Back To Zero
When it was announced that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo would be retconning “Batman: Year One” in favor of their “Zero Year” storyline, it was considered blasphemous. “Batman: Year One” is a perfect story that didn’t need replacing, fans declared -- and that’s true. But Snyder and Capullo brought their own take to Batman, one that required its own beginning, and “Zero Year” was such a radical departure from what everyone knew from “Batman: Year One” that it actually worked really well. Snyder and Capullo showed a young Bruce Wayne go head-to-head with the Red Hood Gang, and his own Road To Damascus moment where he became Batman was definitely influenced by “Batman: Year One,” even if it wasn’t the same.
Earlier in the story, Snyder and Capullo showed a flashback to a young Bruce Wayne who took some new technology of his father’s capable of mapping unknown terrain, and testing it out in the caves underneath Wayne Manor. He would fall into the hole and be swarmed with bats before being rescued by his father, and twenty years later, he discovered that mapping technology in his father’s study. Activating it, it projected a 3D hologram of what would become the Batcave, including a holographic swarm of bats which fly straight through Bruce’s body. The end result is the same: Bruce once again says, “Yes father, I shall become a bat,” but vitally, it removed one of the most important parts of Batman’s origin; The First Rule of Batman.
The First Rule of Batman
If we take it as gospel, as soon as Bruce Wayne said those fateful words — the vow to his father — whatever his did after that could be considered the first thing Batman ever did. Grant Morrison pointed out in his eight year run on the franchise that the first thing Batman did was ring the bell; he called for help. Despite his reputation as the lone Dark Knight, brooding in the shadows, Batman has never, for a second, been alone in his mission.
This comes back around to Tomasi and Mahnke’s debut, as in the fourth panel on the first page, Bruce Wayne is described as having a gaping hole in his soul following the death of his parents, another allusion to a Morrisonism from the same era, with Fourth World ramifications.
The use of “the gaping hole” is evocative of “The Hole In All Things,” a phrase used by Morrison to describe Darkseid and the negative effects the God of All Evil has on reality. The return of the “Year One” origin over the “Zero Year” origin is important.
The key difference is the bell, a call for help. As Morrison established in “Return of Bruce Wayne,” that the harmonic frequency made by Bruce Wayne ringing the bell was the same harmonic frequency Superman used to defeat Darkseid in Final Crisis. It could just be that DC continuity has been slowly shifting to its pre-Flashpoint state following DC Rebirth, but the specific language and imagery used by Tomasi (who has an affinity for playing with Morrisonian concepts in his work) and Mahnke (who penciled the final issues of Final Crisis) seems deliberate. "Zero Year" is still canon, but now, so is "Year One's" most important moment.