Batman #21 Kicks Off Year Zero with Mystery, Action, and Bruce Wayne’s Identity Problems

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Batman 21
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV (backup)
Artists: Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque (backup)
Colorist: FCD Plascencia
Publisher: DC Comics

“Batman” only appears in one page of Batman #21, but the reader won’t mind. What made this comic such a good read was that it distilled what it means to be Batman and then traveled in time six years to show how this idea has developed over the years. It does this through action, world and theme building, and a compelling character study of Bruce Wayne over the years from child to Caped Crusader.

Even though dialogue and exposition help develop characters, move the plot, and catch up new readers on things they may not understand, too much of it, especially in a visual medium like comics, can lead to a less than BM_21_3satisfactory reading experience. Scott Snyder manages to sprinkle plenty of action in the story, like Batman taking out a member of the Red Hood Gang with a crossbow and a pair of breathtaking car chases. Greg Capullo is wearing his blockbuster pants and structures his panels reminded me of Roger Deakins’ cinematography for Skyfall. With the help of brighter colors from FCD Plascencia, Capullo shows Bruce Wayne fighting crime in the day time and all the time. The wide panels capture the set pieces, such as a semi-truck crashing into the river while being held by one of Wayne’s grappling hooks.

As well as action, Scott Snyder continues to develop the denizens and setting of Gotham and show their influence on Batman. We meet Phil Kane, Bruce Wayne’s uncle, who knows that he is still alive and wants to him to be the head of Wayne Enterprises, which is developing “non-lethal weaponry”. Phil could either be an ally, enemy, or simply nuisance on Wayne’s mission to fight crime, and his role isn’t revealed until the end. Most of the issue happens at Bruce Wayne’s base on Crime Alley, and there are flashbacks that show young Bruce’s relationship with his family and the city of Gotham. Throughout Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run, the city of Gotham has become a character, and this is shown through a page where Bruce Wayne rides the train to Crime Alley mingling with normal Gothamites after rescuing hostages from the Red Hood Gang.

Batman #21 is filled with universal themes, like finding purpose and identity, that can be found in much of good literature and film. Many of themes have been touched upon in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins. However, “Year Zero” connects these theme to the current Batman character in the DC New 52. I feel like Snyder’s portrayal will be much more in-depth than a four issue miniseries which seemed to focus on Jim Gordon’s character as well and a two hour film. In this issue, Bruce is much angrier and brash. He acts like a jerk around Alfred and Phil Kane showing that he hasn’t created his “billionaire playboy” persona yet. He is a skilled detective, but doesn’t have the gadgets and control that Batman gets later. It will be interesting to see Bruce Wayne’s journey from revenge seeking, Mission Impossible mask wearing to the cowl wearing, Batmobile driving hero that we know and love.

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