So here we are a month after the release of Batman 21, the first part of the Zero Year storyline. After exceeding expectations and providing a stellar premiere issue, I was excited to see where this crazy storyline was headed.
Scott Snyder picks up where he left off last month with the story of two versions of Bruce Wayne. The bulk of the issue surrounds the pre-Batman vigilante Bruce, who hides behind flesh masks and uses acting skills to deceive his enemies. I am really enjoying seeing Bruce work outside of the cowl. I feel like authors have forgotten about the acting skills/fake criminal identities that are often over looked (i.e. Matches Malones). In the opening pages, Bruce disguises himself as Oswald Copplepott and fools both the Red Hood and the reader! I literally did a double take at that reveal.
The most interesting part of the issue was a conversation that took place between Bruce and a younger Edward Nigma. While the conversation is only three pages long, Snyder and Capullo experiment with their storytelling abilities by having the conversation displayed in an Egyptian Oroboros game board. It is one of the cooler panel designs that I have ever seen in a Batman book. Capullo really makes it the scene stealer moment of the book with his close ups of Bruce and Edward’s expressions during their battle of wits. However, the last page splash of the young boy version of Bruce Wayne running away from bats might be my favorite Capullo piece of artwork (even overshadowing the Bat-Owl from issue 5). Capullo has firmly established himself as the Batman artist of this generation and shows no signs of slowing down. I love how Capullo is not afraid to due the occasional off-beat and even trippy splash pages.
What has me coming back every month to Zero Year with anticipation (aside from the great art) is the dynamic that Snyder is creating between Bruce and the Red Hood. We all know that Batman and the Joker are symbiotic and form a unique relationship in comic books, but it is fascinating to see the two men drawn to each other before they adopt their infamous alter egos. Even before Batman and the Joker existed, these two men had a connection that determines the fate of Gotham City. I feel like Snyder could be throwing us for a loop and reveal that the Red Hood is not the Joker (but another well established character), but I have faith that Snyder will make a compelling story out of it.
If you are interested in Batman and the Joker, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. Zero Year is an epic, character defining story arc that people will be talking about for years to come and makes for a compelling read month after month.