Batman #24 is representative of why Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are already legendary comic book creators. These two are not afraid to take risks in telling ambitious stories. The duo’s first arc was a hefty 11 issue arc that introduced an entire library of ideas into not only the Batman mythos, but the mythos of all the DC Universe. Their second major story reinvented the Joker and his relationship with Batman in a way that has never been seen before. Zero Year however, is their most ambitious yet.
Batman #24 is ,without a doubt, the best issue of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run so far. Batman #24 acts as a major hinge point of the Zero Year storyline. After four months of build-up, Bruce Wanye has finally put on the suit and become the Batman.
When the Batman finally comes into being, it is as much as a perfect moment as you could ever want it to be. The buildup with the billboard declaring “Welcome to Bat County” and the silhouette reminiscent of the Batman:Animated Series logo acts only as the begging of nods to other things from the Bat mythos. Long term Batman fans will instantly smile when they see the glorious two page spread of the Batman in flight with a Red Hood gang member in a headlock, a homage to the cover of Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman). Other fun easter eggs include the Nolan-esque birth of the Bat-signal, the use of purple gloves in Batman’s design and Alfred commenting on installing a fireman’s pole in the Bat-Cave.
However, what makes Snyder a legendary writer is not his ability to draw upon years of Batman history but his ability to write Gotham. In an absolutely fascinating speech, Bruce Wayne asks the citizens of Gotham why they choose to live in a city that constantly threatens their lives and challenges them. Wayne concludes that people must do it because they enjoy the challenge and know they will be stronger if they can survive Gotham. I’ve never seen a writer address the issue as to why people would live in Gotham if psychopaths such as the Joker, Two-Face or Poison Ivy operate there. Snyder provides an honest and well thought out answer to this debated question. Snyder has added a lot of history to the city of Gotham itself in his Black Mirror, Gates of Gotham, and Court of Owls story lines. Snyder reveals that Gotham has an ugly beating heart under its’ bedrock and makes the city come alive. Say what you will about his ability to write Batman, but without a doubt, Snyder is one of the best Gotham City writers ever.
My favorite subplot of the Zero Year story so far has been the relationship between Bruce and the leader of the Red Hood gang. This issue provides full confirmation that the Red Hood leader is indeed the Joker and that the co-dependent nature of the Batman and the Joker had existed long before there was ever officially a Batman or a Joker. It is only fitting that, in the issue that Bruce finally dons the cape and cowl, so does the Red Hood leader take the all to familiar dive into the vat of ACE chemicals. As the issue reaches its’ crescendo, there is a close up of the Red Hood’s eyes as he is simultaneously horrified, mystified and aroused by the appearance of the Batman. It is clear that in that one single moment, the Joker is born. It is only fitting that since the issue marks the debut of the Batman that it concludes with the birth of the Joker. The climax of the book has a wordless splash page in which the Red Hood slowly starts to dissolve into the vat of chemicals in order for the Clown Prince of Crime to emerge. Hopefully before this story concludes, we will be able to see the Joker in all of his glory.
Not to be overshadowed, the Riddler finally makes his move against Gotham City this issue. The Riddler’s city wide power outage sets up November’s “Zero Year” crossover but reestablishes the fact that this story is not about the relationship between Batman and the Joker, but Bruce’s first year as the Batman. The Riddler has always been one of my favorite comic villains and I am very excited to see what Snyder can do with full control of the character.
When Zero Year was announced I honestly thought it was going to be a waste of time- that it was too daring to attempt to replace Frank Miller’s genius Year One. However I am glad that Snyder and Capullo are doing this story. It celebrates the entire history of Batman while updating the origin of an icon. Where as Frank Miller made Gotham seem like the New York of the late 1970’s and stressed realism, Snyder and Capullo embrace the fantastic aspects of comics. While Zero Year does not have the same gritty feel as Year One does, it tells a realistic story set in the fantasy world. There is a sincere love of the character, the city and the mythos from the creators of this book and you can really tell it each and every month.
The work these two guys two is unparalleled, not only at DC, but to the rest of the comic industry. (The closest comparison I can make is Jason Aaron on The Mighty Thor for Marvel, but that book is still in its’ infancy stages compared to Batman). If you love Batman and you are not reading Zero Year, then you are doing something wrong with your life. Batman by Snyder and Capullo remains to be the gold standard of what damn good comics should be.