Scott Snyder‘s update of the Caped Crusader’s origin continues in Batman #23, the third chapter of Zero Year. Last issue ended with the Red Hood blowing up Wayne Tower (which seems to happen a lot). This month we pick up seconds later, with Bruce, having survived the explosion, about to take a beating. Here’s the official description from DC:
Witness the moment Bruce Wayne becomes Batman as “Zero Year” makes history! And in the backup story, a young Bruce Wayne fights for his life in a death match in Russia!
I have to say I’m ever so slightly disappointed with this issue. The Joker (can we just assume it’s the Joker for now?) monologues endlessly about the futility of life. It’s a lot of exposition, but while it makes sense that Bruce would need to have it explained, from a storytelling perspective it might have been better to let these ideas go largely undefined. There are several pages devoted to an injured Bruce’s return to Wayne Manor, which is a significant plot point, but runs long here. Snyder also delivers his version of the iconic bat-through-the-window scene. Aside from the addition of some technological and thematic window dressing, the actual event is virtually unchanged. Honestly, given all the energy being devoted to Zero Year, I’d prefer to have something all-new. That said, while Snyder’s changes to the scene don’t do that much for the plot, they do offer Greg Capullo the chance to create some awesome imagery.
The best scene of the issue really comes when Snyder takes a break from Bruce to check back in with his Uncle Philip and the young Edward Nigma. Snyder’s update of the Riddler is the most interesting take we’ve seen on the character in years, perhaps decades, and watching Eddie’s ego trend upward is Zero Year’s most interesting subplot.
There are some brilliantly framed shots in the issue, but some pages offer Greg Capullo very little to work with. He does get to draw the most cringe-inducing batch of injuries we’ve ever seen Bruce endure, as well as a distorted vision of the Red Hood gang from injured Bruce’s POV that should have been used more often. As I said before, the last scene is brilliant from an artistic standpoint, allowing Capullo to visually combine two locations to grand effect.
Snyder is assisted on the backup story by regular collaborator James Tynion IV, with pencils by his partner on American Vampire, Rafael Albuquerque. It’s another flashback to Bruce’s training, this time in Norway. While the scene is overly extreme —Bruce has been fighting for 28 hours straight— it neatly expresses an idea we’ve seen before: that Bruce can avoid killing if he can just keep fighting until no one is willing to face him.
Despite my criticism and my belief that Batman #23 isn’t up to the standard of Snyder’s previous issues, I readily encourage everyone to pick it up. It’s still one of the best books on the shelves today. It’s a shame we have to wait two whole months for the next chapter.
Zac would be OK with this review getting a bit of backlash, because it shows that you care. Here’s his twitter.
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