The brisk action panels at the beginning were vibrantly illustrated as the Red Hood gang burns down the location Bruce uses as a hideout, about a scant few miles from his home residence. We later find out that it was Edward Nygma himself who hired the gang to capture and kill Bruce, against his uncle Philip's wishes, who was working closely with Nygma since the latter was his personal strategist/adviser for the company. The Red Hood gang doesn't know that Bruce was also the same vigilante who had been trying to stop them in the earlier issues, and they were simply following orders. I really love this scene because here we see Bruce get beaten up very badly. In Year One, he was purposefully not dodging blows because he was bidding his time and trying to understand the moves of his enemies. Here in this issue, Snyder forces the readers to recognize that Bruce is vulnerable and not always at his best form. He was caught off-guard in this moment, and almost delirious as he was left to bleed out in the fiery safe house.
As he picks himself up and shields himself from the flames while he makes his escape, we also get glimpses of Bruce walking back to Wayne Manor in a flash-forward sequence. The splicing of these scenes was marvelously depicted. The different color palette defines which scene is which (Bruce trying to get back home has quieter, almost washed-out gray landscapes). We then get a panel of his father by his side, telling him everything is okay and that the terror is over (I assume this was after he found young Bruce in the cave). And then we cut back to Bruce in present time, losing consciousness as soon as he got inside the Wayne manor. He wakes up moments after with Alfred stitching his wounds the entire time which were plenty. He doesn't need to hear any apologies from Bruce as he makes a promise that even though they may fight or disagree sometimes, he will always be there to patch him up (and of course this doesn't only mean literally; this dialogue also perfectly signifies the kind of loving devotion and service Alfred will always offer to Bruce). No words are exchanged between them because they have reached a point in their relationship where they both know that it's them against the world. Bruce leaves to go inside his father's study and here we get the iconic scene from Year One when Bruce first discovers, through divine intervention from his father, what his calling is supposed to be. What I like about this, though, is that Snyder didn't just copy-paste the same scene from its predecessor origin. He added his own twist and interpretation to it.
In issue #21, Thomas Wayne gives Bruce a round black thing that is supposed to be some sort of GPS tracking device. He said that it knows every place in Gotham and will serve as a map for young Bruce in case he gets lost. He falls into a cave the next issue and tries to use that thing to navigate out of there. And now in present time and in this issue, Bruce picks it up again as he rummages through the boxes in is father's study. Looking for guidance more than ever, he clutches onto it as he proceeds to talk to his father's statue bust. And then the round black thing lights up and shows Bruce what looked like an interior of a cave and with bats coming out of the window. With the glow still illuminating the place, Bruce contentedly places it down the table and sits on the couch, watching as a bat rested on his father's bust, staring at him. And then Bruce's immortalized phrase rings true: "Yes, father. I shall become a bat." The ball rolls and shatters to the floor and we were brought back to the actual study room once more with Bruce still sitting there across his father's bust, their shadows outlined by the moonlight outside the outstretched panel of windows. It was a memorable scene and one that finally starts the transformation from man to ideal. I liked the strength of the three artists who worked at this sequence; their imagery just holds up so incredibly well that Snyder's writing had to take a backseat to give us these beautiful images. I really can't say that their re-imagining of that iconic moment was better than Miller's, but it definitely gave me more chills and excitement, thanks to the wondrous visual style.
The last pages show us Bruce in his training years once more, this time in Norway. He was inside a pit, fighting different groups of men all at once. A woman was telling him that he needed to go far, to step over that line, and not just injure his enemies but end them completely. Bruce doesn't listen to this advice as he one by one he beats the men into a pulp. The woman wasn't impressed so she calls on a new set of men to fight Bruce but none of them would come near him anymore. Those who are injured lay on his feet, cowling back in fear. This was a significant moment, I believe. It deftly shows that though Bruce is not capable of killing, he is a formidable presence nonetheless because he can strike fear in the hearts of these bad men.
They are afraid of him and that is the very purpose of becoming Batman, the essence that his symbol is supposed to represent.
* A lush and vivid issue that relied on the poetry of its visual artistry, the third part of Zero Year can be considered a much-awaited rise to a higher set of notes Snyder and co. is more than capable to deliver.