Batman #22 – Bruce Without The Bat

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 7.11.43 PMWill Romine writes;

Hi friends,

It's your old pall Will Romine here, and I've had a whale of a time reading Batman #22, the latest installment in Zero Year.  I have to say that this arc is shaping up quite nicely.

Now friends, I read a lot of comments about how Zero Year is basically another retread of Batman's origin story, about how there are no new ideas in Mr. DiDio's house.  I take exception to that.  Zero Year is about showing Bruce without the Bat, which hasn't really been explored before outside of Miller's Year One.  Sure we have the occasional one-shot, but I want to see a writer explore a Bruce that hasn't yet created the dichotomy of billionaire playboy and dark detective. The Mission without the Method.

I also want to see how a grown man comes to don a cowl.  I always thought the whole, "Hey dad, whatever you throw through my window next, I'll fight crime in" was a little to deus-ex-machina-y for me.  Snyder has carved himself some narrative space to do this.  Pre new-52, Batman came about in a word that had already established the superhero template.  In the world of the New-52, Superman may have been the first public superhero, but Batman emerged five years before as a costumed urban legend.  Zero Year isn't just a Batman story, it's a story of how the idea of costumed justice came to be in the new-52.

Now onto what I think of the story.  If you haven't read the first issue, stop reading now.  I'm spoiling that last issue, but only that issue.  Far be it for me to keep you from your LCS.  In the first issue of ZY, a pre-Bat Bruce Wayne is on the trail of the Red Hood gang, a group of criminals kept anonymous and interchangeable by, well you know.  At this time, Bruce Wayne fights crime in a variety of disguises, but not under a single identity.  Essentially, the Red Hood gang are many that fight as one, whereas Bruce is one that fights as many.  Clear as mud, I'm sure.  I don't know know what the new-52 plans are for the Red-Hood gang, but history tells us that there's a certain Clown Prince of Crime under that rosy, phallic dome.  Plus, we're promised a Joker origin in the upcoming solicitations, so there's that.

This issue also reminded me of the very end of "Batman Begins" in which Jim Gordon pontificates whether Batman's flair for the theatrical is bringing out a commensurate response in the criminal world.  In Zero Year's pre-Bat Gotham, the elemental forces of Joker and Batman are fighting each other before they have taken the shapes that we all know.  ZY is Snyder's contribution to that age old debate of "Does Batman create his villains, or is he a necessary response to them?"  To Snyder, there is no creation.  The forces of order and chaos will find and match each other, regardless of the form they take.  There is no chicken, there is no egg.  I think it's an approach that hasn't really been explored in the Bat Mythos.

In last month's review, I failed to give the backup feature the credit due.  During Zero Year, the backup features will focus on Young Bruce's journey around the world as he picks up the skills necessary to fight crime.  Mr. Tynion delivers fun, self contained stories that pop.  You get a full story, but you see how it's woven into the larger tapestry.

Well friends, I've said my piece.  Go to your LCS tomorrow and pick up this issue.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I know you will.  Tell me what you think.  Give ol' Will a follow @notacomplainer.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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