‘Zero Year’ moves on to it’s second storyline, and much to my surprise it’s not all about The Riddler, instead, Snyder is introducing a different villain, Doctor Death. This makes sense, as, if I’m remembering my Bat-History correctly, Doctor Death was actually the first supervillain Batman ever fought, back in Detective Comics #29 (the third Batman story ever). It’s cool to see Snyder go right back to the start in this new origin, and it’s always cool to see one of the more minor Batman villains, rather than the same ol’, same ol’.
The story here begins and ends with strange scenes set in Nigeria, with a bunch of soldiers opening up a strange hatch, which explodes and kills them. It’s not clear whether this is related to Doctor Death or anything really, so it was confusing, but once the story moves back to Gotham, things get more interesting. Batman is being chased by the GCPD, who have got him caught in a tunnel. It’s here that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo into the new, first ever Batmobile, which, given I know next to nothing about cars, I can’t really describe, but it looks awesome to me.
The Cops think they’ve got Batman surrounded, but he’s able to push a button and have the Batmobile jump out of harm’s way. It turns out the reason the Police were after Batman was because he was seen at the scene of a murder, and they think he did it. Obviously he didn’t, because these are hideously warped skeletons, and the work of Doctor Death. Lieutenant Gordon is there and the crime scene with (a surprisingly non-dishevelled looking) Harvey Bullock, and he knows that Batman had nothing to do with this, and that the Police are wasting their time, that during this blackout, and with a Storm coming, they should be helping the people, not hunting the Batman, who is actually doing the helping. After this, we see Pamela Isley, before she became Poison Ivy, who, apart from caring more about the plants at the scene, but also points them in the direction of a ‘skeletal’ figure.
Meanwhile, in the Batcave, Bruce Wayne has figured out that the two warped skeletons are Wayne Enterprises employees, and that all the evidence points to a former employee, Dr. Karl Helfern, whose nickname was, duh Doctor Death. Alfred tells Bruce to leave this to the Cops, but he says nah, they are all corrupt assholes (or words to that effect), unfortunately, just in earshot of Jim Gordon, who is standing at the mouth of the Batcave. This conversation between Bruce and Gordon was the best scene in the issue, especially because of the hints about their being a new wrinkle in the death of Bruce’s parents involving Gordon, and also how Gordon came this close to seeing the Batcave. The fact that Gordon really should, and probably does, know who Batman is, is one of my favourite little bits in the lore, so I liked how Snyder played with it. In order to track down Helfern, Bruce goes to see Lucius Fox, who is now working at Gotham University. At first it seemed like Fox was going to help Bruce out, but then… he stabs him in the neck with a syringe and reveals he’s working with Doctor Death! What the fuck? This was a great scene, especially as it went against everything we know about Lucius Fox and in doing so, was genuinely surprising, which is hard to do in a retold origin story. So much of what’s happened in Zero Year so far has just been a retread, but this was new and exciting. Now, I’m guessing that Fox is being coerced and mind-controlled in some way, but still, it was a great ending.
The back-up story in this issue focuses on what a Harper Row was doing during Zero Year, which was arguing with her dad and comforting her younger brother. Am I the only person who kind of hates her brother? He’s the wimpiest wimp in the whole world! In the present day scenes he has an excuse, because he’s being gay-bashed, but here… he’s just such a one-dimensional crybaby! I suppose it’s to show how strong Harper is, but he’s such a wimp it’s ridiculous, next issue they’ll reveal he has avian bone syndrome or something. I did like the art from Andy Clarke however, and it was cool to get a little glimpse of the various tie-ins going on in other books.
This was a strong issue of Batman, and a positive step in the right direction for Zero Year, which after a shaky start is coming into it’s own and telling a new story. Greg Capullo’s artwork was excellent as always, I love the Batmobile, and I continue to be very surprised and impressed by FCO Plascencia’s colour choices. And hey, if that’s not all, it has a bad-ass embossed all-black cover! Buy 10 copies and become a billionaire!