Shelby: It can be really hard to admit you’ve been wrong. Especially when you’ve gone out of your way to show everyone how right you are. The only thing to do is own up to your mistake and try to fix it. It’s a painful admission to make, and the bigger the consequences of your mistake, the more painful it is. In his own take on the iconic Batman origin story, Scott Snyder has given us a Bruce Wayne who is young, brash, and very confident. Whether through an inflated sense of self or the independence forced upon him at the death of his parents (probably a bit of both), this Bruce is even more reluctant to accept help from others than we’ve seen before. Finally, as the latest arc of Zero Year wraps up, the pieces begin to fall into place, and Bruce finds himself with some mistakes to own up to and a very hard lesson to learn. Problem is, it looks like it might be too late.
Things are unraveling for Bruce; he’s figured out Nygma’s whole scheme, now he just has to stop it. He calls Gordon and tells him to do whatever it takes to stop the rest of the force from turning on the power. You see, Nygma has rigged a remote hacking hub to a signal-booster and a weather balloon; once the power goes back on, Nygma will have complete control over…basically everything in Gotham. Gordon tries to stop Nygma, but the rest of the cops are dicks and ignore him, and Nygma himself tries to crush him with a giant boulder. Meanwhile, Bruce launches his own attack on the weather balloon, where Dr. Death is waiting for him. We finally hear the story of Tokyo Moon; it was a song the good doctor’s grandfather heard and grew attached to. He liked the idea of the moon shining in the sky, reminding us that our loved one’s are watching over us, so he and all the men after him wrote “TOKYO MOON” in their helmets when they went to war, just for that little reminder. It didn’t work so well for Death’s son, however; he was killed on what was supposed to be an easy mission to rescue one Bruce Wayne. That’s right, Dr. Death’s rampage at the manipulative hand of Edward Nygma happened all because Bruce didn’t answer a phone call. Batman tries to blow up the weather balloon, but he’s too late; the police turn the power on, Nygma takes control and blows Gotham’s retaining walls, unleashing havoc on the city.
The most heartbreaking part of Bruce’s revelation? The whole issue is framed by a flashback to his childhood, when his parents had to pick him up at the police station for skipping school to see Zorro. Bruce’s insistence that the movie was corny leads Thomas and Martha to take him to see it again, and we all know how that ended up working out.
Before I say a single word more, I have to commend Greg Capullo, inker Danny Miki, and colorist FCO Plascencia. Every issue of this book somehow visually tops the one previous. There are a number of breathtaking panels in this book, but this page here is so raw, so painful, and so beautiful that I both can’t stop looking and desperately want to look away. The lead up to the page is incredible as well: panels of police blimps falling from the sky and the streets of Gotham filling with water interspersed with monochrome panels of that night in the alley. It’s a brilliant way to highlight how, in a lot of ways, Bruce is still that scared boy who’s made a big mistake, and doesn’t know what to do about it.
I LOVE the way Snyder has spun this off the origin story we all know. This wasn’t Bruce getting scared and wanting to leave the movie; this was Bruce thinking he knew everything and could make it all work. The same Bruce who stubbornly refused to take that call from Uncle Philip all those years later, with consequences just as tragic, but on a much, MUCH bigger scale. Snyder doesn’t hold back on any of the tragedy in this story, whether it be big moments like the city being lost to Nygma or small moments like the exchange between Bruce and his dad in the flashback. I’m going to quote this directly, so I don’t mess it up:
You were alone down there in the dark. No one to help you. But we’re always here for you, Bruce. Just let us in and we’ll all help each other, okay?
Honestly, it’s no wonder Bruce wants to fight this fight on his own, in his own way. The last time someone told him they would be there for him, they were taken away, and when he called for help, no one was there for him. That is heartbreaking. I have been impressed by the work Snyder has done on this title since the New 52 launched, but the work he’s done with this origin story, a story I know better than my own origin story, is beyond impressive. This arc has retroactively changed how I think about this character; if I were to go back and re-read earlier issues of Batman, this version of his origin would change how I viewed those issues, and I think that is amazing.
Speaking of amazing, I just have to sing Capullo and the rest of the art team’s praises once more. Scott, I’m going to leave you with this, the splash page of Bruce desperately leaping from his blimp to the weather balloon:
Scott: That image sure is…wait for it…shocking! (Sorry, I had to.) Seriously though, as bummed as I was that I had to wait an extra month for this issue, it was entirely worth the wait. The art is astounding. This is the Gotham-est and doomiest of all Gotham doomsday scenarios. This is as crazy as it gets. Batman leaping from a blimp to a weather balloon in the middle of a lightning storm? That’s the kind of thing that could only exist in a comic book. Live-action could never do it justice.
This issue really showcases the art team’s strengths. I know Shelby already showed off two splash pages, but there are a bunch of them in this issue, so let’s take a look at another.
Dr. Death isn’t my favorite villain (I’m not big on lecturing-monsters), but he looks phenomenal here. Just when I thought Batman had things under control, he climbs onto the weather ballon and is greeted by this son of a bitch! This was probably my biggest gasp of the issue. I don’t know if it’s his gnarled teeth, his gleaming yellow eyes that break up the otherwise monochrome page, or just the way he’s towering over an essentially defenseless Batman, but something about this page sent a chill down my spine.
I’d endorse Capullo as MVP of the issue, but Plascencia isn’t far behind. A blacked-out Gotham in the middle of a storm doesn’t exactly scream “exciting color opportunities”, but Plascencia consistently finds ways to contribute to the visuals with his colors. The pink skies add a nightmarish quality to the storm. Nygma’s bright green and purple wardrobe pop out amongst the dreary surroundings, singling him out as the one person whose morale isn’t being washed away in the flood. And the smokey, old-film look of the flashbacks is spot on; I especially like how the color gradually fades out of the flashback panels leading up the final page (which Shelby posted above).
By the way, did I spot Harper and Cullen Row in this issue. I can’t be sure, but the kids Gordon ushers onto a bus early in the issue sure look familiar.
Like I already said, this issue was more than worth the wait. Snyder is telling a truly remarkable story. It’s one thing to invent a new chapter to a story, but it’s far more impressive to work with the confines of a story that already exists and at once elaborate upon and enrich the story’s foundation. That’s exactly what Snyder’s doing with Zero Year. Shelby said this story will change the way she thinks about Batman, and I completely agree. Snyder is exploring the origin of the character more extensively than I’ve ever seen before. It’s been a joy to behold. In a spectacular string of issues, this might be the best one yet.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?