staypuffed's Five-Star BATMAN: ZERO YEAR Review; "It’s The Best Batman Story In Years"

From the team behind The Court of Owls and Death of the Family comes the modern "punk rock" version of the Dark Knight's origin story - and it's pretty damn good. Check out an in-depth review of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's 12-issue epic, Batman: Zero Year.

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By staypuffed - 7/28/2014

Origins stories are a necessary evil. Many feel that the most famous comic book conceptions don’t require retellings, but with DC’s 2011 reboot shifting the universe in a big way, it was time to dust off the Batman alpha and dive into his first adventures. After two stellar storylines, The Court of Owls and Death of the Family, as part of the New 52, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo were tasked with crafting another origin, but rather than a generic rehash, they offer one of the most complex, personal and engaging Batman tales in years.

As Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One tackled the issues of the time, this twelve-issue event incorporates modern themes and fears — terrorism, climate change, random violence, cataclysmic events, identity crises. Separated into three parts, Zero Year is less about mobsters and corruption and more about exploring the man behind the pointy mask, who channels his harrowing grief into extraordinary dedication. It's richly layered and intricate, and only benefits from multiple readings.


"Each act begins slowly, establishing the characters and current situation with seamless exposition and wonderful artwork."


Part one, Secret City, sees Bruce Wayne acting as a vigilante, a faceless, but not exactly discreet, man on a mission to stop the Red Hood Gang. Each act begins slowly, establishing the characters and current situation with seamless exposition and wonderful artwork. Capullo, teamed with inker Danny Miki and colourist FCO, are consistently remarkable and surprisingly; moving away from traditional murky, washed-out colours and tones to something more vivid and distinct, the interiors harken back to eras of comics past.

The first act is also the best — not to disclaim the brilliance of the other two, but Bruce’s conflict, not only with the Hood, but also his sense of self, is riveting. The villains of Zero Year vary in terms of success, but the Red Hood is a deliciously fascinating foe that paradoxically helps define Batman while being defeated and deformed by him — an enigma, if you will. Two of the most incredible moments of the story occur in chapters three and four, bound to make any fan burst with excitement.


Part two, Dark City, follows Batman as he operates in a Gotham plunged into darkness, developing his relationship with Jim Gordon and facing the gruesome new version of Dr. Death. This is where things get wilder and more over-the-top, and both Snyder and Capullo relish in the operatic nature of the tale, with radiant storms, monstrous rogues and massive zeppelins bursting through the closing of the act. Things ramp up even further in Savage City as Batman races to save his city from a near-unstoppable foe, all leading towards a wonderfully executed finale that concludes the story but keeps the character fresh for years to come.

Here’s the thing, though: they keep him fresh by making lose. Batman here is not the disciplined, tactile detective and dark knight fans are familiar with — he’s rougher, angrier, and, crucially, not always right. But Snyder crafts a fascinating story arc that develops the characters — not just Bruce Wayne, but supporting players such as Alfred and Gordon — in unexpected ways. Frankly, a lot of the story is unexpected. Zero Year takes twists and turns and risks that are surprising and unpredictable, enticing the reader to turn each page with extreme anticipation.


"Snyder and Capullo take some of the more bizarre aspects of the character and make them work, with callbacks to Year One and more peppered throughout."



And even with the changes, the team don’t shy away from celebrating the Dark Knight’s 75-year history. Callbacks to Year One, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Returns and No Man’s Land — even Batman’s first suit is a joyous blend of eras (Batman: The Animated Series and the original Detective Comics #27, in particular) — are peppered throughout. Snyder and Capullo take some of the more bizarre aspects of the character and make them work, adding a layer of fan excitement rather than detracting from the story.

With this story, Snyder and Capullo confirm that they are one of the most exciting creative teams in the industry. Hints of foreshadowing and suggestions of symbolism continue their keen sense of mystery and excitement, and the seemingly effortless blend of explosive action beats and heartfelt character moments is what elevates Zero Year from being just another origin story. Some may say it drags a bit at times, but this is the best Batman origin since Miller’s, with pulse-pounding action, thrilling story, strong character arcs and easter eggs and references galore.


