The Black Mirror soon turned me into a big fan of Jock's work and he captured Batman and Gotham City perfectly. Francavilla's art is distinctively different to Jock's but equally effective in it's execution. Francavilla must hear this all the time but the subtlety in his work is very reminiscent of David Mazzucchelli, one of the greatest Batman artists ever. Many of the pages reminded me of Mazzucchelli's haunting work on Batman: Year One and of course that is a very good thing indeed. Combined together, Jock and Francavilla are exactly the type of artists for this kind of story and complement Snyder's script perfectly.

After turning the last page I was sad to see this book end. It truly belongs up there in the pantheon of top Batman stories. It's clear that Snyder can become (if he's not already) one of the master storytellers in the DC universe and I am very tempted to start reading the American Vampire trade paperbacks, Snyder's other renowned work. In fact I might just go and do that now...

Amongst The Panels rating: 5/5

Thanks for reading.

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