Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done something I didn’t think possible at this point: they’ve managed to craft yet another compelling take on Batman’s origins. Batman is a character who’s become so famous and has permeated so many different entertainment mediums, that the idea that his origin could be revisited, much less made unique again, is a testament to the foundation Snyder and Capullo have laid since they relaunched the main Batman title with a new no. 1 in 2011. The latest issue, no. 24, is their crowning achievement. This time, the creative team is introducing us to their version of Batman’s first adventure.
In the context of this run, what has stood out to me about the way Snyder writes his version of Bruce Wayne and Batman is how brash he’s made the character. In his previous arcs, “The Court of Owls” and the Joker-centric “Death Of The Family”, Batman had an attitude. When viewed alongside years of stories that had come before, this new-found attitude seemed a bit out of place. It wasn’t really out of character, but Batman simply sounded different. Now obviously that could just be artistic license, but with Snyder finally able to tell his own version of Batman’s beginnings, it all comes together wonderfully.
At the beginning of “Zero Year”, we see Bruce operating as a vigilante without the Batman costume, essentially playing Gotham’s version of James Bond. He’s trying to stem the terrorist efforts of the Red Hood Gang, a collection of anonymous Gothamites hellbent on reducing the city to a swell of fear with no direction or hope. The problem is that Bruce is just one very well-trained vigilante up against an army. Issue 24 happens after he realizes that to fight an army, he has to become an ideal. The infamous bat crashing through the window happens in issue 23, which allows issue 24 all of its fifty-four pages to highlight what Snyder’s Batman was like at his inception.
From the opening scene, Bruce is already different than what most fans are accustomed to. Pictured above, Bruce is seen sporting a shaved head in the bowels of what will eventually become the Batcave. By the time he makes his debut taking down a Red Hood heist, we finally get to see what Greg Capullo’s take on the first Batsuit is. It’s reverential towards everything that’s come before, including 1939’s purple gloves, while still being it’s own thing. The splash page where Batman announces himself to the reader is amazing. This scene echoes a famous cover from the character’s early years, while also highlighting the widescreen perspective Capullo has imbued this book with from the first issue. From that opening sequence, Snyder catapults Bruce and Batman through the city, with both establishing themselves as essential parts of Gotham going forward. Bruce comes back into the limelight after being gone for roughly ten years, while Batman has his first major encounter with the leader of the Red Hood Gang (which, if you can pick up on the neon signs that count as hints dropped throughout these opening issues of “Zero Year”, is nowhere near the last) at a familiar chemical plant. This sequence serves to elaborate on the way that Batman, and to an extension Snyder himself, views the mythic nature of Gotham. We get to see Batman operate as a whirlwind of unproven vigor, and how that changes the impact Bruce can have on the city. For the city of Gotham, there’s finally a reason to hope again.
Also, without Capullo drawing this book, I don’t think it would have anywhere near the same impact. His art style draws heavily on Batman: The Animated Series in terms of how he uses shadows and body language to differentiate characters, but the linework is much more detailed than the designs on that show. This extremely detailed style gives the illusion of reality. Capullo’s Gotham borrows bits from all of the iconic depictions throughout Batman’s film history, with the A.C.E chemical plant coming straight out of Burton’s 1989 film, and the skyscrapers looking like something Chris Nolan shot with an IMAX lens. Batman has the sleekness from the animated series, while still getting to play high-tech like in the Nolan movies, so it’s the best of both worlds, and Capullo does so many cool things with this design that I wouldn’t mind if it was brought into the present-day after this origin story wraps.
There are so many great beats in this issue that it’s the first comic in a while that I’ve read multiple times less than a week after it’s come out. If you haven’t been reading “Zero Year”, you could theoretically jump on board right now, but it’s so much better if you’ve been reading Snyder and Capullo’s run from the start. This issue is so impactful that it retroactively makes the rest of the run better, because now we know where Snyder and Capullo’s Batman started from.