What do you love about the city? What do you love about Gotham? What do you love about Bruce Wayne? About Batman? Whatever the answer, you’ll find a significant, promising new take on it in “Batman: Zero Year.”
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Greg CapulloWitness The New 52 origin of The Dark Knight in BATMAN: ZERO YEAR! Twists and turns are around every corner as Bruce Wayne takes the final steps toward his destiny! And in the backup story, learn more about how different Gotham City was at this dangerous point in time.
“Batman” #21 brings the man behind the cowl front and center. With all Bat-mythology articulating the idea that it does not matter who wears the cowl, the spotlight on Bruce Wayne can sometimes fade. In the presentation offered here by Capullo and Snyder, we find a young, hungry, reckless Bruce that commands attention throughout the issue. A complex character study, “Batman” #21 heralds in a new era for the caped crusader that delivers action, mystery and perspective.
Snyder is able to seamlessly blend three different timelines, and completely immerse the audience in each one. Each story feels relevant. The issue begins by showing Gotham in ruin, and Batman (wearing purple gloves, thank you for the attention to detail whoever made that call) in action. Then we join Bruce five months earlier as he searches for a way to dispense justice to those who would harm his city. The final timeline explored in this issue focuses on Bruce as a boy. Folding time on itself, and never losing momentum, Snyder creates a complete picture of the man who will become the bat.
The intricacies of Snyder’s writing are beautiful, and Capullo’s execution of this intricate story delivers is exceptional in its own right. Repetitive symbols clarify and call attention to underlying themes, drawing readers in through deliberate attention to detail on the part of both the writer and the artist. Capullo’s visual storytelling has never been more clear than in this issue. He deftly communicates complicated action, subtle story cues, and emotion. For instance, early in “Batman” #21 Capullo is able to communicate the idea that Bruce is wearing a disguise that has begun to come apart with certainty. This is a moment that might have been lost in the hands of an artist who was not completely invested in making sure the audience could translate his artwork. Distilling big ideas into readable images, Capullo becomes the perfect visual ambassador for Snyder’s narrative, making the writing accessible.
The first appearance of Batman in this issue is striking. The Dark Knight is totally and completely, one hundred percent badass, sitting atop a motorcycle wearing cut-off sleeves. Thank you Mr. Capullo. That single image reminds us that this is a fresh look at the hero we have come to expect in this series. Bruce’s youth comes through loud and clear in the back up story written by Snyder and Tynion, IV and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque. In this flashback we learn just how and where Bruce learned how to drive like a maniac and get away with it. Albuquerque’s art is wildly different than the depictions of Bruce that we usually see. Expressive, dark and dynamic, this style pairs with this story like aged Scotch pairs with a hefty cigar. We see Bruce pre-bat in a way that seems intuitively true, and surprisingly novel all at once. In the front of the book, the team is carefully instigating conflicts that will carry this new old Bruce through the forging fires.
The creative team takes on two members of the Rogue Gallery in this issue. Bruce is caught up in a plot to destroy the Red Hood, while Edward Nigma is hatching a plot to destroy Bruce. The villains are antithetical. One is method, while the other is madness. The contrasting pair, though they are not working in tandem, is sure to test Bruce’s limits. He will need his mental prowess to take on the Riddler that Nigma is sure to become. While the Red Hood presents a more literal threat, one of violence and chaos. Red Hood is sure to make Bruce explore a different side of his ability. The stage is set for an thorough examination of the things that make Bruce tick, and just what he is capable.Continued below
The team seems fully aware of the importance that this subject holds for many longtime fans of Batman, as they are approaching in ‘Zero Year.’ Their tone is one of reverence as they step on this hallowed ground. They make a concentrated effort to account for everything we have embraced about the history of Gotham’s favorite son and his alter ego. Look out for the Batmobile, the giant penny kept in the Batcave, the Batcave itself, and those fabulous, fabulous purple gloves as you make your way through this issue. Sure to be a wild ride that makes the old seem new again, ‘Zero Year’ promises to be a memorable and worthwhile read.
Final Verdict: 9.3 – You can almost hear the Bat-canon opening its doors, asking ‘Zero Year’ to come inside.