My word, this was a speech-filled issue of Batman, as both not-yet-Commissioner Gordon and Alfred deliver long-winded talks to Batman. I did enjoy the content of both of these monologues, but it did slow the issue down quite a lot in the middle. Thankfully, both the beginning and the end of the issue were action-packed, so it wasn’t a total snoozefest.
After another seemingly incongruous opening, with a woman singing a song to a group of soldiers in 1947 Tokyo (Snyder is making a habit of using these weird, out of place scenes that don’t make sense until later, I quite like it.), we are dumped right back into the action as Batman attempts to flee from the Gotham Police. I think one of the reasons people keep going back to telling Batman origin or early days stories is that they allow for a more fallible Batman, and we see that here, as Bats pretty much gets his ass kicked by the Cops. They shoot him up, have him surrounded and even manage to blow up the Bat-Boat, leaving him trapped. A fully-established modern day Batman would have used his notorious ‘prep-time’ and been able to avoid all this, but since this is a young Caped Crusader, there’s more scope for him to be outmanoeuvred, and not be the perfect, indestructible bad-ass. Of course, he is still able to escape, he’s not a total loser, but he only manages to do so with the help of Jim Gordon, who gives him a ride on his boat.
It’s here that the talking begins, as Gordon explains the real story behind what we learned about him last week, and his taking of his famous coat as a bribe. Gordon tells Batman that he wasn’t corrupt like the other Cops, and that in fact, he too had believed that the coat was a gift until he saw the young Bruce Wayne’s reaction. Because of this, he goes back to the store, where he finds a dog-fighting ring that the criminals and cops, including Commissioner Loeb are all in on. Gordon tries to shut this down, but the other Cops sic the dogs on him. He fights them off, but is unable to kill the other policeman here, so he goes off to walk his beat, which is where he comes across the murder of the Waynes, but is unable to face it. He says he wears the coat of shame. I did like the seed of doubt that Scott Snyder planted last issue about Gordon, but I also like that he’s proven to actually be the same one good cop we’ve always known. It’s just that there’s probably a little bit more nuance there, he’s neither totally good nor irreparably damaged, he’s a more human character.
After this, it’s back to the Batcave for another lecture from Alfred, where he posits that the reason Bruce has become Batman is to make everyone bear witness to what the horrors of Gotham have driven him to. Bruce doesn’t want Alfred’s help, he actually sort of wants to punish him, and that’s also why he’s not allowing Gordon to fully help him out. I’m not sure I buy this, but it’s a cool new way of looking at the character. In between his speechifying, Alfred and Bruce work out that Dr Death’s lab must be in the underground Gotham Catacombs, and indeed it is. Whilst there, Bruce finds an old helmet with ‘Tokyo Moon’ on it, which makes the opening page start to make sense. Was the soldier there Helfern?
But the more important discovery is that of a doomsday machine that Dr Death has built to destroy Gotham, and also that he’s been actually working for The Riddler all along, which makes sense. Riddler taunts Batman from a TV screen, and then floods the catacombs, leaving him for dead.
Greg Capullo’s artwork was excellent as usual, and there were two really outstanding moments. The first came when Batman was swimming away, and one of his cowl’s ears was poking out of the water like a shark, and the second came during Alfred’s speech, and was an iconic shot of a silhouetted Batman standing on a telephone pole in the rain, looking over Gordon and his daughter. I also continue to be impressed by FCO Plascencia’s colour choices, he’s making Capullo’s art look beter than ever.
This was another solid issue, but I’m still not really feeling Zero Year as a story in general, It just feels like a whole load of unnecessary embellishment.