After last month’s journey into the future, Zero Year returns for another over-sized issue that sees the story reach a pretty major turning point, as well as resolving some of the weird, out-there scenes we’ve seen over the last few months. I still think that this origin recap has gone on for way too long, but it’s always been enjoyable to read, and this was no exception.
Scott Snyder begins with a flashback to young Bruce Wayne and his parents at the Police Station, where he is at first chastised for playing truant, but we soon see that the Waynes are pretty forgiving parents. In fact, his dad’s biggest problem is that Bruce said he thought ‘The Mark Of Zorro’ was a bit lame, so they decide to go and see it again later that night, as a family. Which is, as we all know, turns out to not be the best idea.
In the present (or rather 5 years ago) Batman bursts out of the pile of bones Dr Death tried to bury him in, and gets back to work. He calls up Jim Gordon to tell him to make sure that the Gotham Electrical Grid is not turned back on, because The Riddler has rigged it so that, once back on, it would be under his control. Whilst Gordon rushes off to do this, Batman makes his way towards Riddler’s Weather Balloon, which is key to his plan to take control of the power in the City. Batman does this in an awesome ‘Bat-Blimp’, which is not only a great visual, but a cool precursor to the eventual Bat-Plane, as an early-days Batman shouldn’t have tech like that yet. It even elicits a ‘Goddamn Batman’ from a random Cop. With this origin retelling, Snyder is pulling on all sorts of various bits of the Batman mythos, and whilst I certainly didn’t expect or really want some of Frank Miller’s insane All-Star run to be referenced, it was still awesome. There’s another, this time more deserving Frank Miller reference a few pages later when Batman leaps from the Bat-Blimp onto the Riddler’s Balloon, as Capullo draws a silhouette of Batman in front of a lightning bolt, a la The Dark Knight Returns.
Once Batman lands on the Riddler-Balloon, he is immediately confronted by Dr. Death, and they of course, get into a fight. I must admit that these fight scenes are probably my least favourite thing about this issue, and the whole Zero Year so far. Death is just so over-the-top and loquacious in his rants, that it all felt a bit ridiculous. That said, the turning point in the fight, when Batman says that it’s now ‘the part where he hurts him’ was pretty fucking bad-ass, and the actual contents of those long-ass speeches did provide some useful answers about some of the seemingly out-of-place scenes Snyder has used recently. The WW2 Soldier who was in Japan listening to a woman sing ‘Tokyo Moon’ was Helfern’s grandfather, and one of the modern-day soldiers who we saw get blown up in Africa was Helfern’s son. The mission that Helfern Jnr was on was a supposedly cushy deal that Philip Kane had got for him, looking for one Bruce Wayne. Bruce staying in hiding basically led to the creation of Dr Death, and, at the end of this issue, has Batman thinking that all of this is his fault. Just like how the flashbacks make his parents’ death all his fault. Death eventually dies, but he doesn’t give Batman enough time to jam the Riddler’s signal, and down on the ground, Gordon isn’t having much luck either.
The cop at the site of the power switch turns out to be Corrigan, the corrupt guy that Gordon made an enemy of, and so the power is switched back on. Gordon goes to confront the Riddler himself, but he has a rock nearly dropped on him, and basically, everything goes wrong at once. The Riddler now has the city under his control, and he blows up all of Gotham’s flood defences, meaning that the Hurricane can completely destroy, and flooding the streets.
The issue ends with this happening as Batman and the Riddler-Balloon fall to the ground, as Bats pounds his fists in anger and we finally see what we’ve all been dreading… the murder of The Waynes. The way Snyder and Capullo pace this out is fantastic, you really get a sense of Bruce’s desperation, both in the past and the present. Capullo’s art was of course excellent throughout, I was especially freaked out by the increasingly warped appearance of Dr Death, he really reached back into his Spawn days there.
It looks like the next stage of Zero Year will take us to the brief glimpse we got of a truly fucked-up Gotham way back in Part 1, which should be good, as it’s something we haven’t seen before in a story that, albeit entertaining, is full of old things with just a new lick of paint.