Zero Year Event: Batman 21
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV, Rafael Albuquerque
Zero Year Crossover
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
The next big Batman event by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo has just begun and aside from one major gripe right off the bat (please excuse that terrible pun) it’s a pretty fantastic start to what is hopefully going to be another installment in the already epic origin story of comicdom’s greatest hero. And let me just say, that complaint? It’s pretty minor. As a longtime reader of the Batman and his family, I love long-term setup as much as the next fanboy, but I feel that Snyder’s run is different from a lot of the other comics (especially superhero books) on the stands nowadays for one major reason. You don’t have to know anything about the characters to enjoy it. Sure, he’s done his research, and yes, he’s got all sorts of little gems and Easter eggs in there for the super-fans, but the success of this book since its re-launch with the rest of DC’s New 52 line is that at its very core, it’s a story that is new, fresh, and not confusing for someone who was so bogged down with continuity, alternate realities, secret identities, retcons, and, yes, that ever-changing price tag. So I guess that’s just a really long-winded way of saying that even though I personally liked the fact that this issue, which is part one of the story, doesn’t really tell a linear story and is actually, in essence, part two of the story, is going to probably alienate a lot of potential readers. That’s right. The “zero” issue a while back is actually the beginning of this story. So before you do anything, including read this review, you really need to go back and read that issue.
But for those of you who have already done so, you’ll like this issue. We start off with a young Batman saving a kid from some thugs and being told that “He” thinks Batman is dead. Then we get into the Red Hood Gang and their mysterious leader who Batman (not yet in costume) outsmarts, outwits, and foils. There is a scene that features young Bruce flipping the bird to the villain, which was, if I’m completely honest, a little jarring. It actually ruined the scene for me. But the characterization between Alfred and Bruce (and the fact that their base of operations is an abandoned building next to Crime Alley, which is equal amounts morbid as it is metaphoric) is as solid as it’s ever been. The best scene in the comic is a little dialogue sequence that addresses something that’s bugged me for years. Alfred always refers to his employer as “Master Bruce,” which is wrong. The first line of thinking is that Alfred is being respectful, albeit incorrect, and Bruce Wayne is his employer. This fits the “classic” origin that Alfred is well-meaning and loyal, but not very bright. But the second line of thinking is that he will always see Bruce as a child, furthering the exploration of Alfred as a father figure in Snyder’s run. And speaking of father figures, we’re treated to the introduction of Bruce’s Uncle Phillip, who is working alongside Edward Nygma, the man who is destined to become the Riddler. The backup story has some great art by American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque and a writing assist by Snyder’s protégé, James Tynion IV. It’s essentially just another story about Bruce before he was Batman, stopping an international criminal. I look forward to seeing more backups like this. Especially if they are all self-contained mini-tales.
So my gripe (actually, gripes) aside, this issue has some great dialogue and the art is just an added bonus. Intelligent portrayals of characters from the 1930s that come off as fresh and new, inclusion of little nuggets of lore into modern-day stories (such as where that giant penny came from and a little more background in terms of the Kane-Wayne family tree), and enough mystery of how things will turn out and who will become who keep this a fast-paced, albeit somewhat confusing read. Perhaps my complaints are a little over-critical, but that is only because this has been (and will hopefully become again) a perfect book throughout its almost two-year run. I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment of the origin story that I never thought I’d actually get to read. Next month cannot come soon enough.
My Rating: 4/5