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Batman #0

Review by Paul Bowler

Zero Month continues to celebrate the 1st anniversary of The New 52 with Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Batman #0. This issue shows us Bruce Wayne six years before he donned the mantel of the bat, having completed his training abroad, one of his first missions is to infiltrate the notorious Red Hood Gang as they carry out a bank robbery. Bruce’s inexperience in Bright New Yesterday almost costs him his life when his cover is blown, unfortunately he is also unable to save the hostages who have been poisoned by the Red Hood, and has to make a speedy escape by motorcycle through the sewers when Gotham’s finest show up guns blazing.

Batman #0 gives us a fascinating insight into the first base of operations Bruce has set up in the heart of Gotham City. This precursor to the Bat Cave is more like a giant workshop, bursting with high tech gadgetry, but without any of the order or atmosphere so inherent with the cave beneath Wayne Manor, even though this base is only forty feet from where Bruce’s parents were killed – it feels bland, sterile, and devoid of all emotion. We learn that Bruce has yet to find a real focus for his “war” on crime, he has the means, and the weaponry, but he still lacks the symbol he needs to give credence to his cause.

That epiphany at Wayne Manor is still some way off, but in the mean time Scott Snyder sets up a rooftop meeting between Bruce Wayne and Lieutenant Gordon where the two men discuss Bruce’s business dealings and the mysterious vigilante who has been sneaking around and preventing crimes from happening all over the city. As they discuss Gotham’s crusader you can sense the unique – and unspoken bond – being forged between them. This is a lovely little scene, full of the sublime characterization we have come to expect from Snyder, and leaves us in no doubt as the Red Hood arrives to attack Bruce Wayne’s apartment building that we have just witnessed the beginning of a legendary friendship.

Greg Capullo is on fine form once again in Batman #0. The bank robbery is a distinctly different environment to the gothic urban sprawl we have become accustomed to throughout The Court of Owls & The Night of Owls, but this, and Bruce’s first secret lair, are both astutely handled. I particularly liked the motorbike Bruce used to escape to his hideout, and the moment when Alfred calmly sets about figuring out how to work the computer and open the entrance as Bruce races towards the doors!

The second story in Batman #0 is handled by James Tynion IV and Andy Clark. Tomorrow features Gordon as he sets up the Bat Signal on the roof of the GCPD. It’s a cracking little story that shows just how pivotal this simple device has become in our imaginations. Think of Batman and one of the things you will immediately associate with the character – other than the Batmobile – is the Bat Signal gleaming over the Gotham skyline.

Here the Bat Signals first use is seen to influence four young people who will one day go on to become part of the Bat Family itself: Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. Their lives intersect at the same instant when Gordon switches on the Bat Signal for the first time. It is the briefest of moments, as they each spy the Bat Signal in the night sky, and one that will inadvertently change their young lives forever.

Batman #0 is a great issue, giving us two very different stories, and a welcome spirit of nostalgia as Snyder, Capullo, Tynion, and Clarke embellishes The Dark Knights legacy with the fresh perspective allowed by The New 52. It may be a little disappointing that we don’t get to see the outcome of the Red Hood’s pre vat of chemicals encounter with Bruce Wayne, this brief glimpse of the madness clearly already evident beneath the mask of the Red Hood bodes well for the Joker’s return in this series next story ark: Death of the Family.

As part of Zero Month, Batman #0 delivers a pitch perfect tale of Bruce Wayne’s early career. It also finally gives some much needed back story to Jason Todd and Tim Drake, at least as they stand in The New 52 universe, but that final panel as Barbara Gordon stands alone, watching the Bat Signal beaming up into the night sky – and realizes what this symbol now means to the people of Gotham – is a truly magical moment indeed.