Batman #32

Batman closes in on The Riddler, who continues to hold the entire city of Gotham captive in "Batman" #32, the penultimate chapter to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Zero Year" mega-arc. Snyder has kept the tension running high throughout the "Savage City" leg of the storyline, and ramps it up even more here as Batman's frustration grows as Edward Nygma continues to be deviously elusive. Capullo tops himself as well, with beautifully arranged panels filled with detail, cleanly and precisely embellished by inker Danny Miki, and even colorist FCO Plascencia gets to cut loose.

As the story approaches its conclusion, this issue typifies everything that's been exemplary about each and every issue of "Zero Year," by telling a suspenseful story with a fresh approach, cloaked in clean and stylish art and colors. The biggest difference with this issue, though, is that with most of the seeds sown, Snyder spends the issue bringing it all together. There is a brief, one-page flashback involving the acquisition of a certain butler, and like most of the established elements of the Batman mythos, Snyder adds a surprising twist.

Beyond that, though, it's eyes forward and time to move ahead, as Snyder builds on what he's already established, and those who have been paying close attention just might have an inkling as to where the story is going. As he's done throughout the storyline, Snyder respects readers' intelligence and his story demands that they use it; there are no recaps or reminders, save perhaps for the pile of recent issues that are worth keeping at the ready. When The Riddler's location is revealed near the end of the issue, it isn't the kind of surprise that's a jaw-dropping shocker, but instead the kind that satisfactorily confirms readers' suspicions were they to ponder the mystery as the story unfolds. For those who don't and just decide to enjoy the ride, the surprise itself is reward enough.

Capullo delivers the issue's first oh-wow moment early, with a peek at The Riddler's well-secured and heavily-armed presumed tower lair. Or, not-so-secure, as he cleverly shows on the page's final panel. Capullo's ideas and awe-inspiring designs have played as much a role in this storyline as Snyder's own, and they continue to do so here. He gets to stretch his drawing arm near the end of the story, as the climactic confrontation looms, switching over from the smaller, functional panels that dominate the issue to fluidly sequenced larger ones. Each of the final four pages is beautifully laid out, serving to not only heighten the tension but also making for attractive pieces regardless of context.

Just as Capullo plays an equal role in Snyder's story, FCO Plascencia does the same for Capullo's art. The entire "Zero Year" arc has provided opportunity for the kind of oddly-appropriate color palette that's generally not found in most Batman stories. That's immediately apparent early on in The Riddler's aforementioned fortified tower, and more so later as the issue wraps up, most notably on the final splash page, where the colors are brilliant, in every meaning of the word. There are also more subtle touches throughout the book, such as representing shadows cast by sunlight through the trees by slight but crisply defined shifts in color tone; a striking technique that's rarely been used so well.

"Batman" #32 is a superb showcase of collaborative comic book storytelling and an excellent lead-in to the finale of a highly refreshing and imaginative storyline. "Zero Year" has been the standout of all Bat-titles over the past year and this issue is the latest example of why.

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