After last issue’s interlude, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo get back to the foundation work of “Zero Year” in “Batman” #29, and wrap up the “Dark City” storyline. Snyder brings the tale to a head, revealing the connection between the Riddler and Doctor Death while redoubling the bond between Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon.
Snyder uses Death as a metaphor for Batman’s development in this formative mission as every weakness the Dark Knight encounters becomes an area of growth, and not always for the best. This issue shows Batman executing a plan and segments of his plan going horribly wrong. Batman’s reliance upon Alfred to assist him is also highlighted as Batman familiarizes himself with the city once more. Alfred reporting from the cave enables Snyder to feed information to the reader, but also comes across not unlike J.A.R.V.I.S. for Tony Stark in the “Iron Man” movies.
Snyder does a good job of writing the snarling, frustrated young Batman, but the scenes the writer really excels with in “Batman” #29 don’t involve the Dark Knight at all. Riddler and Gordon share a conversation that does not go well for the future police commissioner, but showcases Snyder’s ability to crawl up into the evil genius of Edward Nygma. Juxtaposed with that duel, Snyder showcases the fatherly connection shared between Thomas and Bruce Wayne while also foreshadowing events to come that evening. Combining Riddler’s schemes with Doctor Death’s determination to do what he believes is right, the primary tale in “Zero Year: Dark City” and young Bruce Wayne’s very bad day seem to be fighting against one another for the readers’ emotional investment, but Snyder has proven that simply isn’t the case. He continuously builds “Zero Year” on top of the memories of young Bruce’s formative day.
As mentioned earlier, Thomas Wayne has a distinct role to play in “Batman” #29, which does not end well for the Wayne family patriarch. (I’m still not a fan of Thomas Wayne not having a mustache, but that is a nit to be picked as Bruce’s dad’s fate is delivered here.) Fans know the tale by heart, but rounded corners and bright pastel hues from FCO Plascencia signal to readers that a flashback tale opens this issue and weaves throughout the book. Danny Miki’s inks are still the darkest spots on the page, but even the deepest black shadows are given a lighter tone to reflect times past. By the end of the issue, virtually all color washes out of young Bruce’s life, as the fateful event that changes Bruce Wayne forever comes to pass.
In the core “Zero Year” story, Doctor Death continues to sprout new bone growths, playing right into Greg Capullo’s strengths as an artist. Capullo’s animated figures and etched detail thrive in the “Zero Year” story, evoking some of the Dark Knight’s most memorable artists, like Kelley Jones, Neal Adams and Frank Miller. A colorful sky illuminated by the lightning strikes from Super Storm Rene allow Capullo and Plascencia to compose a beautiful tribute to Miller, while Death’s battle with Batman is rich with Kelley Jones shadows and choreography. That’s not to say this issue is perfect — Capullo has the unenviable task of unveiling the Bat Blimp, which is just as hard to sell as it sounds like it would be. It’s a concept that would work better in animation or film, but in static images, blimps are simply accents to the landscape or the sky.
While “Zero Year” is certainly a fantastic display of dancing between the raindrops and farming further details from the early days of the legacy of Batman, it is beginning to get a little long in the tooth. As an overarching saga, I have no doubt “Zero Year” is going to be a story to remember, but the monthly installments, taken by themselves, are bordering on impenetrable, begging the reader to try again, once more from the start. Thankfully, Snyder and company have broken the story up into chapters of the grander saga. That allows readers a chance to breathe and the story an opportunity to shift. “Zero Year” is a tale that comes together more as the camera pulls back to reveal the big picture, which is filled with Snyder’s detailed, meticulous writing and Capullo’s enthusiastically, brutally animated art.