Batman #21 Zero Year Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
Six Years ago in a submerged and desolate looking Gotham City a boy fishes in the drowned subway. Two masked thugs chase down the boy only to be met with force by a work-in-progress gadget handled by someone who will one day be a key member in a group of heroes that defend Earth from the cosmic threat of Darkseid and his anti-life equation. Jumping back even further we witness the Red Hood Gang playing chicken with a rich playboy recently back from training and rebuilding himself. In these few sequences we are reminded immediately of what we love about this city and why we keep coming back. Almost instantly a young Bruce Wayne is asked the exact question we just answered for ourselves.
Zero Year is the next big event for Batman comics in the New 52 but instead of facing forwards we look back to explore the deeper origins and transformations of Bruce Wayne to the brooding detective he is today. Layers of mystery and foreshadowing however lead me to believe that this will not be any ordinary origin, reboot that we have all read countless times but instead be a far deeper and labyrinthine examination of the troubled orphan and his relationship to the city that birthed him, feeds him and haunts him. This comes as great news to me as someone who was blown away by Court of the Owls, a story that added even more layers into the mythos of the Batman and created some timeless and original villains, then subsequently amazed with the follow up in Death of the Family that directed an even brighter light to some of the enemies of the crime-fighter and even more recently impressed with the 2 and done Clayface arc. Scott Snyder’s New 52 Batman was on a role then honestly I found myself worried by the concept of having all that great flow interrupted by yet another origin, already familiar and superfluous. I am glad to say that this is not the case.
The first issue in Zero Year totally plays to the strengths that made Court of the Owls such a brilliant installment in the tales of Gotham. The city, as a character itself just as confounding and surprising as the people living in it, expands even more in this issue showing enigmas hidden away from view, even to those who feel they have looked everywhere. The city, given life through the relationships linked together inside it like strands of string, gives you the ability to choose who you want to be within it. However, as a young Bruce Wayne will soon find out, the city has different plans for you altogether and will eventually shape you into what it needs. An older Bruce stares down at a suitcase full of identities that he keeps as windows to view the city through before he finds the mask that will eventually define him. This sequence representing the hero’s search for identity in a city that has always been as much his family as the butler who raised him after the tragic murder of his parents, is a really great addition in the Batman’s development.
With several past reviews about Snyder and Capullo’s Batman I feel all the praise I can possibly throw Greg Capullo’s way has been covered and that it will suffice to say that I think Greg Capullo is producing the best work of his career in the pages of Batman for the New 52. 21 issues into the run and this statement only gets more validated.
My only minor complaint I’ll mention is there is a particular addition of a censored sign over a defeated Bruce’s middle finger flipped towards the Red Hood Gang that I found silly and distracting, reminding me of a bad Candid Camera type gag that was more awkward and eye-rolling than cute. Again though, that is a miniscule complaint in a beautifully created comic.
A lot of really clever and interesting new developments in the psyche of Bruce Wayne and a very different take on an origin angle make Zero Year an important series that you will not want to miss.
Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician, podcaster and Wednesday Warrior
Dear Ghost Factory. What Should I Read? Comic Reviews & Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast at www.Geekstampede.com