Still, Dick Grayson slips through from the mask every now and then, especially with his inner monologues. What I could enjoy about this is the fact that Dick doesn't try too hard to be the Batman Bruce Wayne was; and yet there is also something lonely about filling the shoes of a former mentor and trusted friend, knowing that you have to carry on bearing the weight of a world you don't feel a part of. With Bruce, being Gotham's Dark Knight was his calling. But with Dick, you get the sense that he doesn't feel like he belongs in this city, and therefore does not have the same kind of emotional investment for that heroic role. He's almost like a caged bird peeking through the bars, knowing what freedom before was like, but has now learned to accept his lack of access to fly.
In this second installment of The Black Mirror, the stakes just got more complicated and dangerous as Dick infiltrates the black-market society club where Gotham's richest buy off macabre and gruesome collectibles from a frail-looking old man who is the Dealer. The people in the event wore specially-designed gas masks that bring to mind those horrific nuclear warfare scenes from the past where the height of possible annihilation is tremendously panic-inducing. I felt a bit scared while I read this issue, most especially when Dick was discovered and these people start trying to feast on him. I was genuinely afraid for Dick's safety.
The issue ends with that tantalizing cliffhanger. I really love the pacing and dialogue on this one. We get the appearances of Tim Drake, third Robin, and Barbara Gordon, who is the Oracle (this timeline in the continuity is right after the event when the Joker shot her and broke her spine). I like the subtlety in the relationship between Dick and Babs. They used to be children both lost in the storm and have come together to seek solace in one another, fighting for the same cause and under the same ideals. Now they are adults, hardened by awful truths and the darkness they produced.
This may be my favorite issue yet because of the near-perfect build-up for the cliffhanger later on. The suspense is just a killer! And, as always, I enjoy the noir elements of this story. Dick Grayson also continues to impress me as Batman even if his presence also makes me miss Bruce Wayne every once in a while as I read the pages. Dick is carrying on as Batman but I don't think he has fully embraced the burdens of it yet. He's resisting, given his circus blood, to truly give himself to Gotham; not when this city is filled with creatures that make it impossible to ever believe daylight will come after this much darkness.
On an additional note: I can't help but draw comparisons from The Black Mirror and Snyder's New 52 Batman storyline The Court of Owls. I really do think that his work for this one has inspired him to apply the same kind of atmospheric style and exposition to that of the Owls saga. There's a certain feeling that The Black Mirror evokes that is eerily similar with the Owls. It could be that thematic narrative where Gotham City is alive and trying to break down its hero. It could be the metaphorical ominous shadows lurking in each landscape that leave me with a nasty feeling of dread at the pit of my stomach; or it could be just the overall delivery of the plot itself. But the effect and impact is almost the same.