Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Batman 25, originally released November 13th, 2013
Mikyzptlk: From the moment that Zero Year was first announced, it has been shrouded in mystery. What exactly was the “Zero Year” and how would it change the origin of Batman that we’ve been familiar with for so long? We are now five issues into the story, and while some of the mysteries are becoming clear, there seems to be tons of new ones cropping up left and right. Issue 25 of Batman is no exception. At the same time, we are introduced to a brand new/really old Batman villain that may just be revealing more about our hero than he is about himself at this point.
Since the city’s power was knocked out by the Riddler, Batman has been helping those he can, providing them with food and flashlights. Meanwhile, the city’s power grid is being repaired, and Batman has developed a machine that will stop Riddler from taking it out again, should he decide to do so. Batman has also been investigating a slew of bizarre murders, where the victims have been injected with a mysterious substance that has their bones growing out of control. The GCPD think this is Batman’s doing, because reasons, and are on the hunt for the Dark Knight. Batman discovers that Wayne Enterprises is the actual source of the substance, and visits his old friend Lucius Fox, who is currently employed by Gotham University. Before they get too far along in their conversation, Lucius knocks Bruce out with some kind of injection, as the true culprit of the bone-growth substance reveals himself.
Mr. GQ up there goes by the name of Dr. Death. He once worked for Wayne Enterprises developing a serum that would help bones increase their density should they face trauma. It seems like it’s working perfectly! Well, anyway, Dr. Death is only one of the new mysteries introduced in this issue. We know he is most likely an ex-Wayne employee, and we learn why he might be attacking people. Of course, I’m sure there is another layer to this villain, as he seems to have some kind of relationship with long time Bruce Wayne and Batman ally, Lucius Fox. Lucius does something definitively out of character, which might add another potential twist to who Dr. Death really is.
Scott Snyder recreates one of Batman’s oldest foes in an interesting way. From his earliest appearance, Dr. Death has been characterized as a mad scientist who uses deadly chemicals to do his dastardly thing. This time though, Snyder has Dr. Death using a chemical that causes bones to grow out of control until it rips his victims apart from the inside out. I wonder if this is meant to be a metaphor for Gotham City and even Batman himself.
Gotham’s costumed villains are starting to crop up more and more, causing increased mayhem and death along the way. Not only are these villains fellow Gothamites attacking their own, but their schemes, especially the Riddler’s power-outage, is causing other people in Gotham to turn on one another. In essence, the city is being ripped apart from the inside out. Alfred may also be showing signs that he thinks that “Batman” may be starting to tear Bruce apart from the inside out as well.
When I picked up this issue, I was sure I was going to be seeing the next chapter of “Batman vs. Riddler.” However, Snyder surprised me here with the reintroduction and focus on a relatively obscure Batman villain. Of course, if my analysis is correct, Snyder is using Dr. Death in a way that all of the best villains are used, in that he is being used to say something about our hero.
Not only that, but Dr. Death’s grisly attacks and gruesome visage produce pitch-perfect entertainment for a Batman comic, even if I didn’t get what I was expecting. That said, it’s not like we didn’t get any developments on the Riddler front. In fact, Snyder does a pretty incredible job of advancing a lot of different story beats. One of my favorite beats involves the relationship between Lieutenant Gordon and Bruce Wayne.
On the one hand, Gordon seems to be getting used to the idea of having Batman around, as he knows that the Caped Crusader has been helping the citizens of Gotham. On the other hand, Bruce Wayne seems to have some serious issues with James Gordon.
This is quite possibly the most tantalizing mystery offered in this issue. Just what the hell did Gordon have to do with the Wayne’s deaths? This provides us with an interesting and novel chapter into the lives of these characters, and it’s an interesting reverse to what we’ve normally seen with them. Normally, Bruce and James have more of a neutral or professionally pleasant relationship, while Batman and Gordon always seem to get off on the wrong foot initially (as cops and vigilantes are wont to do). Speaking of tantalizing mysteries, there is another one presented in this issue that is somehow connected to Zero Year as well.
“Tokyo Moon” was also scrawled on one of Edward Nygma’s many post-it notes, seen back in issue 21. Unfortunately, that’s really the only thing I know about this, other than the fact that whatever it is appears to be is located in a hole in the ground in the desert. Shelby, can you make anything else out of this or any of the other mysteries explored in this issue? Also, do you have anything to say about the back-up? I enjoyed seeing Harper Row again, did you?
Shelby: Yes and no. I do like Harper and the role she’s come to play in Batman’s life, but the backup just seemed a little redundant. It’s a story I already knew, and I don’t know for sure if there was any benefit to actually reading it instead of just inferring it.
This alternate history of Gotham Snyder is crafting intrigues me. Remember, this story takes place six years before Death of the Family, Night of the Owls, all that jazz. We all know the canon of Bruce’s early times under the cowl. And yet, here we find ourselves prepping for a broken and mostly underwater city, a betrayal by Lucius Fox, secret-keeping from Jim Gordon. I think Bruce’s exchange with Gordon is my favorite part of the issue.
A lot of what I like here has to do with Greg Capullo’s pencils and Danny Miki’s inks. All of the Batman stuff in this issue is almost candy-colored: lots of purple skies and orange highlights. All the Dr. Death stuff has a sickly, greenish cast to it. This scene is jarringly drab in comparison; everything has a gray wash to it. In stripping away the more garish color scheme, we’ve gotten to the heart of the issue. No more costumed vigilantes in fucking sweet hot rods, no more horrifyingly mutilated murder victims, this story is the story of these men: the men they were and the men they become. Gordon, as a brash young man, made a mistake and was forced to keep a secret. Bruce is currently a brash young man, also forced to keep a secret. All the neat stuff happening with the Riddler, Dr. Death, Lucius, is window dressing; the real story is about Bruce becoming Batman, and I think Jim Gordon is going to play a bigger role in that transformation than I previously thought.
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