So the issue begins with a flashback (at least I assume it is) where a bunch of soldiers in Nigeria uncover a secret door in the desert sand. This could easily be a flash-forward though. There is just no way to tell, really. But I did like that it opened with this scene because one would assume that we will immediately be transported to a darkness, considering the citywide blackout from last issue. It's yet another way of subverting expectations which Snyder and the gang has been very good lately, writing and art-wise. After that baffling scene, we then cut back to the GCPD chasing down Batman because any law-abiding officer in Gotham will waste their time trying to apprehend a 'freak' in a costume instead of maintaining the peace among citizens.
But that's okay because Batman showcases a very flashy batmobile that "leaps" like a motherfucker! I was okay with it because it was a callback to the absurd vehicles Batman used to drive around during the idyllic Adam West time. It's also in line with the fact that Bruce Wayne has yet to become a stoic crime fighter, and so it makes sense that he would enjoy driving this kind of batmobile around. Just look at this fucker:
Weirdly enough, the colors look wrong. For something that's supposed to be flashy and campy, I would have preferred they use a vibrant color like red or yellow. That's the first complaint I have with FCO's coloring and trust me, it will be my last.
Going back to the story--well, not yet because I have another thing to comment on. I noticed that since Zero Year's conception, it would start like a slow burn, and they get away with this pacing because Greg Capullo, artist extraordinaire, illustrates like an angel sent above! He's just so good with landscape detail and panel styling that you could even pause for a while in understanding the story so you could appreciate the art. FCO's colors are such an eye-candy too! The continuous blend of pink, yellow, orange and green is the prettiest palette I have ever seen in comics. Okay, let's get back to the story. I apologize if I'm reviewing sporadically by now but there are just so many things to point out and praise for this issue.
So anyway, the goddamn story. We finally get more appearances from Jim Gordon, then lieutenant, and Harvey Bullock. They investigate a creepy-ass crime scene where a man's bones LITERALLY STARTED SPROUTING BRANCHES. And sure, whenever we talk about plant life in Gotham, one villainess comes to mind easily. But Pamela Isley (future Poison Ivy) makes an appearance here but as a research assistant broken up about her plants getting destroyed. She simply provided a witness account about a man in a trench coat entering the premises earlier and that he looks 'skeletal'.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Alfred make their own progress (or lack thereof) concerning Edward Nygma and a former Wayne scientist Karl Helfren who could be the same trench-coat-wearing skeleton who inflicted unsuspecting current Wayne scientists with a serum that fucks up with the DNA chemistry of their bones. The goal of this serum is to make bones tougher which could be used by the military to safeguard their soldiers from bullets. But just like any progressive scientific discovery too ahead of its time, the scientist who founded it goes freaking mad and starts using the serum for less noble reasons.
Alfred comments that Bruce has enough vital information to give to the GCPD but Bruce flat-out refuses, saying that no one in that department is worth a damn. He was climbing out of the bat-cave (because he has yet to make architectural changes for his operation base at this point in time) when he encounters Jim Gordon waiting for him on the other side. The dislike on Bruce's part for the lieutenant is palpable. And it seems to have something to do with his parents' death. Gordon looks apologetic enough, trying anything to reach out to Bruce, but the latter not only gives him the cold shoulder but even had a swarm of bats attack Gordon briefly when he clicked on that sonogram switch from his pocket the moment Gordon tries to look into the hole leading to the bat-cave. Talk about resentment, jesus!
I'm gonna stop right here and not expand on the scenes too much because I feel like I might give away something substantial to the plot. But so far this is an exciting jump for the series. We have yet to see the Riddler again but we did get tons of other cameos like from Poison Ivy and Lucius Fox. There is a prominent horror theme to this issue too that seems to hit the right notes, thanks to the sly writing from Snyder and the forever gorgeous artwork from Capullo that makes the pages come to life. I'm intrigued for the next installment since this issue ends with an unbelievable cliffhanger. And what did the soldiers find inside that secret door in the desert? Does it have something to do with the evil unleashed in Gotham?
Before I end this review, I think it's worth talking about the part that made me tear up again, right?
Well, it was another short fiction at the end from Snyder and Jason Tynion IV called People in the dark. It centers around young Harper Row and her brother Cullen during the blackout. Their father just walked out of them for the zillionth time that night, so Harper was left to assure Cullen that the only reason he's afraid of the dark is because it makes us imagine the bad things that could be there. She argues that our imaginations always make us assume the worst that we fail to acknowledge the good things. Harper also adds that Cullen is afraid because in the dark, he couldn't see her, but she maintains that she will always be there--and so would the unsung heroes who face the fear by themselves for its ordinary citizens and try to be the beacons of light for them. While she was saying this, we get a full-spread of Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, etc. fighting the good fight while out in the dark streets. It was really enough to make my tear ducts act up again.
I gotta say, I enjoy small yet personal stories like this a lot, and Snyder has never failed to deliver especially when he works with Tynion IV who seems to like writing in supporting characters into Batman stories. Overall, this is an issue you need to read for yourself to understand why Synder's Batman line-up is one of the best titles DC has to offer for New 52.