With “Batman” #30, the “Zero Year” storyline enters its final phase, “Savage City.” It’s the section of the story first glimpsed as the opening scene of “Zero Year” almost a year ago, with Gotham all but defeated. So far, it’s the best and most promising chapter of “Zero Year” from Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki.
Part of “Batman” #30 is just about reorienting to the new status quo of Savage Gotham. Snyder’s carefully planted all of the seeds (figurative and literal) until this point to justify the rapid decay and collapse of the physical infrastructure of the city (and has Bruce lay out those points for those who might have forgotten), and it’s nice to see the reasoning behind it all come across. As readers see the brave new world through the eyes of Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth and Duke Thomas, it’s nice to see how everyone reacts a little differently to the challenges and dangers that lurk outside. Fight and flight are both presented as options, but even within that binary there are different and more complex possibilities, each trying to find the answer to the question presented.
Snyder’s depiction of the Riddler is center stage now, no longer having one’s attention distracted by other forces like Doctor Death or the superstorm. Here, we’re given a depiction of what happens when you mix a madman with a self-proclaimed smartest man in the room, and the Riddler’s grip over the city fits in with that idea. Similar to the boulder hanging over Gordon’s head last month, Snyder gives us a Riddler who understands how the threat of force is far more terrifying than the actual usage. He’s giving us a city ruled by intimidation and fear, almost self-policing in an attempt to survive. When force is rolled out, it’s for a very specific purpose; going after the most dangerous foes who could run a real risk of upsetting the Riddler’s reign of terror. It’s a smart tactic and it makes the terrorizing of Gotham come across as believable.
In the past two and a half years, Capullo and Miki have drawn all sorts of different scenes in “Batman,” but the two-page spread of the Savage Gotham City on pages 6-7 is perhaps the best thing they’ve done on the title. It’s gorgeous, expanding on that initial prologue where greenery is choking Gotham’s buildings and reclaiming the developed areas. There are so many little details — broken windows, flocks of birds, missing bricks, the hovering balloon of the Riddler in the distance — but it’s the overall entire visual impact that works the best. It’s a striking moment, and a reminder that some of the best artistic moments don’t need a punch thrown to stand out.
There are a lot of nice pages in this issue. The vertical panels overlaid on the image of the hooded Bruce Wayne, for instance, shows an interesting composition with Bruce’s face peeking out from behind those panels in the same way that someone would peer through an old picket fence. The slightly beaten down Gordon also looks great, with the beard just a tiny bit unkempt and the glasses a little dirty. Even the familiar image of the Batman cowl and cape fluttering on the end of a stick looks great at the end of page 11, managing to hold a certain amount of form and substance without losing the fact that it’s now empty.
“Zero Year” has been enjoyable up until now, but “Batman” #30 feels like we’ve shifted out of a fast jog and moved into the sprint. Everything’s come together, and Batman’s moving into position to save his city feels epic. Snyder, Capullo and Miki have turned in a strong first chapter of “Savage City,” and at this point readers just need to hold on to best enjoy the wild ride towards the conclusion.