Just, wow. This is the second to the last installment of Savage City and we only have one issue left to go before the grand finale of Zero Year as a whole. I just looked through the DC website for the release date and it will be on July 23. Once again, it'll be a double-sized issue which means extra pages as oppose to the standard count of 32. Speaking of which, how come this one is only composed of 22 pages?
The last ten pages were a preview for a Grayson comic book I was not made aware of until now. I think the fact that the pages were shortened has some sort of effect to the overall quality of this issue's story. I'm not saying this issue failed to captivate me unlike the last one because, at this point in the game, Snyder and co. are definitely bringing their A-game consistently. But there is so much room for more in this issue that could have used those last ten pages to establish a stronger narrative. I don't know. This is supposed to be the second to the last issue and yet the level of intrigue and suspense when you reach the final page fell a little bit flat for me--which is weird because those last pages and the middle ones (arguably or so, I still couldn't get over the fact that the Riddler has robots; has he ever been into gadgetry?) are probably the most enticing parts of the comic book. But I digress.
Let's talk about the cover first. Batman is celebrating its 75 years of existence and I believe this cover is specifically in tribute to that. The stylistic approach to the art may be contemporary now but the meaning and message behind it is reminiscent of the old covers where villains entrap Batman using some elaborate weapon of some kind. But unlike the old covers, this one has more definitive sleekness and tamer colors to it. I love the angling of the question mark (and, ehem, those purple gloves that Batman wears are sexy to me somehow) and that the Riddler was comfortably positioned below, looking up at Batman with an expression that I assume is a very smug one.
So back to the story. I was okay with the pacing but the great reveal in the middle (which I feel like I shouldn't discuss because it's a really major spoiler) somehow undoes whatever suspense was built up in the earlier pages. I feel a bit cheated with it even thought it proves once and for all that the Riddler plays mind games with a sheer audacity and scale that makes me want to kick him repeatedly in the crotch. I never considered him a favorite but I do enjoy his presence in Zero Year because he manages to be both vile and charming. But yeah, I still want to kick him.
My personal favorite part of the issue comes from this page:
I've been so lost in the story and action in the past issues that I overlooked Bruce Wayne's character development in all of this. This page alone I believe indicates just how far he has come from the early issues where he is angry and vindictive because finally, he understands that being Batman is not some sort of mission to avenge his parents alone. It's not just about striking fear in the hearts of criminals. It's a true act of altruism foremost where he has to stop being just a man with a haunted past but become more of an unkillable ideal that lives on for hope's sake. Bruce has acknowledged that he wants to be a hero, one who is flawed yet determined to stand back up again in every failure. He has acknowledged that this isn't a self-serving mission he is carrying out; being Batman also means championing the citizens of Gotham; showing them that there is always going to be a fighting chance in hell as long as you keep holding on to the belief that the darkest of times will always be followed by the brightest.
It's really hard to believe the journey in Zero Year is coming to an end soon, and that it managed to stay strong this long. I'm very honored and happy that Snyder and co. have a level of dedication and understanding about Batman and his representation to fans like me, and that they are writing and illustrating those things with poetic grace the way they have in this marvelous saga.