My reviews for the previous issues of Zero Year so far have been optimistic and I tend to rate them with an almost perfect scoring. The first three issues (21-23) have a great narrative scope to them so I was very generous to discuss its impressive accomplishment in structure and content. Meanwhile, issues 24 and 25 were probably my instant favorites of the series so far since they were the most exciting and daring, rife with deft characterizations and overall intrigue.
However, this issue definitely sets the pace a little slower, pulling back from the most riveting of the set pieces (the Riddler's grand scheme; Gotham blackout) in order to nuance the relationship dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon and give us a worthy distraction in the re-imagining of Batman's first villain in the Golden Age, Doctor Death. These two things are the primary things that were explored for this issue, Dark City II. Before I get to that, let's discuss first the breadth and quality of Capullo's art for this issue.
It's personally my least favorite issue, visual-wise. Capullo had always been an artist who thrives well in background detail and lush landscapes but most of the panels for this issue seem to lack that trademark. I did enjoy the film-reel feel of the flashback pages, though, and the fading and almost brownish tinge of coloring to them that were marvelously done once again by FCO.
Now onto the story: I found Doctor Death to be quite menacing but was still not a fully-formed villain with clear motivations. He braced through the pages, all scary as fuck, but I was not overly concerned of what damage he can do. I was more interested with the reasons why there is a blatant resentment on Bruce's part towards Jim Gordon. In fact, that's probably the only thing I was invested in while reading. It was quite a shocking turn of events too, and I want to know about Jimbo's own side of the story.
Overall, this issue does come out stale when you compare it to the previous ones, but the action-oriented sequences are still great to see, especially right at the end when it seems like Batman is done for good.
What issue #26 did promise is the follow-up to the Bruce-Jim Gordon character arc which I hope will be in the next installment. This was, after all, set in the early years before they formed a strong camaraderie, and I'm more than eager to read about the humble beginnings of that friendship that is both still familiar based from what was established in Frank Miller's Year One and new as far as Snyder's own take goes.