By: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), Danny Miki (inks), FCO Plascencia (colors) & Nick Napolitano (letters)
Back-up by: Snyder & James Tynion, IV (writers), Rafael Albuquerque (art), Dave McCaig (colors) and Taylor Esposito (letters)
The Review (with very minor SPOILERS): This issue/storyline still isn’t really grabbing me. From a technical standpoint, it is 100% good. The dialogue is excellent and the art is crisp and lovely. But it still doesn’t have me on the edge of my seat…
Why have I LOVED everything else that Scott Snyder has done with Batman, yet this story gives me a lukewarm reaction? Let’s consider some possibilities:
- It’s still early in the story: If memory serves, Zero Year is supposed to be an eleven-issue story. We’re only on issue #2 of this story, so perhaps it just hasn’t had time to fully congeal? However, Snyder has written other lengthy Bat-stories (The Black Mirror, Court of Owls) and those tales got under your skin right away.
- It’s about Bruce and not Batman: You’ve heard the old argument about whether the guy really IS Batman, and Bruce Wayne is just his disguise? It’s usually framed as a contrast to Superman/Clark Kent where Supes is still mild-natured, midwestern Clark even when he puts on the tights. I’ve never been as interested in Bruce and his motivations and his family and his relationship with Alfred. So much of Bruce is wrapped up in the lack of a family and that’s something I was never able to identify with… I was fortunate to always have my father around and I’ve always been around for my family as well. I suspect that the Bruce/Alfred relationship speaks more to readers who had less of a relationship with their own fathers.
- It isn’t creepy: You’ll hear some commentators complaining that Snyder is a one-trick pony and that he only does horror-themed stories. Black Mirror, Court of Owls and Death of the Family were all very creepy. So is American Vampire and so was Severed. Swamp Thing was kinda creepy. Zero Year is not even remotely creepy. It’s a different look for Snyder.
- Maybe expectations are unreasonably high: With the track record of Snyder and Capullo, you just expect an epic masterpiece right away. I think they probably demand masterpieces from themselves and I admire their work ethic, but you can’t hit a home run every time.
Seriously, the funny thing is that I’m talking about this like it was a bad comic and it isn’t. It’s a solid “B” which is entirely respectable and my criticism has more to do with the immense respect and admiration I have for the creative team. I expect them to blow my socks off every time and they aren’t quite doing it yet.
Now, there is some very strong material in this issue about Bruce’s relationship with Alfred. As I mentioned, this doesn’t personally register with me, but it is so well done in this issue that I know it’ll be aces for many readers. All the stuff with Bruce where he’s rebelling against Alfred’s advice is the normal stuff you’d see a young man doing to his father… Except Alfred isn’t Bruce’s father, he’s just a really, really dedicated butler. You can’t help but cringe a little to see Bruce treat him this way since Alfred could have just abandoned him when his parents were gunned down. Yet, he hung in there and took care of Bruce– and continues to care of him, even as Bruce goes through this difficult phase.
As for the art, it’s simply glorious! I love how the art team is able to show us a Bruce Wayne who is obviously in his early 20s because, it sells scenes like the aforementioned one with Alfred. Depicting age in comics is really tough. Remember that the art team has to overcome all these mental images we have of Bruce Wayne as a grouchy, 40-ish man. It seems totally different to have a craggy Bruce Wayne being rude to Alfred. When that happens, Bruce is just being a jerk. But because the art team has illustrated Bruce without wrinkles around his mouth, a slightly rounder face and no stubble, you can accept that he’s just a petulant 23-year old who will probably grow up in time. Lots of other great art in this issue too: wonderful dinosaur statues, a great Sphinx that actually feels massive, reflections on the Red Hood’s mask… We’re lucky to have such a lovely outing by Capullo!
The back-up isn’t quite as sharp as last month, but it’s still pretty cool to see these little vignettes of Bruce Wayne traveling the globe to learn his particular set of skills. I’d rather see Rafael Albuquerque drawing issues of American Vampire, but these little exposures to the Batman crowd probably give him a bigger audience and let everyone see what a beast he is.
Conclusion: A very technically strong comic that isn’t quite lighting my socks on fire the way I want it to.