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Batman: The Black Mirror

By Professor Spork

Scott Snyder's (writer for 'Swamp Thing' and DCnU's 'Batman') run with Detective Comics marks what is arguably Dick Grayson's most epic chapter as Batman. 'The Black Mirror' works through Detective Comics#871-881, and contains three major storylines - 'Black Mirror', 'Skeleton Cases', and 'Hunger City'.

In the first story, a series of mysterious murders allows Dick to explore his newly attained World's Greatest Detective title, dropping him in the middle of one of the most well-protected and terrible secrets of Gotham's elite. The new Batman is forced to reacquaint himself with a Gotham even darker than the one he remembers from years ago. In the next segment, the corpse of a killer whale is discovered inside one of Gotham's largest banks. The mysteries of 'how' and 'why' prompts Batman to trace the leads straight to new and somewhat crazed faces (like we expected anything else) of organised crime in Gotham.

And subtly making its way to the forefront is the subplot of the return of Jim Gordon's estranged son.

At first glance, the stories seem a little too different, but tying them together is Snyder's unique portrayal of Dick Grayson's Batman persona, working his circus background and acrobatic fighting style into the plot, and emphasis on two of the most unappreciated characters in Batman history: Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Gotham City herself. In fact, this is possibly the only story arc during Dick's reign as the Dark Knight where Gotham City is portrayed as a separate entity. Gotham's dark, possessive nature almost always plays a part in arcs centring Bruce Wayne.

Although this reviewer usually prefers clean artwork over sketchy pencil strokes, there is no denying that Jock and Fransesco Francavilla have done a phenomenal job of adjusting their dissimilar drawing styles to the gritty plot. The only minor problem was the depiction of facial scars on Dick Grayson, which technically compromises Batman's all-important secret-identity front, but we've seen this mistake before, with Bruce and with Tim, so it can be ignored. Jock uses a combination of lines and dark colour that makes Gotham feel real in the same way Francavilla injects bright colours into Gordon's memories to focus the atmosphere and make the scenes more vivid. Let's just say the art makes this arc of Detective Comics one of the creepiest yours truly has come across.

Snyder's storytelling is absolutely brilliant, details planned and executed to near-perfection. The lack of Damian Wayne in this arc is a huge plus, and debatably pushes The Black Mirror ahead of Grant Morrison's epic Batman and Robin saga, namely because this story focuses only on Dick Grayson, highlighting his career as Batman, and not as a babysitter/brother/mentor /father. Keeping Tim Drake in the story was another great idea, as it showed off the naturally excellent dynamic between the first and third Robins. But the most interesting part of this story was definitely the interaction between Gordon and Grayson the kid the Commissioner watched grow up, and the only other Batman he's willing to accept.

The Black Mirror has already gone up on the list of modern classics, and set the bar for generations of Detective Comics to follow. Don't worry, DCnU, no pressure. Oh, this series also contains one of Dick's only encounters with the Joker, and seriously, if nothing else, you should read this simply for the brilliant portrayal of the insane relationship between the Joker and the original Batman.

Last week our topic was Critical. The selected submission had a sci-fi conflict feel to it that we liked. For next week our topic will be: Resign. Submissions need to be sent in to ds.risingstars@gmail.com before Sunday noon. Word limit: 350-500 words. Good luck.


By Wasique Hasan

I looked up at the ravens circling the small valley. They always know when fresh meat is in abundance. In the background I noticed the sun low on the horizon. But the sound of the birds screeching was drowned by the constant drum of gunfire. Two of the strongest clans of the hills, the alliance and the rangers were facing off against each other in this small valley. This was strange, as they usually stayed on the other side of the mountains. Then it hit me, they must have been heading towards our base. Mouthing an instruction to my battle suit, I contacted the guard at the base. To my horror, I was greeted by the sounds of the base rocket launchers in full force. The generals were screaming orders to the soldiers to hold their own. Thankfully, I had been successful in my mission and had retrieved the fuel, which would power our battle suits. But first, I had to get there through this turmoil. A lot rested on me.

Steeling myself, reloading my gun and fixing my aim, I crouched down low and made a desperate dash to the nearest boulder. I survived. I continued sprinting and hiding this way and was lucky enough not to attract attention. Just a few stray bullets. No one seemed to be shooting at me. I even made it out of the battle zone. Almost.

Just as I was going out of the valley, a soldier noticed me. I could almost imagine his grin under the helmet as he sent a shower of bullets towards me. I knew I could never dodge it even with my special battle suit. So I did what seemed most rational to me at the time. As I was hit, I turned around and put two bullets into the soldier's head. I felt his bullets pierce through my battle suit and deep into my flesh, sending warm blood gushing from my wounds. The computer in my helmet blared the warning, “Health is critical” into my ears. But I still had chance - until that alliance soldier mistook me for the enemy. One bullet and the deed was done.

The words - “Game Over” flashed on the television screen. I slammed the controller down hard on the coffee table. From the other room, my mom asked, 'What's wrong dear?' 'I died.' She told me that was too bad and ordered me to go play with my little brother. I grunted and made my way downstairs to the garage. That level would have to wait.



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