Written by Scott Snyder with James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia with Rafael Albuquerque
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 9, 2013
The origin of the Batman continues, as “Secret City” falls away to “Dark City” in this robust 56 page chapter detailing Bruce Wayne’s Zero Year in the New 52, delivered to us as a labor of love by the critically-acclaimed team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
The challenge of establishing a new Batman origin, even though so many have been told in the course of 75 years, is enormous, especially since the dawn of graphic novel collections in the late 1980s. Before then, a creative team could retell Batman’s initial story without worrying about contradiction, as most fans would be experiencing it for the first time. Once Batman: Year One, written and drawn by the famed team of Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli, went into multiple, unbroken printings, the landscape was changed forever… that is, until now.
What Snyder and Capullo have managed to do in just four issues is establish an entirely new origin for the Batman that respects what’s come before by diverging in tone and detail so completely as to not threaten the landmark that is Year One. In Zero Year, we have a world that is light to Year One’s dark — about the bombastic fear of a chaotic terrorist threat, rather than organized crime and decay of a city from poverty and vice — and in travelling such a different path, the creators have freed themselves AND their readers up to revel in the mystery that is Bruce Wayne’s early days all over again. This Bruce and, of course, Alfred have a sense of humor amid the seriousness of their challenge, a recognition of their own limitations without brooding, and determination to lift up those around them, rather than just push villainy and social disease down.
Snyder has put his beliefs about Gotham City’s own ideological desires onto the page in a really thoughtful monologue by Bruce Wayne (not Batman, mind you) to the people of the city to whom he has just returned after a presumed death. This is no deathtrap or black mark on the nation, but a metropolis that reflects back your deepest fears only to make you stronger, more confident, a success in your own right. Those who fail just weren’t up to the challenge. And that’s where the Batman comes in. Now finally accepting the need to play bigger than himself, Bruce is engaging in the madness that Alfred so wittingly refers to as “the best kind” — for it is, both for satisfying Bruce’s drive and putting up a wall against fear in his city.
Capullo delivers an insanely gorgeous issue, illustrating 43 of the 56 pages himself, full of smart character moments as well as brilliant homages to Batman tales of the past. From his double page spread of Batman swinging across the sky next a billboard decorated (very tongue-in-cheek) with bodies making up a bat symbol, to his action sequences inside A.C.E. Chemical, Capullo keeps the man inside the suit active at all times, never letting us forget that Bruce Wayne is the light inside that shadow. Just as nearly every scene is daybreak or nightfall, utilizing the unique talents of colorist FCO Plascencia to fill the story with a neon glow from every direction, so too is this a man, not yet a monolith, on the verge of greatness. Choices Capullo makes, like focusing on the Dark Knight’s teeth and tongue in mid-scream or leaving just that little bit of stubble (or is it gunpowder?) on his chin, truly elevate him to the upper echelon of comic artists today for his attention to detail, care, and genuine thoughtfulness toward his subject.
Albuquerque too does an admirable job with the remaining 13 pages, and transitions the story quite well, in fact, so there’s no sense of jarring between scenes. We get our first sense of the next big threat in these final pages, and we now can see all the more that Batman will have to be the light unto the city — a huge shift in his status from all that’s come before, and yet, it neither disturbs or feels unnatural. That is a feat unto itself.
Batman #24 is beyond exceptional in what it has managed to accomplish, against all odds, to give us a distinctly different take on Bruce Wayne than we’ve ever seen before. Far from a retelling, Zero Year is truly a tale that could only have been told in 2013, by these top-flight creators, who are obviously pouring everything they love and hold dear about Batman and comic book super-heroes into it. As a weighty single issue, this chapter feels as momentous in your hands as it should, but once you peel back the cover and are bombarded by the color and brightness of Batman’s new world, you can’t help but drop your mouth in awe. This is a masterpiece in the making, and thankfully, we’re only one third of the way through.
The Verdict: 10/10