(a) Greg Capullo, Danny Miki
After only two issues, it’s become evident that “Zero Year” is going to be more than just a straightforward tale about Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. We kind of already knew this would be the case due to the Riddler being the central antagonist of the 11-issue mega-arc. But really, the level to which Scott Snyder is raising Batman’s mythos is simply incredible. This is not a Batman origin story that features the Riddler. This is a narrative that explores who Bruce Wayne believed he was, and who he became when those preconceptions washed away. This is a story that features ‘The Batman’ as the underlying tone for a story about a man who wants to be more.
As a writer, Edward Nigma speaks to my heart: his words are chosen carefully and for purposeful reasons. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been misunderstood simply because the person listening did not understand that diction, syntax, and meaning are all equally important. Nigma understands this, and that passion for deeper meaning is what drives him to become the man we know he will be. He has a complete and utter devotion to psychological meaning and endeavors to change the world because of it. Snyder’s Nigma is a fascinating character because he doesn’t hide anything, he simply presents himself in the most cryptic way possible: through riddles.
Similarly, the Red Hood Gang represents the beginning of Gotham’s quick descent into darkness. This is a time before the Joker, before Two-Face and Mr. Freeze and Man-Bat. There’s still crime, but there aren’t monsters for Batman to fight. The Red Hood Gang is a symbol of what could have been had Bruce chosen a different path. Bruce Wayne believes his actions are righteous, but the dramatic irony is that readers watch as he makes decisions that alter the course of history. If Batman never came to be, would Red Hood One have ever become the Joker? If Oswald Cobblepot wasn’t abducted by an impersonator using his likeness to take on criminals, would he ever have descended into corruption? If Bruce listened to Alfred, would he have a life full of joy and happiness unbound? These are the potentials touched on throughout Batman #22. Snyder is truly examining the Dark Knight in ways we’ve never seen before.
Everyone should be reading “Zero Year”. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been doing amazing work on Batman since the first issue, but this newest arc has a depth and suspense to it like nothing I’ve read from this team. It’s intuitive about Bruce Wayne’s formative years in the same way The Dark Knight Returns is intuitive about the future of Gotham City and it’s Batman.