As one of the idiots trade-waiting the terrific current Batman run it has been a long time between drinks and so, given the quiet week, I slipped up and slapped a copy of this zero issue on my pile, figuring the quick fix would get me through the break. It turns out I was very wrong. Scott Snyder is a writer who doesn’t seem to understand the word ‘short’ or the idea of a one shot and so when tasked with treading back to ‘Before the New 52’ for this zero issue he took the opportunity not to establish an easy origin for Batman but to build out a new step in his mythology, one that will function as a foundation for stories to come far off in the future. This is very reason that I wait to read his books in bulk, they are designed to work that way. The other trademark of Snyder’s stories is their smart and compelling construction, this is here in spades and it is what makes that wait so very hard indeed.
While it might seem a weird choice at first Snyder’s decision to use the zero issue to tell a wider story about the city is an obvious one in retrospect. His entire approach to Gotham has been one of establishing history and that is just what he does here. Even opening the book with a bit of meta-humour which comments on that fact; he shows the city sliced into, cross sectioned, while a man talks about refurbishment, about making the old new again. Then bamn, you turn to the second page and who do we see but… well I’m not really sure who we see, but I do know who it might be and he riffs humorously on history and how it works to inform the present in life, just as it does in Snyder’s stories.
The exciting half of Snyder’s story is centered around Red Hood robbing a bank and young Bruce’s botched attempt to stop him. The way that this is written is witty and tense like the best crime thrillers; it’s dialogue based action in which the twists and turns of the conversation are more compelling than any firefight or fisticuffs could ever be. Snyder scripts the scene to perfection and Capullo’s constant depiction of the red Dome’s distorted reflections adds an extra layer of eerie to affairs; then when the physical action and the dialogue is reduced to grunts and gun-noises he takes over the storytelling with a steady hand, seeing it through to crisp conclusion.
I was so enthralled by this sequence that I never stopped reading long enough to think “hey wait, Red Hood… that’s the Joker!” Before The Joker there was The Red Hood and before Snyder’s Joker run here is that very helmet; trust someone like Snyder to do something tricky like this and trust someone like Snyder to subvert all of the easy expectations, it could still be anyone in there. We never really find out because the book then takes a turn into what can only be called the expository half.
Here Snyder establishes some more of that History everyone has been talking about through a lengthy, long lined conversation between Bruce and Commissioner Gordon that is catalyzed up by a clever structural technique that both Snyder and Capullo capitalize on fully, but ultimately still falls a little flat. Surely though this is all stuff that will come to be important later, it is history that we should learn from, my only worry is how much later; the issue ends on an ominous moment with a ‘To Be Continued in 2013″. Now obviously it’s not much of a traditional cliffhanger, we know that Bruce makes it through alive, but I really want to see the rest of this story and it will be a very, very long wait until i get to if the plan is to continue it next September in issue #0-2.
The bolstered back-up Tomorrow by frequent collaborator James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke functions like a much more traditional zero issue would, by showing us some history, by telling the origins of the three bat-family members who havn’t had the chance to tell their story in current continuity. Unlike Damian Tim, Dick and Jason’s original back-stories don’t really fit in with what we know of this new universe and this short series of vignettes does what it can to counter that. Each is shown at a moment of crisis, modernizations of their original histories, and each is shown spotting the bat signal soon after their situation is solved.
It’s a nice meshing together of family with history, characters with the city; all things that Snyder has been stressing through what I’ve read of his run. Funnily enough I actually found this back-up to be the more satisfying of the two tales told which is strange since I like Snyder usually favour the long-form and Tynion only had a page or two in which to tell each character’s tale. I think that the tautness of the form really pushed him to tighten up his script, something that Snyder didn’t feel the need to do, knowing that he had hundreds more pages to go before he was through.
All in all this zero issue felt very much like an annual; it told two out-of-sync, semi-stand alone stories that will soon be of strong importance. So while some may complain that it threw out the flow of the comic for me it offered a good excuse to buy the book again and the quality of what I found inside was enough to convince me to buy the rest of Snyder’s run in the form of single issues. History has to be built gradually, not in bulk and Snyder and Capullo are certainly making history with this run.