Batman #0 is kind of a strange beast. It seems to serve as a precursor to the upcoming Death of the Family in that it explores the old Red Hood and his gang – where Scott Snyder suggests that this is indeed a pre-chemical bath Joker — but it ends with a disappointing “to be continued in 2013” without any resolution. To that end, on its own, Batman #0 doesn’t really feel like a complete story, instead just snippets of some great character moments for Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Jim Gordon. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, but I suspect this issue will read better once the full context is known.
That said, Snyder has a lot of fun with pre-Batman (and pre-Matches Malone, it seems) Bruce Wayne. The opening infiltration sequence is fantastic, exciting fun that is rendered with intensity by Greg Capullo, and Bruce’s musings to Alfred that he needs to do more for Gotham will give you that tingly “man, I love Batman” feeling in your guts. Especially amusing is the scene between Gordon and Wayne, each of them just as cautious as the other, both conversing rather cordially with vastly different motivations spurring them on.
This conversation plays out like the most well-acted dialogue scenes in a movie, with each character working towards a clearly defined goal regardless of the words they are actually saying. Wayne is seeking an ally on the force, and Gordon is trying to find Wayne’s involvement with shady business dealings. It’s a tense but endearing scene that showcases Snyder’s knack for scene construction.
Capullo shines once again, but is able to stretch some different muscles due to the lack of actual Batman in this issue. The bank heist, as I mentioned, is thrilling, but he also gets to dabble in some subtle character work in the aforementioned Bruce/Gordon scene. There are a lot of little facial emotions that go a long way to selling Snyder’s words, and that doesn’t go unappreciated. Also, Capullo’s inclusion of Joker’s patented flower on the jacket of Red Hood is a clever and inspired way to underline Snyder’s suggestion of who this man will become.
However, my favorite portion of this issue is actually the back-up tale by James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke. While continuity hounds will likely rub their temples at the further complication of the Robin timelines (not to mention potential ties to Killing Joke in the main story), Tynion effectively uses one of the most underappreciated elements of the Batman world – the Bat-signal – to frame a brief but impactful tale about the Batman’s influence and inspiration on these kids.
We get to see how Batman inspired the Bat-family – Dick, Jason, Tim, and Barbara – before ever actually meeting them. It’s a great framing device that works on multiple levels, including giving Tim Drake his only worthwhile, significant moment since the New 52 launched last year. Plus, Clarke’s nod to the original Nightwing costume is fantastic.
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