Monday, July 28, 2014

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #33, ZERO YEAR

I need to make a formal announcement so listen up. Since I started my Batman comics diet three months ago, I never thought I would have come this far and finish reviewing a hundred-plus individual comics issue and graphic novels, let alone realize that there are possibly a thousand of ways I could love my dark knight, the watchful caped crusader and protector of all things noble and true--my bold, beautiful and brilliant Bruce Wayne, the one and only Batman

But I am going to make it to my self-imposed deadline by the end of July, and I can honestly say that through this quest I have earned a more nuanced understanding, appreciation and respect for Batman after my consummate reading of his New 52 and some old continuity material. I sampled him in his very roots and though I'm satiated and brought to the best geekagasms imaginable, I know that I will relentlessly crave more of him. But I need to wait for two months before another Bat-feast. In the meantime, I'm finalizing all my last reviews for my Bat-diet. And what better way to close my epic adventures in Gotham's landscapes that than to review Scott Snyder's final issue for his Batman: Zero Year saga, an otherwise unexpectedly well-executed origin story that started out as a tribute to Frank Miller's Year One but had since then continued to branch out and re-define itself as its own self-made masterpiece and, to my mind, is undoubtedly one of the classics-in-the-making as far as Batman stories are concerned.

Granted I still have the Knightfall series volume 1 to follow up after this but I believe that Snyder's Zero Year is a more personal story to me that is emotionally resonant in a way that defied all my expectations. It's definitely the one thing I would like to mark my Batman diet's end of an era with. So let's get right to it. I suppose this will also include my overall insights on Zero Year as a series in retrospect, and not just for this issue alone.

In line with the 75 years of celebration for Batman's existence as one of the most majestic gifts the human imagination has ever conceived, I thought it was quite poetic that Snyder and co. decided to explore and re-tell his origins for this generation, employing the elements that not only suited the mainstream and contemporary demands of the comics medium, but also to ensure that the quality of this new Batman mythology will still weave the precious quintessential facts and lore we have come to know about the Dark Knight. Year One is the inspiration though Snyder did not shy away from heavily incorporating the gritty ideas found from Christopher Nolan's movies (even Tim Burton's fairy-tale-like visual concepts, and a dash of noir from Paul Dini's The Animated Series, as well as a surprising Adam West's sixties show flair mixed in for good measure). The result is a rich tapestry of in-depth historical examination of what Batman stands for and why he will continue to live on close to a century or so.

This is the twelfth and last issue of the saga and unlike the two story arcs that Snyder graced us with (The City of Owls and Death of the Family), the resolution for Zero Year is unlike the former with its questionable intent and the latter which lent itself to ambiguities that almost diluted the pay-off itself. I'm pleased to say that this one stuck its landing quite fairly with an impressive balance of length and quality in between which was established right from the beginning issues (#21-23) and finally to this end. Sure, there have been complications and unevenness to some details and choices in the plot (notably issues #26 and #27 and some parts of #29) but when Zero Year is really good and at the top of its game, its excellence just shines through readily (issues #24, 25, 30 and 31 come to mind when I say this). 

There won't be any spoilers for this issue because I can't discuss any more of the details unless you have been in this journey for me (or about to start your own if my review/s convinced you which I sure hoped they did SO DO IT, READ ZERO YEAR!) Before I give you my main points on why I recommend this series for you, even if you are indeed a non-comics fan but at least enjoy Batman as a character, I will leave you with this exchange between Alfred and Bruce Wayne which I think summarizes the great burden that becoming and choosing Batman entails:

I recommend this series for three reasons:

  • You're a long-time Batman fan and you probably had this on your bookshelf for a while, waiting for the series to end and making sure the reviews are positive: Fear not, Bat-geek. You won't be disappointed when you get around to reading this, preferably by also dropping everything right now and just go for it!
  • You only knew and enjoyed Batman through television or the Nolan trilogy: This will definitely be a good side-by-side comparison with Batman Begins which is essentially a great origin story for Bats. However, Zero Year offers more nuanced characterizations, plot lines and callbacks to previous adaptations in all mediums that Batman had embodied throughout the years. There is a strong cinematic style in Capullo's illustrations that will be visually appealing as well.
  • You want to start reading comics and Batman is a superhero you hugely favor and you want to start from the beginning: Though this is the New 52 where DC comics in general have been rebooted, I think Zero Year is a great place to start with in correlation to the classic Bat origin story Year One. It makes little difference if you decide on that one or this one first as long as you BOTH read them.


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