It's the finale of Zero Year, Batman vs. the Riddler, and guess what! Batman wins. Go figure! Well, it's been a long time coming, but let's put Zero Year to bed.
So we got Batman frozen in a maze of lasers, with the Riddler playing a game, where he's got 12 riddles, and if Batman solves one, he gets to move a space forward on the board, and not trip the lasers which would.. do bad stuff with the balloons over Gotham or something, I don't know, convoluted villain plans and all that. Meanwhile you got Gordon, Lucius and the military on the ground, scrambling to block the Riddler's signal again and try and stop the jets from bombing the city... ANNNNND GO.
Long story short, after a couple Riddles, Bruce realizes that the signal has been jammed yet again (thanks to a giant penny working as the conductor, or something) so he answers the latest riddle he's gotten in the most "Fuck you, I'm Batman" sort of way, and punches the shit out of Riddler's face, while Gordon manages to get the Military to hold off on the strike with a makeshift Batsignal.
Bruce demands Riddler to tell him how to restart the system, and basically has to be rebooted with some node coded to a heartbeat... or something, again, long story short, Bruce shocks himself with a dangerous amount of electricity and the city reboots, hooray everything is saved, as the jets call off their bombing run when the power goes back on.
One month later, Gotham is getting back together, and Bruce has got another speech going, Riddler's in Arkham, Gordon is the police commissioner, and all that good sort of stuff.
After the day's public events, Alfred pulls Bruce aside and tells him a grown up Julie Madison his waiting for him, but Bruce tells Alfred that he's never going to stop. He goes on to tell a story that during his PTSD problems, he paid a man to act as Alfred and get him into Arkham, where he wanted to go through so much electro shock therapy, that he'd forget himself, he'd forget everything, and be rebooted. Yet he didn't... So, symbolism. Alfred implores Bruce just to have one drink with Julie, which Bruce seemingly agrees to. Then we see the two date, get married, and have kids, up until the point where Bruce thanks Alfred... Only to realize that it's a fantasy in Alfred's mind, as he tells Julie that Bruce is spoken for (by Gotham).
Look, I've made my feelings on Zero Year known multiple times... Great story, but damn am I tired. You might be able to tell so with my write up, and multiple things I just sort of glazed over. The fact is, I just had so much Zero Year fatigue going into this issue, that some of the finer points just possibly went right over my head. There's the stuff like the tech/science aspect to some of the things that are happening, which I just don't think Snyder is great at, so I'm reading the explanation of whatever the reboot/heartbeat system is and afterwards I'm just gong "what the... what?" Then there's speeches and symbolism and I'm just done... By the end of this issue I was just glad it was over.
All that being said, it's not as if I thought it was a bad issue, again, I'm just so tired. Capullo, Miki and FCO's art was fantastic as ever, the "fuck you, I'm Batman" scene with the Riddler was great, and the final scene with Bruce, Julie and Alfred was beautiful. There's a lot to like in this issue, and good on the art team delivering a double sized issue with no month gap in-between this and the last, so overall, it was a great conclusion to the story.
The Bottom Line:
Zero Year is a story that I feel like I will appreciate much more as a whole if I come back to it a year later and read it at my own pace. If you've been reading the story, there's no reason not to pick up the finale, you'd be crazy not to. But as I've expressed, there's just this feeling of fatigue that has left me kind of unable to appreciate these last couple of issues. There's a lot going on here, a lot of interesting stuff done with these brief flashbacks to Bruce's youth, but all the finer nuance was lost on me due to the story just being so drawn out, which is why I feel like I'd be able to appreciate it more if I read it again after I'm detached from this fatigue. Court of Owls worked because it had a much quicker pace, and was mostly a roller coaster ride sort of a story, where as Zero Year was much more methodically paced and had many more personal elements which acted as symbolism towards the present events. If those sort of elements were delivered over a shorter period of time, I'd be sitting here singing their praises, but after a grand total of thirteen months it just got to be too much. All in all, Zero Year was a great story, which started off particularly strong with that Red Hood arc, but for me, ultimately it was a victim of its own length in terms of reading it monthly, and will probably be much better suited read in collection.