Review: BATMAN #0

BATMAN #0
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
Release Date: September 12, 2012

While they still generate headlines (and, even better for those of us who love the medium and want it to continue, sales), continuity reboots are really nothing new. DC alone has had at least one major reboot every ten years for the last three decades, and by now an attentive reader could just about outline a set of best practices. Make characters a least a bit younger, a bit closer to their beginnings. Keep the essentials but change some of the details, and most importantly — and I really can’t emphasize this enough — create a bit of mystery and space out your big revelations. This allows new readers to jump in without feeling the weight of having to know all of what came before (either in the past several years or the first critical few issues) and it gives those of us who have decades of reading under our belts a line of bread crumbs to follow as we try to piece together all the details and differences between characters as we’ve loved them and the new incarnations who work to earn our continued devotion.

Few creative teams have been as successful at this project over the past year as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. And with no fewer than three ongoing solo titles — plus four titles with a major focus on a current or past Robin, plus Batwoman, Batgirl, and the uncategorizable Batman Incorporated — few characters promise more of a smorgasbord of backstory to revel in during DC’s Zero Month than Batman. As one of DC’s Trinity and a founding member of the Justice League, Batman has been around since a little before day one of the mythical “five years ago” when superheroes first made themselves publicly known in the world of DC’s New 52 continuity. Given that the various Bat-family titles have indicated that many of the major events of Batman’s pre-New 52 history are still in play — including but not limited to: 1. The rough outlines of Grant Morrison’s last six years of Batman titles, 2. Barbara Gordon’s paralysis and Jason Todd’s death at the hand of the joker, 3. Dick Grayson’s time as the Batman while Bruce Wayne was believed dead, and 4. The tenure of at least one other Robin, Tim Drake, before the current Robin Damian Wayne — there’s a lot of story that needs to be reshuffled into a fairly short period of time.

So as an avid (you could just as accurately substitute the word “rabid”) Batman reader who has been no less than captivated by Snyder and Capullo’s first year as the lead Batman creative team, I had really high expectations coming in to Batman #0, and I’m left trying to figure out whether it’s reasonable to feel just a bit disappointed with what Snyder and Capullo chose to deliver.

There’s very, very little to complain about. Capullo’s art, as it has been without exception for the past year, is detailed, kinetic, and dynamic — perfect in both character and action. (And let’s take a moment to recognize that Capullo has maintained this outstanding level of quality with only a single issue given over to a guest artist last year.) Snyder introduces a new version of the Red Hood Gang, which both promises to inform Synder’s focus on the Joker in the next year, and gives readers an interesting and volatile spin on a character who is normally treated as having been a bit of a joke during his brief career in the early days of the Batman. We’re even given what is probably the first meeting of Bruce Wayne and a young, crusading police lieutenant named James Gordon. The stage is clearly being set, and. . .

And then the issue ends, right in the middle of things.

Now, nowhere was it promised that every zero issue would deliver a standalone story. And Scott Snyder has given readers more than sufficient reason to expect that every element set up in Batman #0 will have a specific (and more than likely mind-blowing) payoff down the line. It would even be fair to argue that if the goal of Zero Month is to give new readers an additional jumping-on point, then it would be self-defeating to write an issue without a cliffhanger to bring those readers back next month. A one-and-done story, after all, can serve as a jumping-off point as well.

But in a year of almost non-stop “holy crap” moments, there isn’t really one in Batman #0. And I’m expecting (perhaps erroneously) that Batman #13 isn’t going to pick up right where Batman #0 left off, meaning that it’s going to be a while before I find out exactly whether and how the Red Hood delivers on the threat which ends the issue. It’s going to be great, and I’m going to be there when it is. But I’m just a little surprised to say that Batman #0 doesn’t quite get there on its own.

Verdict: 9.0/101

1. Without James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke’s outstanding backup story, that would have been an 8.5. In showing the first lighting of the Bat Signal and its effect on Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Dick Grayson (and Barbara Gordon), Tynion both allows each character to shine on their own — before the identity of Robin (or Batgirl) even exists — and makes the fact that all three served as Robin in a very brief span of time a bit easier to imagine. That is, it does exactly what I wanted a zero issue to do, and helps me get over a bit of the guilt of saying that while what Synder does is so, so good, and going to lead to even better things in the future, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. You know, as if that mattered beyond the $3.99 I paid for what was in all a very, very good comic. Which you should buy every month.

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