This month DC Comics is celebrating their first anniversary of relaunching their entire comic book line with a series of special issues that explores the origins of each character. Its a confusing notion in my opinion, especially given that some of these zero issues mark the end of a comic and others are the first.
Given that the origin of Batman has been told so many times, the creative teams had quite a challenge set before them to make their stories interesting despite the material being so over-told. Given that Batman Earth One, released around the same time, does the exact same thing is… unfortunate. Thankfully these three are quite good, due in large part to the talent behind each story.
By Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Grant Morrison may get the most credit for the success of the modern Batman comic book, but in truth its Snyder, Capullo and Daniel who have done a bulk of the heavy lifting amid the Death and Return of Bruce Wayne and of course the complete reboot of the Bat-verse proper. Throughout all that madness, these creators have not only crafted some exciting stories but have also developed a sophisticated backdrop of Gotham City. In Snyder’s case, the history and legacy of the Gotham became just as much of a character as Batman, Alfred and the rest of the regular cast.
In returning to the early era of Batman, Snyder’s script shows the early flawed side of the great crime fighter. Pitted against the Red Hood gang, he is sloppy, over-confident and despite extensive research, a failure in his attempt to stop the gang’s bank robbery. Capullo reigns in his usual gory style with a more traditional visual, allowing this issue to feel simpler and more innocent rather than raw and gritty as it could have.
Even Alfred seems unsure of just what his master could be hoping to accomplish as he helps Bruce set up a complex crime fighting lab outfitted with high tech weaponry and vehicles when he was almost killed by the police in his recent mission. While Wayne is still learning from his mistakes, he is determined to make his one man war on crime a success. When James Gordon drops by for an unexpected visit, we learn that their is a level of corruption that extends into the corporate realm, a world where Bruce Wayne could be more helpful than Batman.
As a glimpse into the early days of this new Batman, I found this to be a success. Given the common trait of Snyder to develop large scale stories, I am also looking forward to seeing how the Red Hood Gang story connects up to next year’s storyline. I suspect that it will dovetail into the Death of the Family story coming soon.
Detective Comics #0
By Gregg Hurwitz and Tony Daniel
The early days of Batman are rife with tales of education as young Bruce Wayne travels the world learning the very skills he would need to grow into the world’s greatest crime fighter. Many of these stories have of course been told before, significantly in the Legends of the Dark Knight series (sadly no longer with us). Gregg Hurwitz’s story explores young Bruce Wayne’s journey to Tibet where he seeks out the Zen-Buddhist monk Shihan Matsuda. He must first endure the shame of waiting to be worthy of Matsuda’s disgust. Throughout the issue, the master repeatedly informs Wayne that he is less than nothing throughout his instruction in fighting and meditation techniques. It reminded me of grade school only all I learned was D&D.
Wayne feels that the loss of his family makes him special, but Matsuda insists that it does not. The path that Wayne has set himself on requires a complete loss of self, the dissolution of his wants and desires. As he attempts to embrace this, he is offered a completely opposite opportunity after meeting the shop girl Mio. He yearns for companionship and despite the hardening of his heart, he still hopes to find someone to share his life with. This inner conflict creates a schism in his training, widened by master Matsuda’s wife who compels Wayne to seek out the one he loves and desires.
Of course the whole situation is a ruse, one that allows Mio access to Matsuda’s impenetrable fortress for a late night meeting with Bruce. Unfortunately, Mio is not a simple shop girl but an expert assassin working with Matsuda’s wife. In the ensuing conflict, both husband and wife murder each other while Bruce deals with Mio. In his death throes, Matsuda completes his lesson by saying ‘this is what closeness brings you.’
It’s a marvelous issue that in another age would have earned a graphic novel status or at least a prestige format release. An emotionally-charged and moving adventure, this is a great sign of things to come as Hurtwitz becomes another member of the Bat-bullpen.
Batman and Robin #0
By Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
I learned early on that Batman and Robin was not a popular series due to the inclusion of snot-nosed brat Damian. I think that’s an unfair disrespect as he makes the comic worth reading. The friction and between father and son is what brings the strength of this comic to the fore, along with the outstanding artwork of Patrick Gleason. Despite all that, my interest in this series has waned in recent months due to guest artists and a few less than impressive issues following the War of the Robins storyline.
Nevertheless, this issue saved the comic by filling in a number of details on Damian’s upbringing and the hatred imbued in him by his mother. The over the top martial arts action that pervades this series makes it very distinctive (what other comic has bat-ninja carnage as gory as this??) but Peter J. Tomasi’s writing is so soulful that it is also a very edgy emotional series as well.
The daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, Talia used her relationship with her father’s intended heir to create the perfect successor to her Ra’s empire. Damian is the ideal killer, the most brilliant tactician and the cruelest of adversaries, but in this issue we see an innocent side to him that is heartbreaking in its simplicity. Curious about the contents of a chest in his mother’s room, Damian breaks into it only to find a funny costume that he of course puts on:
Damian’s path seems to be chosen for him as he was genetically bred to rule the world. Yet when he decides to make his own path, the consequences are dire. Talia al Ghul becomes Leviathan, a destructive force that is in opposition of her father’s dream to rule the planet for its own good. Scarred and hurt from neglect, Talia is a demonic threat far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.
These issues could have been a complete waste of time and paper, but I found them to be very enjoyable and also an extension of the further development of the Batman universe.