Batman 29

batman 29Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Batman 29, originally released March 12th, 2014.

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.

helpBefore 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:

giant leapI literally exclaimed out loud when I saw this page, what about you?

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.

Death, M.D.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.

RowsLike 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?

10 comments on “Batman 29

  1. I agree with you guys on pretty much everything here, particularly that these issues enhance Snyder’s earlier ones. For instance, I enjoyed The Court of Owls, but not as much as some did. I thought it was a strange first story to tackle with Bruce, attacking his love of Gotham without really getting into why Gotham and the feeling of knowing it is so important to him. This story has really gotten deeply into the things that were more evident in passing in previous story arcs, which is really fun to see.

    • Agreed. I think it makes this story even stronger to have already seen Snyder’s take on Batman in action, and to now come back and explore what it is that made him that way, that sets him apart from the other Batmans that have come before.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about how Dr. Death fits in with this story, and I think his relationship demonstrates why it was such a smart choice. That he’s an intimidating mass of bones reflects this story’s own relationship with the skeleton of the Batman origin. You can see the grotesque growths (which grow every time a bone breaks) as a self-deprecating statement on this new version, but it also reflects how the 75-year history of Batman has twisted and deformed what is really a simple origin. Snyder has been slipping sly commentaries on Batman’s complicated history throughout Zero Year, but I don’t think I fully appreciated how exactly Dr. Destiny reflects that history.

    Hey, anybody else love the idea that Bruce co-opts the imagery of the Tokyo Moon by creating the Bat Signal? Like, even when he’s fighting for his life (and the life of Gotham), he can appreciate the poetry of that image, and the power of a shared symbol in the sky might have for people living in fear. My guess is that uniting symbol is going to be particularly important in restoring hope in the post-apocalyptic Gotham we’ve seen is coming.

  3. Scott, that’s a remarkable observation about the vibrancy of colors on Riddler’s outfit. He really is the only one not completely destroyed by the blackout and that’s such a quick, easy, subconscious way to express that.

  4. Film Crit Hulk is my favorite film critic (RIP Roger), even though I frequently disagree with him. Perhaps the most significant bit of disagreement comes from his take on Batman. He’s totally down with the indulgent badassery that tends to come hand in hand with Batman, but is unhappy with the frequent moralization and justification of that badassery. He thinks that Batman is fundamentally a juvenile power fantasy, a rich kid who is coping with his psychological issues by playing badass by night.

    Zero Year – and this issue in particular – are a pretty scathing admission of that.

    So much of what Snyder has done here in Zero Year is place Bruce’s childhood/teenage/young adult decisions against their indirect consequences in the present, when he has begun his indulgent Bat crusade. He’s taken this rough, petulant Bruce and, through his actions as Batman, has given him a lot of the growing up that he missed out on in the wake of his parents’ death. I’ve never more keenly aware of the psychological growth that Bruce is making as a result of being Batman.

    Zero Year presents Batman not as much as a crusade for justice – though there’s certainly that element of it – but as a crusade for mental peace, growth, reconciliation, and recompense for his past mistakes. He has completely reframed Batman’s origin story not as a fight against crime and a fight for a better Gotham – but as a fight for personal closure and betterment.

    This is about as close to a reinvention of the character as we’ve gotten since Denny O’Neill course-corrected the campiness and paved the way for Miller. For me at the very least, Snyder and Batman are quickly becoming synonymous.

    Hot DAMN, Scott Snyder. Hot damn.

    • I think Batman is both those things. In channeling his negative tendencies and hangups into his desire to protect the people of Gotham, he grows and learns to have responsibility.

      • I like that reading a lot — it starts out as totally reckless and destructive, but then becomes an essential part of keeping Gotham alive, forcing Bruce to get better, more responsible, and healthier. It’s kind of a have your cake and eat it too solution, but I think it addresses both how someone could come to dress up like a bat AND how they could turn that insane choice into the Batman mythos we all love so much.

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