By this point, everyone knows Batman's origin. After becoming an orphan, Bruce Wayne trains around the world before returning to Gotham City and becoming its Dark Knight. On the surface, Batman: Zero Year is another Batman origin story. From July 2013 to July 2014 however, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo put together an inventive take on the classic origin that touches upon nearly every significant aspect of Batman's mythos, creating something wholly unique for the New 52 incarnation of the character.
By acknowledging everything from The Dark Knight Returns to Batman Forever, "Zero Year" offers a comprehensive new take on Batman's origins that touches on many aspects of his history, including the Joker and the giant penny in the Bat-Cave.
Batman: Zero Year is divided into three acts – Secret City, Dark City and Savage City – with each arc reflecting Gotham's status as Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman. Now, CBR is taking a look back through each of these movements and how Gotham City evolved into one of the modern DC Universe's most famous locations.
HOW DID BATMAN ZERO YEAR START?
Returning to Gotham at age 25, Bruce Wayne starts his vigilante career by fighting the Red Hood Gang, utilizing elaborate disguises and gadgets to disrupt their heists on Wayne Tech weaponry. The gang's leader, Red Hood One, has corrupted nearly every part of Gotham's infrastructure by blackmailing its citizenry into serving as sleeper agents.
Having been missing for years, Bruce had been declared legally dead by his uncle, Philip Kane. Philip seized control of Wayne Enterprises, which Bruce now refuses to be involved in. Against the advice of his strategist Edward Nygma, Philip announces Bruce's return to the media.
After learning from Nygma that Uncle Philip is actually supplying the Red Hood Gang, Bruce's brownstone on Crime Alley is attacked by the Red Hood Gang, who had been tipped off by Nygma.
After beating Bruce within an inch of his life, Red Hood One tells Bruce that the meaningless death of his parents actually inspired him to create the gang, believing it to be the embodiment of chaos. Crawling through a hidden passageway to Wayne Manor, an injured Bruce Wayne recalls his first foray into the Bat Cave. Inspired, Bruce decides to become a bat.
HOW DID THE RIDDLER TAKE OVER GOTHAM?
Batman makes his public debut thwarting the Red Hood Gang at ACE Chemicals shortly after they reveal their plans to destroy Gotham,. Despite his plans being foiled, Red Hood One can only look on at Batman with astonishment before a plunge into a vat of chemicals, mysteriously vanishing.
Immediately after the Red Hood Gang is defeated, Edward Nygma introduces himself as the Riddler, triggering a city-wide blackout. In the ensuing chaos emerges Doctor Death, a former Wayne Enterprises scientist turned regenerating bony monstrosity preying upon other scientists.
With help from Gordon and Lucius Fox, Batman locates Death's lair, only to learn that he had been working for the Riddler. Evidently, Death wasn't just slaying scientists, but also stealing their research to construct a doomsday device: a special weather balloon jammer designed to grant Nygma control over every electronic device in Gotham.
Rolling out the Bat Blimp, Batman boards Riddler's balloon, only to find Dr. Death waiting. While destroying Riddler's jammer with an explosive, Batman accidentally kills Dr. Death.
At that very moment, the G.C.P.D. turns the power back on in Gotham – all according to Riddler's plan. Now granted control over Gotham, Riddler detonates the reservoir, flooding the city before turning off the power again.
WHAT HAPPENED TO GOTHAM CITY IN ZERO YEAR?
After Batman failed, the Riddler has reset society to "Zero Year," holding the city hostage until its citizens outsmarted him. Riddler claims that if anyone can stump him with a riddle, Gotham will earn their civilization. In the meantime, Gotham becomes a dystopian landscape, overrun with gangs and overgrown with plants courtesy of research stolen from Pamela Isley.
After popping wheelies on the Bat-Bike and wrestling some lions, Batman discovers the Riddler's lair. Ultimately, Batman must solve twelve riddles before incoming military jets level Gotham. Thanks to Gordon delaying the jets with an improvised Bat Signal and Lucius jamming Riddler's devices, Batman stops Riddler and restores control over Gotham.
While Gotham recovers and Arkham Asylum receives its first supervillain, Bruce reveals to Alfred that he had once checked himself into Arkham for electroshock therapy, fully aware that his obsession with his parents' death was bordering on insanity. At the last moment Bruce had backed out of the treatment however, understanding that he shall revel in his parents' lives, not their demise.
While most modern incarnations of Batman's origin emphasized the darker, grittier elements of Gotham City, "Zero Year" emphasized all-out superhero action and vibrant spectacle to create a chronicle of Batman's early days that's truly unlike any other Batman story.