Monday, July 7, 2014

Detective Comics [The Black Mirror] by Scott Synder issue #876

The Black Mirror series has to be Scott Snyder's first attempt to set the tone for the way he would be writing Batman in the New 52 continuity, and I really appreciate how consistent he had been when it came to crafting Gotham City as a character of its own. I would also like to commend him for writing Dick Grayson as a very convincing Batman. He put life and personality into the character that I often forget how much I should miss Bruce Wayne. Still, it'd be great to recognize and discuss the contrast between Bruce's Batman and Dick's because there are stand-out monologues and scenes that often remind me that this was the first Robin underneath that cowl.

In addition, I noticed that Jock is the artist for the Dick-centered issues while Francavilla is the artist for the Jim Gordon ones. This is important because both styles complement their respective stories beautifully. Jock's dynamic and long-angled illustrations of action sequences are vibrant, comprised of a large scope of motions and colors. This is attuned with Batman's fast-paced narrative, and when it came to Dick's contemplative monologues, Jock would often draw him suspended in the air or about to take a plunge, recalling to mind the images of acrobatic Dick Grayson as Robin. Meanwhile, Francavilla's Jim Gordon issues use minimal colors as possible, utilizing only three to four shades that capture the grimness and despair of the narrative. The characters are often drawn with shadows around their faces or in the background, giving each illustration a haunting look which suits its overall atmosphere. In that sense, the visual appeal for The Black Mirror is pleasantly varied, alternating between the action-oriented and fast-paced Batman issues and the more intimate and chilling stories about Jim Gordon and his psychopath son James Jr.

Now moving on to this issue. This is the first installment of the Hungry City story arc, a Batman-centered narrative. Two new characters were introduced; Sonia Birch, a self-made businesswoman whose dark connections from her mob boss father Anthony Zucco still have a long reach, and Bixby Rhodes, a.k.a Roadrunner, an arms dealer who had been harassing Birch. The story itself starts quite whimsically: a corpse of a killer whale was found inside the Gotham Bank. While Dick and Jim were examining the large wound on the stomach of the carcass, a dead woman slides out of it. It was quite horrific but still a bit amusing. The dead woman is Evelyn, Sonia's personal assistant. Dick goes on to investigate the case, uncovering some vital clues along the way. He was sent to a wild goose chase and encounters Roadrunner who, along with his goons, entraps him in a junkyard. 

The entire thing played out with some humor to it, I gotta admit. I'm actually glad that the somberness was dialed back a notch. The only indication of any dark angle was when Jim talked about James Jr. with Dick, asking him for an honest opinion whether or not he thinks James Jr. has changed. But since this is a Batman-centered issue, we leave that development for later on, and focus on Dick's investigation. It's worth mentioning that Anthony Zucco, Sonia's father, is also the mob boss who had Dick's parents killed during the circus act. Dick's feelings about this are evasive but he does seem to sympathize with Sonia, understanding that she is nothing like her father. I like that this is also a complementary parallel to Jim and James Jr. which is an unhappy and unsettling story I can't wait to start reading again soon. But overall, part I of Hunger City is rather promising.


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