Comic fans hold Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as the definitive Batman origin, and it has enjoyed tremendous success and admiration since its original publication. Since being published, dozens of writers, artists, directors and video game designers have incorporated imagery, language, and themes of Year One into their own work with the Dark Knight. When the new 52 was announced most fans readily assumed that Miller’s masterpiece would still be the reputable source of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman. However, with a new universe comes a new origin.
I will admit that I was hesitant to pick up Year Zero because of my own love of Miller’s Year One. I’ve never understood why people say that Batman’s origin needs to be updated. Miller’s Gotham in Year One is a perfect representation of the sleazy and corrupt evil that plagued Gotham. However, over the past two years Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have proven themselves to be more than capable creators and seem to be up for the task of recreating Batman’s origin. Scott Snyder knows that it would be insane to try to recreate the magic of Year One, so instead he goes in a completely different direction that works to his advantage.
Inside of Batman #21, the reader gets to see three versions of Bruce Wayne. At the beginning we get to Bruce in a proto-Batman suit in a prologue sequence that shows a ruined Gotham. In the opening pages, it is obvious that Snyder and Capullo are aiming high with the total No Man’s Land-type destruction they have planned for Gotham in the upcoming year. Knowing that all hell is about to break loose in Gotham, it is hard not to get drawn into the first chapter of Year Zero.
Next, we see the Bruce as we saw him in last year’s Batman #0. This is Bruce before he gets into the cape and cowl and still trying to figure out the persona of what his avatar of vengeance should be. It is interesting seeing a young, angry Bruce who argues with Alfred and flips the finger to the Red Hood as he escapes after derailing his plans. While retelling the story of how Bruce became Batman, Snyder is slyly telling the origin of the Red Hood aka The Joker. I’m interested in seeing how the dynamic of Bruce and the Red Hood plays out over the course of the next year before Bruce puts on the cowl.
Lastly, we see Bruce before his parents die, exploring Gotham on his own. This is personally my favorite section of the book. The best part of Snyder’s writing is that he makes Gotham come alive. Instead of letting Gotham be a substitute for Chicago or Baltimore, Snyder creates a history and sense of place within Gotham. Due to Greg Capullo’s pencils, the reader can be just as amazed as the young Bruce Wayne is as he spends his day wandering around the massive city. Seriously, you’ve never seen a page of mundane actives (riding a bus, buying fruit, etc.) look so good. Hopefully we get to see more of young Bruce interacting with his parents in this storyline before their inevitable demise.
While providing the reader a sense of who Bruce was, is, and will be, Snyder provides several easter eggs throughout the issue. We get to see the origin of the Robin symbol, the origin of the penny in the Batcave, and the introduction of a fan favorite Batman villain who has been missing from the Bat books for too long. Hopefully we get to see all of these elements expanded upon during the next year.
In the back-up story, we get to see how Bruce Wayne learned how to drive like a maniac without managing to kill anyone. It’s a really cool story and I don’t think I've ever seen a story quiet like it before. Hopefully, the next ten issues will contain “lessons” from his past that Bruce will incorporate into his life as the Caped Crusader.
I came into the first issue of Year Zero hesitant of seeing another origin of Batman. I finished the issue totally floored by how good it was. I can not wait till next month for the second chapter. I really can’t remember the last time I was this impressed with a retelling of an origin story. Batman #21 shows why Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are the best creators at DC and why Batman is one of the best books continuing to be published today. By the time Year Zero concludes, I would not be suprised if people love it more than Year One. Seriously, it shows that much promise.