Review by Paul Bowler
The second chapter of Zero Year: Savage City continues to explore the full scope of the Riddler’s grand design for Gotham City in Batman #31. Having moulded the environment of Gotham back to a primal level, the flooded city is now cut off from the outside world and overgrown with vegetation. The Riddler has issued a challenge to the citizens of Gotham, they must create a riddle which even he cannot solve, only then he will return control of the city to them. Everyone believed that Batman was dead, now the Dark Knight has returned. Batman has to learn to work with his new ally, Lieutenant Gordon, doing whatever it takes to survive the Riddler‘s deadly puzzles…
This third arc of Zero Year: Savage City is quickly shaping up to be the most compelling segment of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s bold reimagining of Bruce Wayne’s early career. Their new take on the classic elements from the Dark Knight‘s mythology has constantly impressed on all levels. Now we see the total sum of the Riddler’s master plan coming to fruition, as Batman, Gordon, and the people of Gotham must find a way to rise to the Riddler’s challenge in order to survive the post-apocalyptic urban wilderness Gotham City has become.
Having recovered from his injuries Batman has now returned to assist Lieutenant Gordon, and together with the help of Lucius Fox they begin to formulate a plan to track the Riddler’s signal and uncover his actual location. Batman must confront the Riddler with a puzzle as he makes his daily address to the city on a giant screen. Timing will be crucial for their plan to succeed and Batman will be tested to the limit as he challenges the Riddler at his own game.
The final act continues to gather momentum in Batman #31 as Zero Year sees the Dark Knight and his new allies, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, finally working together against the Riddler. Scott Snyder sets up a great confrontation between Batman and the Riddler in part ten of Zero Year. In an extraordinary battle of wits, skill, and endurance, the Dark Knight’s verbal sparing with the Riddler is superb, and the physical challenges Batman has to face beneath the coliseum are some of the most intense and exciting scenes we’ve seen so far in Zero Year.
From its stunning cover featuring Batman overlooking the Gotham skyline from his high vantage point, with his new costume for Savage City illuminated in the twilight haze, through to the astonishing level of detail in every scene that follows Greg Capullo’s art for Batman #31 is simply stunning. Capullo’s depiction of a Gotham City flooded and overrun with dense vegetation is superb, the ravaged buildings, together with the underlying sense of decay and despair, utterly immerses you within the harsh reality of this rundown ecosystem. Danny Miki’s inks and FCO Plascencia’s colors are as incredible as ever, and they complement Capullo’s art perfectly. Batman sure knows how to make an entrance, and this issue is no exception as it delivers a real, punch the air: “hell yeah!!”, moment that will leave you with a very big grin on your face as he arrives to confront the Riddler.
I also really liked the way Snyder and Capullo intertwine the event in Batman #31 with the flashbacks where Bruce’s teacher at school gives him a problem to solve as Batman is challenging the Riddler in Zero Year. It highlights the incredible synergy that Snyder and Capullo have brought to their run on Batman, and the way in which the many elements of Zero Year are beginning to draw together is truly inspiring – it works on so many levels, and you get a real sense of things building towards an epic conclusion.
The makeshift Bat-suit that Bruce has put together is another highlight of this issue. This is a Batman ready for war, a Dark Knight on a crusade to reclaim the city he has sworn to protect. Essentially comprised of clothes that he has just thrown together, it illustrates that Batman is much, much more than simply the suit he wears. In many ways he doesn’t even need the costume or the gadgets, Bruce is Batman, with or without the costume, the Dark Knight is the very essence of his being, and the way he continues to modify the outfit this issue transcends everything we have seen before.
Batman #31 is a terrific issue, exciting, and brilliantly tense, Batman ends up facing his toughest challenge yet of his early career. The way Batman puts his final question to the Riddler totally sums up the issue for me, tough as nails, and never, ever, prepared to back down; no matter how impossible the situation or complex the puzzles solution might be. This is why I’ve always loved reading Batman comics since I was a kid, this is why I think Snyder and Capullo are so freaking awesome at what they do, and this is why I’m enjoying Zero Year so much.