Batman is coming up on his 75th anniversary, and in that time the character’s origin has probably been told and retold more times than any other in comics — save perhaps for Superman, who’s only been around for slightly longer. The latest retelling by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo continues in the second chapter of the “Zero Year” arc in “Batman” #22.
Whether or not readers cared to partake in yet another version, both Snyder and Capullo give them good reason to. Batman’s genesis can be summed up with a couple of key phrases — parents killed by robber outside of theater, orphaned and traumatized child becomes superhero — that, like a folklore legend, can be recited by anyone who’s even heard of the character. Snyder clearly recognizes this, and doesn’t spend his time dwelling on the oft-told and well-explored aspects of the legend. Instead, he creates new ones, giving himself a brand new corner of the canvas where he can add fresh touches to elaborate on a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne, rather than belabor what’s been done before.
While Snyder has left the modern-day Batman largely unchanged in DC’s New 52 universe throughout his run thus far, he stretches his legs quite a bit more with a younger Bruce. Where opportunity allows for exploration, he does so, taking bold but delicate steps into new territory without trampling what’s already been established. Bruce is young man, confident is his overall goal to fight crime in Gotham, but remains unsure of his specific and untried methods, facing resistance from those close to him. Snyder cleverly reinvents the name of a familiar foe and gives the character a presence where little was had before. Dimension is added to one familiar villain by entrenching him firmly in Bruce’s formative years, fitting comfortably with modern continuity while leaving what is known undisturbed. Another character adds a new dynamic to the Wayne family that opens up a lot of potential for future storylines. All of this is part of a fresh enhancement to the character’s mythos, which doesn’t try to undo or reimagine anything already established.
Greg Capullo and inker Danny Miki beautifully render it all. The art team is able to pull off a wide variety of scenery, from the familiar dark and mysterious cave to a clean yet detailed backdrop of the Gotham Museum. Action over the skies of Gotham never looked so good, thanks in no small part to colorist FCO Plascencia. The variety of layouts, sharp linework, and vibrant coloring make this issue one of the most attractive comics on the stands, in no small part thanks to the gorgeous cover by Capullo and FCO Plascencia.
The issue is complimented by a backup story by Snyder and co-writer James Tynion IV, attractively drawn by Rafael Albuquerque. Building off a line of dialogue in the feature story, Snyder and Tynion spotlight Bruce’s mental ingenuity and fortitude that, while not essential to the main story, gives some insight into his inventiveness. Although it’s a backup, the story is plenty effective as a standalone.
“Batman” is one of the better offerings among DC’s New 52, and this issue is one of the best in the title’s run. Snyder and Capullo started strong and have only gotten stronger. Even those who would have been happy to never see another take on Batman’s origin will be glad to pick up “Zero Year.”