VERDICT: A wonderful mix of old and new, with art and story working together to create an astoundingly entertaining new origin story. It’s the best Batman story in years. ★★★★★ (Incredible)
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18 Comments
MrBlackjack - 7/28/2014, 3:10 PM
Great review! Year One will always have an impact on Batman lore that I don't think Zero Year can replicate, but Zero Year is the better story, at least in my eyes. It's new and fresh but doesn't alienate readers, no matter what origin story they grew up on. It ultimately feels like a love letter to Batman, his lore, and his fans.
THEDARKKNIGHT1939 - 7/28/2014, 3:16 PM
Great review dude. I have yet to read this, looking forward to giving it a go when it "hopefully" comes to trade.
Phronesis - 7/28/2014, 4:26 PM
Great review! I haven't got to Savage City yet, but I'm excited to read the conclusion to this superb story. It's incredible for all the reasons you stated. The art if also beautifully vibrant, especially for a Batman story.
Phronesis - 7/28/2014, 4:27 PM
Have you read any tie-ins? How are they?
NightWatcher - 7/28/2014, 4:27 PM
Great Job!
staypuffed - 7/28/2014, 4:58 PM
Thanks for the feedback, guys!

@Phronesis
I've only read the Detective Comics tie-in, which was good, but I've heard good things about Green Arrow, Action Comics and the Flash.
Indy - 7/28/2014, 5:16 PM
Great review! I also really enjoy this book. Love look of the book from way it was drawn and colored its Fantastic. I really enjoy the story it was done with lot of love and care and I had a blast reading it.
Brainiac13 - 7/28/2014, 5:34 PM
Still haven't read this......will do in a couple of weeks.....nice review.
MightyZeus - 7/28/2014, 11:20 PM
I like it. Great review. I really loved reading through Year One.
ScabbyJ - 7/29/2014, 1:20 AM
My opinion, having read hundreds of Batman comics: Snyder's run on Batman ALWAYS starts unique, builds strong and disappoints at the end, and this Zero Year is no different. The first two acts were fantastic, but this final act is horribly boring.
patrat18 - 7/29/2014, 3:37 AM
Agreed every issue is atleast a 9.
duncboy - 7/29/2014, 4:29 AM
I liked it but wouldn't say it was a "great" story. I thought Court of Owls was more entertaining throughout
BlackRobin98 - 7/29/2014, 7:21 AM
Art looks horrendous! Bad Picasso anny1?!!! But I'll give it a spin
DCGuy - 7/29/2014, 9:31 AM
THIS STORY & COURT OF OWLS ARE THE BEST BATMAN STORIES OF THE NEW 52 AND IN THE TOP 10 BATMAN STORIES OF ALL TIME.
Brainiac13 - 7/29/2014, 1:31 PM
Ok.....You've motivated me to read this next.....I'm reading Action Comics v3 at this moment....

Loving the New 52.
RichardGrayson - 7/29/2014, 4:33 PM
Snyder/Capullo are the best team to work on Batman since Timm/Dini
TheBatmanRules - 7/29/2014, 7:04 PM
I actually believe that all three of Snyder and Capullo's Batman stories are among the best. For me though, it's between the Court of Owls and Zero Year.
MrFantastic - 7/30/2014, 6:43 AM
I think Zero Year was a good story, and I'm glad that they respected Year One and acknowledged it, rather than trying to say "Nothing that happened in Year One exists anymore. Forget about it."

Personally, I liked that Zero Year had references and allusions to Year One in the story- Bruce being away for several years, fighting crime before he took on the cape and cowl, Bruce making mistakes as Batman, his evolving relationship with Jim Gordon, etc. Also appreciated the references of No Man's Land, the animated series and Begins.

Now if they can rework the whole timeline of the New 52, that's something to wonder about. The powers that be could easily have Bruce work as Batman for about 5,6,7 years in the shadows before the Justice League origin begins. Trying to cram in all of the Dark Knight's highs and lows into five years- the origin, Long Halloween, Killing Joke, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man's Land, Hush, Death of the Family- is problematic.

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