Mr H And Alex Discuss: Batman: Zero Year

Batman_Secret_City_TPBWhat started as Mr H and Alex talking about their Batman #49 minireviews quickly evolved into a full blown discussion about Scott Snyder‘s entire run on Batman from the outset of the New 52 all the way through to the fiftieth issue. Originally conceived as a single post, they quickly realized something: Mr H and Alex have a lot to say about this run, so they’ll be tackling it an arc at a time.
Well it’s the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel, so Mr. H and Alex are back at it again. This time they’re talking about the apparently almost divisive Zero Year, and things aren’t quite as agreeable between the two, this time…

Zero Year is a three part arc that ran from issue #21 to #33 (although it skipped #28), and takes place within the first few months of Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl.

There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read this story yet and you want to avoid spoilers, we’d advise you stop here.

Well it’s the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel, so Mr. H and Alex are back at it again. This time they’re talking about the apparently divisive Zero Year, and things aren’t quite as agreeable between the two, this time…

Zero Year is a three part arc that ran from issue #21 to #33 (although it skipped #28), and takes place within the first few months of Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl.

Alex: Before we start, I want to say that while I wasn’t a huge fan of this arc, I still feel it’s one of the better Batman stories of the last five years. It just isn’t as good as Scott Snyder‘s other story arcs (which I think says more about their quality than Zero Year‘s lack of quality), but you really enjoyed this arc, eh, Mr. H?

Mr. H: As a matter of fact I did Alex. See it’s a very hard thing to do a retelling of a superhero origin, let alone a Batman one. It’s doubly hard because we all have our version of the definitive take on the tale of Bruce Wayne. Many people prefer the Year One take by Frank Miller which is a recognized classic. Some love the Chris Nolan epic Batman Begins. Others even like the epic 1989 film by Tim Burton and even the Batman Animated Series masterful take on it in Mask of the Phantasm. As time changes so do our heroes and the visages. Is it necessary to trudge through the existing canon and rewrite it? No, but if done right you can add to it.

That’s what Snyder did here.

It wasn’t a couple splash pages and boom! he’s in the Batsuit as Batman. No this took a slow careful approach to get him there. I like how we got much more on the background of Bruce Wayne than usual. When written right he’s one of the most complex characters in comics. Heck I’d by a Bruce Wayne title, if Snyder was writing it. We see that Bruce is hurt and wants to avenge his parents. He wants nothing to do with their billions. It’s a means to an end with him. What I also appreciate is that Snyder knows with yin comes yang. So with Batman comes Joker. We see he’s there right from the very beginning. Of course there is no huge mystery that Bruce becomes Batman, but seeing how he gets there is great. He lays out the groundwork for an epic journey, and that’s just what we get.

Alex: I actually agree with you regarding the origin story; it was perhaps the longest retelling of the story that I’m aware of, and I did enjoy it for the most part, especially the interplay between Bruce and the Red Hood Gang. The main reason this arc doesn’t rate as highly for me as the others we have been (and will be) talking about is the Savage City part of the arc. I just… it wasn’t really up my (crime) alley.

That being said, I also haven’t really read it much… so maybe I need a nudge to go back. What say you, Mr. H? Up for convincing me, and others who may not be as interested in Zero Year why we need to go back and re-read it?

Mr. H: You make a very fair point Alex. I would say to anyone who is interested in a very deep rooted character analysis of Bruce Wayne wants to read this arc. Many people know the general story, but all the added nuances by Snyder are so enjoyable. We get to see step by step Bruce‘s thoughts on not only the necessity of his mission, but the probability of its success. Snyder paints him as much more than a scared little boy who had an epiphany out of grief. He makes Bruce Wayne a testament to the human spirit. The added bonus is how he ties in Joker’s journey through the Red Hood Gang. This Joker is truly worthy of being the Batman‘s future greatest foe. Even in his early guise of Red Hood One, we get the connection from the begining. If you are interested in the “how” behind the “why”, this one is for you.

Alex: Everything that you just said is very true. By expanding upon Batman‘s first year, Snyder really brings the reader into the world of Bruce Wayne; he also establishes that for a brief time, Bruce tried to be the symbol of hope that Batman could never be. He tried to be Gotham’s Superman, but Gotham is a far different city than Metropolis, and Bruce is a different man than Clark Kent. Snyder‘s Bruce is, like you said, a testament to the human spirit; no matter what obstacles are thrown in his path, he will find away to save the city. If he can’t do it as Bruce, then he’ll become the man – or symbol – that Gotham needs. And he’ll fight a lion.
batman lion.jpg
Mr. H: Haha yes so well put! The lion of course, such an unforgettable scene. Another reason I love this story is we get an actual formidable version of the Riddler. This is a foe who truly matches wits with our Dark Knight. The riddles are difficult and puts Batman in a sense of danger. Was it a perfect story? No. The slump in the middle and the issue #28 really derails momentum but overall it gives you an incredible journey from Bruce to Batman and some how it feels fresh along the way.

Alex: One of my favourite aspects of the lion fight (and even more so now that I’ve been thinking on it) is that it hearkens back to the Adam West era of the Caped Crusader, and before in the comics. Can you honestly tell me that this wouldn’t have happened back during the comics in the fifties and sixties? Not only is Snyder telling a completely incredible tale from Bruce to Batman, he’s also bringing in – not elements, exactly, but that’s the best word I have right now – of the older comics. He’s paying homage to the old stuff without going overboard.

Mr. H: Holy potent point Alex!! I am a shameful supporter of the 60s Batman tv show, so I enjoy those little nods too. I think Snyder did a great job of making a timeless Batman origin tale that will stand for a longtime to come. Another thing I loved was the rise of Jim Gordon. He is so important to the Batman Universe, and such a rich character. Having him at odds with Bruce right from the get go was great. They eventually evolved into allies. I also appreciated the introduction of Duke Thomas, who is a future Robin. Greg Capullo‘s art was the best in this arc I felt. Now the story, was it perfect? No. All the Dr. Death hogwash in the middle really dragged it down. In the end they rebounded with a strong introduction to the Riddler who is a top tier Bat-Foe again. Not to mention bringing back Julie Madison who is a such a classic and great love interest for Bruce. Snyder gets Bruce‘s mission like no other writer. He’s not just a man obsessed with no emotions. He’s a man who makes the ultimate sacrifice whenever is necessary. We’d all have a much better world if Bruce Wayne really existed in it.

That’s it for this week folks. Next week Mr. H and Alex will be talking about Endgame so tune in next week at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!