Beginning with Batman issue #21, Batman: Zero Year is an 11-issue run retelling Bruce Wayne’s journey towards becoming Batman after he returns to Gotham City after years of traveling the world and training in his quest to become the hero that Gotham deserves.
The story picks up not much further after the Detective Comics and Batman issues#0, featuring a young Bruce Wayne who has just commenced with his mission as Gotham’s nighttime guardian. But while he has the gadgets and the cave at his fingertips, he still operates in a 007 fashion, utilizing disguises and different spy-like techniques to thwart the twisted threats to the city that had long ago robbed him of his parents and childhood. And, in this storyline, that threat is the Red Hood clan. The identities of the Red Hood clan are yet unknown, but they do mean business. Bruce clashes with them repeatedly and, while managing to save lives, he fails to stop them from wrecking havoc across Gotham. Meanwhile, as Alfred tries to sway his young master into a saner, safer lifestyle, Bruce’s uncle appears and tries to convince the young Wayne into taking over the company Thomas Wayne left behind. Unfortunately, Bruce’s uncle’s motives are far from honorable as it is revealed that he is involved with Edward Nygma who is, in a way, also linked to the Red Hood gang. As Bruce limps home injured from a violent encounter with the Red Hoods, he feels lost and is close to giving up. And then the iconic moment arrives when he recalls the bats in the cave he fell into as a young boy…
The story so far ends on a cliffhanging note, leaving fans yearning for Batman’s first appearance, especially to explain the brief, flash-forward appearance that the Dark Knight makes in the early pages of this arc, dressed up in a crude batsuit of sorts.
Scott Snyder’s writing continues to present a compelling story that, while staggering along at some points, still manages to deliver the edge of a new Batman origin tale that may end up becoming a classic. The art is provided by Greg Capullo, Snyder’s long-time partner in Batman since the New 52 began. Some fans might feel that the story deserves a more elaborate artist like Lee Bermejo or Alex Ross (with their realistic looks); or Jason Fabok or Jim Lee (with their fantastical flamboyant styles). However, Capullo still provides a satisfactory and serviceable job that adds to the familiar look of the series.
Now, this is NOT Batman: Year One or Batman: Earth One. It’s not just a retread. lt is something totally different and more sophisticated. But is it better? It’s still too early to judge as the plot is yet to thicken.
The one really interesting element about Zero Year, though, is the Red Hoods and how they are depicted as being created, like Batman himself, as a result of the murder of Bruce’s parents. This is one story where Bruce has to deal with the fact that while his mission is derived from his parents’ murder, so is the very evil that he fights. At this point, Bruce seems to think that if he can just take down the Red Hoods, Gotham will be safe again. Alfred tries to challenge this notion, suggesting that nothing would essentially change by taking them down and that his mission is never going to end. We all know, already, which one of them is right.
Based on the first three issues, Zero Year is a fresh, interesting and most promising take on the Dark Knight’s oft-told origin tale that no hardcore Bat-fan will want to miss.