Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo, Andy Clarke
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: November 13, 2013
Zero Year continues in what has to be the most visually stunning installment yet. The storm is building, grotesque murders are happening, and the GCPD is ungrateful for their free blimps. The problems appear to be piling up faster than Bruce can solve them. This issue is the perfect tension builder, like a great horror movie, with things hiding in shadows. Until they aren’t, that is. Throw in a touching backup story about Robin-in-waiting Harper Row, and you’ve got a damn fine issue of Batman.
Scott Snyder sucks. Of course he doesn’t, I just wanted to see how it looked to type that. There’s not a lot to say about the story in this issue that hasn’t been said about the previous issues – it’s thrilling, it’s unique, it’s sprawling in scope but somehow feels very cohesive and tight. Too many soon-to-be-familiar Gotham faces are showing up at once for it to be coincidence. Clearly, we’re building to something big. Just to be contrary, I’ll focus on something little, namely Snyder’s excellent characterization of the supporting cast. Jim Gordon is like a beacon of goodness and trust, and while he’s got secrets, it’s already clear that he’s got Batman’s number. It’s impossible for Bruce to resist for much longer. I very much love Alfred Pennyworth as the dutiful, but reluctant man behind the curtain. Moments of levity pair beautifully with some moments of raw emotional weight. They create this aura of loyalty and paternal concern that make Alfred the iconic, beloved character he is. And last but not least, young Harvey Bullock, who may not trust Batman, but he trusts Jim Gordon, even way back then. His appearance is fleeting, but it’s unmistakably Harvey and it was a joy to meet him all over again.
While the story was great, it was carried to cruising altitude by Greg Capullo, with crisp inks by Danny Miki and rich, bright, booming colors by FCO Plascencia. I tend to gravitate towards artists who go either minimalist/cartoony or highly-stylized/conceptual. “Traditional” superhero art doesn’t do it for me. Greg Capullo is the only artist who, to me, fits that label and still delivers something distinct and dynamic. From the eyes to the faces to the city scapes, everything he draws breaths like it’s alive. I read the issue on a plane and actually bounced up and down in my seat looking at that Batmobile. I cringed along with Alfred at Bruce’s gambit with Gordon. And I’ll be having nightmares for a week thanks to the first appearance of (SPOILERS) Dr. Death. Capullo’s horrific rendering makes his Joker look adorable.
The colors, though – THE COLORS. In the really superhero-y, BATMAN moments, they echo the original colors on The Killing Joke. It’s very bright, with lots of jewel tones. Very out of place in Gotham City. It sets an appropriate tone of change with the arrival of Batman. The Batcave, where Bruce is really stretching his legs and being himself, is a wonderland of blues and purples and pinks and reds. When Bruce and Alfred meet Gordon topside, we’re back to reality – tans, browns, muted greens. Drab by comparison. The shift between “public Bruce” in front of the world, and “real Bruce” when he’s fighting his fight is unmistakable.
One last thing – the back up story by James Tynion IV, Snyder and artist Andy Clarke is heartbreaking and precious and I just want to give it a hug. I had to recover a bit from the scare on the last page of the main story before I could get into it, but it soothed my soul like a balm. Hooray for Harper and her little monster truck jammies.
There are a lot of questions piling up. What’s the Riddler’s long game? What is going on out in the African desert? How is SHE involved in all this? What the hell, Lucius? At least now we know why the GCPD has zeppelins and how Batman got the opportunity to tap into Gotham’s power grid. With the lights about to go out, I’m looking forward to seeing some street-detective Batman, who cannot punch or electronic-gadget his way out of everything. Bring it on. And someone get that dude a toothbrush.