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    Review: Batman #26

    By | December 12th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    ‘Zero Year’ rages on as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo take us into the depths of the ‘Dark City’ with “Batman” #26 and more words I can put into quotation marks.

    Written by Scott Snyder
    Illustrated by Greg Capullo
    ZERO YEAR continues! With Gotham City thrown into total chaos by The Riddler, Batman and Jim Gordon must learn to work together!

    Let’s not mince words here: ‘Zero Year’ was a huge risk for Snyder and Capullo. They’ve had pretty much hit after hit since taking over “Batman” and were able to redefine the character and his world for a new universe while still keeping one foot firmly in the familiar. However, with ‘Zero Year’ they went back for a substantial arc (it’s been five issue, one of which was super-sized, and we’re not even close to done) to explore not only Bruce becoming Batman, but also his first year in the costume in a way no on else has and with a scope no one else has dared to go near. And yet it shouldn’t be surprising that they are still knocking it out of the park. For a story that could have run the risk of being a bloated and underwhelming retread of old material, Snyder and Capullo have injected a life into ‘Zero Year’ that makes this origin tale stand out from the rest. Here, in “Batman” #26, we find Bruce Wayne facing down with Doctor Death in a Gotham crippled by the Riddler’s blackout with the threat of another looming and Snyder still manages to tease new elements into the story.

    It was a definite shock that Snyder and Capullo decided to introduce Doctor Death to the New 52 universe in this arc, teasing a reveal last issue and giving him centre stage here, but really it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all. Doctor Death was one of the first Batman villains to ever exist so it should feel natural that he is one of the first he faces in ‘Zero Year’ as well. Even if his design is one of the most unnatural, terrifying designs ever to grace comics. Snyder and Capullo have not only reinvigorated a mostly forgotten villain, but made him utterly terrifying. He may only appear in the opening of the issue, but his monstrous presence looms over every page thanks to Capullo’s art and design of the character. Even though there is a lot more going on with this issue than just Doctor Death’s presence, the character is a definite highlight and an example of how this creative team can take elements of the Batman mythos that have been dropped by the wayside and bring them back with a new life.

    While Doctor Death is certainly a commanding presence in the issue, there is still so much more going on. What’s perhaps most surprising is the fact that Snyder is still setting up elements to be paid off later in the arc. Remember those army guys in the jeep in Nigeria from last issue? Well, this issue we see flashes of… actually, I have no idea what it is. A bearded Bruce Wayne, clearly an adult, being suspended in a metal ball high above a cavern while a nameless man in facepain tell him that his father is on the phone. While this is clearly a moment designed to tell the reader oh, don’t worry, this’ll be explained later, it’s slightly worrying that Snyder is still introducing these elements. Between this and the slowly unravelling mystery of what really happened between Bruce Wayne and James Gordon on the night that Bruce’s parents died, it’s a worry that there might simply be too much to reveal when the time comes. I don’t doubt Snyder will pull it off masterfully when the time comes, as he has in the past, I just worry that ‘Zero Year’ might end up biting off more than it can chew.

    What ‘Zero Year’ does do right, though, is create the perfect showcase for Greg Capullo to flex his artistic muscles. Capullo has shown with damn near every issue leading up to this point that he can refine the atmosphere of a present-day Batman story in a way that feels both classic and completely new. With ‘Zero Year’, Capullo has thrown out everything classic feeling for a style that brings a whole new edge to Gotham and Batman. From the truly terrifying design of the new Doctor Death to the younger, rawer Bruce Wayne to a proto-Batsuit that takes elements of the original original design from 1940 while somehow making it feel completely new. It’s amazing the magic Capullo works with this book and is the perfect partner for Snyder in that there should be no way that a book like “Batman” can keep surprising with how good it is, but it does thanks to these two. ‘Zero Year’ has also allowed for a coalescence of the styles of inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Plascencia over Capullo’s pencils to create a tone that, thanks to astounding use of a warm and vibrant color palette, feels definitively Batman and completely new.

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    Overall, “Batman” #26 is a surprising issue because there should be no way this arc and this series are still so good, but they are thanks to the talent involved. Somehow Capullo and Snyder have taken apart the Batman origin, a tale as old as a time and as simple a story as you could hope, and put it back together in a sprawling epic that touches every part of Bruce Wayne’s life and every part of Gotham City. I have no idea how these guys have pulled it off, but they have turned “Batman” into one of the best comics out right now and this issue is no different. Long live ‘Zero Year’.

    Final Verdict: 9.6 – Snyder and Capullo are hitting it out of the park every time with this arc. Buy, buy, buy.

    Alice W. Castle

    Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears her, Alice W. Castle is a trans femme writing about comics. All things considered, it’s going surprisingly well. Ask her about the unproduced Superman films of 1990 - 2006. She can be found on various corners of the internet, but most frequently on Twitter: @alicewcastle