Wednesday, June 12, 2013

SPOILERS: Batman #21

Years ago (note: I refuse to acknowledge any specific year number given in the New 52, because it's stupid and complicates too much) Gotham looked as if it hadn't been inhabited for decades, as a kid emerges from a flooded subway tunnel with a fish to eat. The kid is soon attacked by masked gang members, but before they can do any harm, a tattered Batman comes to the kid's aid, tying up and knocking out all the gang members. The kid looks up to Batman and says that everyone thinks he's dead. Apparently someone has been spreading that rumor ever since said person "killed" the city. Batman says this is a good thing, as whoever they're talking about won't see him coming.

Remember Batman #0? Well, Bruce is still gunning for the Red Hood Gang. Again, a masked Bruce finds him at odds with the Red Hood gang, who has the truck he's driving (containing targets to be killed) surrounded. Young Bruce, he's pretty god damn reckless, and despite Alfred pointing out his shoddy math, Bruce fires a grappling hook out the front window, attaches it to a crane, drives off the platform he's on, swings the truck over a body of water, where the men fall out the back, and ultimately to safety, away from the Red Hood and his gang. Bruce emerges from the water, and straight up gives the Red Hood the finger.

Back in Bruce's current base of operations, Bruce speaks with Alfred (who at this point, is still very against this whole deal) about the Red Hood gang, how no one knows who the boss is, and how the members could literally be anyone who has been blackmailed into joining. Through Bruce and Alfred's conversation, we learn that Bruce is still legally declared dead, and the only person who knows he's alive is Alfred... and his uncle Philip Kane, who awaits Bruce outside his building in crime alley, having been looking for Bruce for years, but admits he probably should have kept tabs on Alfred (who for some reason isn't too pleased to see him) from the start.

Philip convinces Bruce to take a ride with him, as he brings his nephew to the new Wayne Industries building, where he tries to convince Bruce to come and be the new public face of the company. Philip explains that public perception of the Kanes has never been great, and even though the Waynes and Kanes merging (Thomas and Martha's wedding and the two companies) somewhat improved, it would be better for the business if Bruce Wayne was the face of the company. Bruce declines his uncle's request, telling him that he didn't come back to Gotham for that reason, as Bruce puts it, that's not who he is. Philip then asks who Bruce is then.

We flash back to a time where Bruce was a child, he enters a rather large garage to find his father working on a car. Thomas asks his son what he loves about Gotham, as he knows Bruce has been sneaking away into the city after school. Bruce tells his father that the city allows him to be anyone he wants. Thomas is somewhat amused by his son's answer, and brings up something Alan Wayne used to say, about fate forming in the dark, then shows Bruce something Lucius Fox cooked up, a sphere that uses a 360 degree camera to 3D map a confined space, even in the dark. Before he can explain more, Thomas is called away on business. We later see a young Bruce throwing the camera down what would eventually become the Batcave.

Sometime later, night has fallen and Philip is meeting with his "strategist" in hopes they can come up with a plan to fix the current business problem at hand. The solution? Philip needs to kill his nephew, Bruce Wayne. Oh, did I mention the strategist is a young Edward Nygma? That seems pretty important.

In the back-up, a 19 year old Bruce is in Brazil with the man who taught him how to drive (which was a callback to the Red Hood wondering where Bruce had learned to drive, in the main feature). Bruce's "instructor" is a slick, golden tooth, drive fast sort of guy... and also a criminal, as they're being chased by the police. Bruce get's a lot of philosophical nonsense about how the police want to chase him, and yadda yadda yadda, but when the guy riding passenger takes out a rocket launcher to shoot at (and probably kill) the cops, Bruce veers off the road, and into a building, leaving the dude to be caught by the police. Because that ain't how Bruce rolls!


The Good:

The first few pages are so god damn confusing, you have no freaking clue what the hell is going on, and that's what really grabs you in. Snyder is playing with a whole bunch of familiar toys, that no one has really done much with, and are completely separate than Year One's toys, so we as readers get to have all this new fun, and still have that sacredness from the past origin not touched. No one has really done anything with the Red Hood gang, or Philip Kane, or Riddler for god knows how many years (well, anything good), so you mix all those elements together and add a bit of "wtf is going on?" to it, and you've got yourself one enticing Batman origin story, which is quite the feat.

Then you've got the art team, Capullo, Miki and FCO, who are always flawless. FCO in particular has been killing it on the book lately. That sky during the Red Hood gang scene? I don't think I've ever seen a blue that blue before. And lest we forget Scott Snyder's partner in vampire crime with Rafael Albuquerque on the back-up. The art alone is worth the $3.99 price of admission, in my book.

The Bad:

I still hate the fact that we're given a specific number of years. I hold the five year (and now six) timeline as the biggest mistake of the New 52. Nothing makes any sense if you try and think about it, especially Batman. Specificity was never needed.

The Bottom Line:

I came into Zero Year both barely knowing anything about it and very cautious of it, as any hardcore Batman fan would be. When someone starts to say "Batman" and "Origin story" red flags are automatically thrown, but Snyder and company manage to tip toe around the sleeping beast, and tell their own story that so far, promises to be wildly different and crazy. Yeah, I'm sold. I'm in. Bring on more Zero Year!



  1. Happy to read your review. I'm definitely interested to see the continuation of this potential milestone in Batman's mythos. As for the identities of the masked goons at the beginning, I'm sure they are the Monk's followers. If Snyder revived the Monk, we are gonna see some crazy Sh**t !

  2. I do think the compressed timeline is ridiculous, but I think specificity is nothing but a good thing and I'm glad there is a definitive stance on this, as opposed to post-Crisis "come up with your own shit."

  3. It was my first thought that the opening scene was a reference to No Man's Land... as if they were trying to say, "Yes, at some point in the last five years, Gotham was hit by a quake and totally recovered from it, looking like nothing happened." I believe that there was another reference by someone to the quake earlier in the New 52. So maybe.

    But why start your story there???

    Why not come back to it at all in the rest of the issue???

    Yeah, as much as I liked this issue, I was also put off by it. It seems we could have just done without the opening scene and gotten more story.

    1. It started there because it was a teaser?

    2. GS is right. It's a good story tactic some occasionally use. It's meant to get you to say"holy crap, what the hell happened, how did we get here" and then it shows how we got there. Grant Morrison occasionally likes doing this.

  4. loved all the inside references in this issue, especially the "Robin" hat!