Review by Paul Bowler
Batman #23 sees Bruce cornered by the Red Hood Gang in the flaming ruins of his home, battered senseless, and defiant to the bitter end. When Bruce manages to escape, he is left with no choice but to return to Wayne Manor. It is here, within the shadowy halls of the ancestral home he abandoned so long ago, that Zero Year makes history as we witness the moment where Bruce Wayne decided to become the Batman…
Scott Snyder takes us right to the core of the Batman mythos as Bruce Wayne’s life is reborn from the ashes of defeat. Having only just managed to escape with his life after the explosive attack by the Red Hood Gang, we watch as Bruce returns to Wayne Manor, his war on crime now a smouldering ruin as he tumbles into unconsciousness. He wakes to find Alfred has returned to help aid his recovery. It is here that Alfred recalls what happened directly after Bruce’s parents were shot, in a heart warming scene, Alfred pledges his loyalty to Bruce – no matter how much they ever fight or disagree.
Events at Wayne Industries also take a sinister turn, as the Philip Kane confronts Edward Nygma. So far the Riddler seems to have been content to watch events unfold, now his intricate web of riddles is about to close in on Philip Kane, and it appears that Edward Nygma has decided its time for him to step out of the shadow of his anonymity.
We also get some insight into the origin of the Red Hood Gang, including revelations about their connections to Gotham City, and how the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents was instrumental in leading the Red Hood to form the gang. Although the Red Hood has targeted Bruce, he still takes the time to enjoy his moment of triumph. It seems that their lives have been inexorably drawn together, like moths to a flame, each consigned to a path that had already been written by fate to make them the complete antithesis of the other. This fearful symmetry is relayed through the dialogue, which is then punctuated by two deliberately placed gunshots, which slam home the Red Hood’s connection to Bruce Wayne and the night Bruce left the theatre with his parents. If over the course of Zero Year, the Red Hood is indeed revealed to be the Clown Prince of Crime, the events of Batman #23 will mark a significant milestone in the characters origin.
Scott Snyder takes the familiar origin story of Batman and enhances it with a decidedly high-tech twist, delivering something that is eternally faithful to Bill Finger’s origin story from the classic Detective Comics #33 (1939), whilst enabling Zero Year to offer an entirely new perspective on the iconic scene where the bat flies into the manor and changes Bruce’s life forever. Snyder and Capullo bring this moment to life in the most spectacular way imaginable; epic in scope and scale, these pages will leave you breathless as the grand visuals magically unfold.
The art for Batman #23 by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki charts every exquisite moment leading up to the scene where Bruce Wayne is inspired to become the Batman, together with the intricate colors by FCO Plascencia, this third instalment of Zero Year captures the epic nature of Snyder’s new take on the Dark Knights origin perfectly. Told through a series of intermingling flashbacks – signified by FCO’s sublime color palette that alters for each period of time the story jumps between – the chains that bind the gates of Wayne Manor shatter symbolically as Batman #23 shows Bruce at his lowest point since his parent’s brutal murder.
For all his training and dedication to his cause, Bruce has been unable to stop the Red Hood. Now as Bruce recovers from the near fatal attack by the Red Hood Gang, he finds Alfred has returned to tend his wounds, and after Alfred recalls the aftermath of the Wayne’s murder on that fateful night, he later walks the darkened halls of Wayne Manor a deeply troubled man. This voyage through what Bruce perceives to be his own failings is beautifully offset by his discovery of the cave as a child, and the moment when his father rescued him. In essence, it is Bruce’s fathers words that now call out to him from the past, in a moment of quiet reflection where Bruce searches the house for a way to banish his despair; it is the father who guides his son back from the brink of the abyss once more before the bat appears and becomes emblazoned on his soul forever.
Rafael Albuquerque provides the art for the back up story by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, where the young Bruce Wayne ends up fighting for his life in a death match in Norway. The Pit shows how Bruce endured a trial by combat, which lasted for over twenty eight hours, where his training and skills as a fighter were pushed to the limit by a relentless number of opponents. Even against these insurmountable odds, the young Bruce Wayne refuses to back down, and in the end his inner strength ensures that no man will dare stand against him.
The cover of Batman #23 by Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia shows one of Batman’s gauntlets as it is being pulled on, his other hand clasped tightly around the wrist, locking it into place as the full moon rises in the sky overhead. Batman #23 marks the momentous events leading up to the moment where Bruce will soon choose to don the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight, and Capullo’s cover beautifully captures the majesty of this event and frames it against the gleaming orb of the moon. The variant cover for Batman #23 by Gary Frank (Shazam) and Brad Anderson is equally as atmospheric, and shows Bruce standing inside Wayne Manor – the building now fused symbiotically with the cave itself – silhouetted against the moonlit sky as the bats that inspired him fly in through the window while Bruce prepares to embrace his destiny swathed in a cloak of shadows.
Batman #23 is the most enthralling instalment of Zero Year so far. The narrative is rich and complex, Snyder draws together many elements – past and present – as the multiple storylines converge for the thrilling climax. This incredible final scene rounds off another excellent issue by Snyder and Capullo as Zero Year begins to spread its wings and the legend of the Dark Knight is born anew…