Friday, June 6, 2014

[New 52] Batman by Scott Snyder issue #21, ZERO YEAR

For the longest time I don't know why I love Batman but I was inherently drawn to him. It may have something to do with the fact that his image was one of the earliest memories I have from childhood. I was about four years old, and my grandfather would wear this white shirt with his iconic bat symbol in it, and that every time he would lay me to sleep, he'd put Batman stickers on the bed frame in front of me. I would wake up each morning and pick at them for fun, but every time they get peeled off, my grandfather would only replace them the next day. I don't know why he did this ritual and I never got to ask him because he passed away when I was ten and by then I was already living far away from my grandparents.

But Batman's image stuck with me for years as something that I associate with my estranged grandfather--until it became something more. One day while I was browsing through channels on TV, I came upon the cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series and I simply devoured it. I was about thirteen and it was a fortunate thing that every time I got home from school, BTAS is always on air the minute I tune in, so I got to know Batman some more and his villains stood out for me as well. I bought VCDs for the Tim Burton movies, and then by college, I started to look forward to Nolan's trilogy. I was just hooked and I wanted to know Batman more intimately so I turned to comics since that's where he began. It was only three years ago that I began to obsessively pursue him. I'd watch copies of the Adam West show online and download documentaries and more animated films about him; until one day I just realized I love him in a way that's taking over my life.

I never really understood why I love Batman until I started to talk about it with other interested people and long-time fans. I thought I simply liked him because seeing his image is attached to a nostalgic experience of mine with a late relative. But it was more than that now. I love Batman because I believe in heroes and their power that can influence our lives and give us something greater to aspire to. Batman is the first thing that my mind accepts whenever I hear that term 'hero'. And he remains my hero to this day, even though I equally rank the great detective Sherlock Holmes and the time-traveling Doctor from Doctor Who alongside with him. Every one who calls him/herself a Batman fan knows about his origins, particularly the most popular version, Frank Miller's Year One. When Scott Snyder announced his intention to add something to the established origin story by releasing the ten-issue set Zero Year for DC's New 52, I was, of course, excited though still a bit skeptical. But pleasantly enough, this issue, Secret City: Part One is teeming with great potentials and can certainly expand the Batman mythos pertaining to Bruce Wayne's quest to become a symbol of hope and justice for Gotham City.

The story starts with Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham after his 'presumed dead' status. An organized group of criminals who identify themselves simply as Red Hood (insert number here) has plagued the city, stealing, killing and rampaging across the streets. Bruce tries his best to derail their plans but he can get too impulsive and clumsy in his pursuit. It's notable that this is definitely before he even took up the mask and symbol of the bat, and so he struggles his way as a novice vigilante for this issue. I really like the fact that this Bruce Wayne is quite selfish and evasive with a one-track mind and a thirst for easy vengeance. I also like the flashback moments about his father, and his interactions with an uncle who tries to push him back into the Wayne spotlight, to take up that mantle and be the man his parents want him to be. Bruce isn't interested in that life at all because he knows he can do more hands-on things to stop the crimes in Gotham. But it's also apparent that he is heavily misguided, unable to truly understand the importance and scope of his goals.

Now reading this first issue from the Zero Year series, as well as the previous issues dealing with Damian's death in 18, 19 and 20, has helped me to fully understand why I love Batman so much. It wasn't just the Dark Knight that I'm drawn to--it's the traumatized boy underneath who is just looking for a way to conquer his fears and avenge his parents' death. Now I may not know how it feels like to watch my parents get gunned down by some crook, but I do know how difficult it is to overcome the things you're most afraid of. I have my fair share of those and they can be indeed emotionally crippling. You try to fight back but the pressure is just too grand especially when you do it alone--but you had to do it alone because it's your war. And Synder has delivered me this insight about Bruce Wayne.

This is personal to him because growing up in a city filled with so much filth and desolation has not only killed his parents but also changed the way he looks at the world. And that is the most terrifying thing a person could ever face; to know that nothing in life is safe or stable for long, and that there are things in the dark that will drag you down unless you kick them in the face and fight back.

I'm glad that Snyder is taking a step back from the present timeline to explore the makings of Bruce Wayne as a self-made caped crusader in the same style as Nolan did for Batman Begins but with a better literary restraint, more creative freedom, and greater knowledge and understanding of why Bruce operates the way he does. The tone and atmosphere for this series is top-notch so far. I like the storytelling structure where we go back and forth to the past with young Bruce Wayne, and the present with the Red Hood plot. Edward Nygma (who will become the Riddler) is another added bonus for me. Seeing Bruce experiment and fail in his determination to stop the Red Hood gang is also juxtaposed with the last pages where we see him in some country, training with a guy who is an expert at something Bruce himself could use once he becomes Batman.

This goes on for the next two issues as well and serves as a way to portray his dedication and hard work to become not just physically gifted in fighting but also mentally strong in an any ongoing battle. Overall, this is a great read all throughout and I'm so excited for the directions Snyder will be taking us in the next issues!


* A promising start for an epic saga ahead

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