Review by Paul Bowler
It’s the showdown that will decide the fate of Gotham City, as Batman confronts the Riddler in Batman #33, the special extra-sized finale of Zero Year! Following the terrible destruction unleashed by the Riddler’s actions during the superstorm, the city was transformed into a flooded post-apocalyptic urban wilderness. Batman survived and returned to free Gotham from the Riddler with the help of Lieutenant Gordon and Lucius Fox. Batman set out alone to find the Riddler in his secret lair. Now, with a military air strike on the way, the Dark Knight must solve the greatest challenge of his early career to save Gotham City and defeat the Riddler.
Batman #33 marks the conclusion of the epic Zero Year storyline by Eisner Award-winning writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Their bold re-imagining of Batman’s origin has offered us an entirely fresh perspective, one that has remained eminently respectful to the character, and skilfully redefined it within the context of DC Comics’ New 52 continuity.
The final countdown has begun, fighter jets have been scrambled from Fort Robbins, but the Riddler intends to misdirect the air strike towards a series of strategically placed explosives that will detonate and sinks the entire city. While Batman faces the Riddler’s challenge in the museum, the Dark Knight’s new allies, Lieutenant Gordon and Lucius Fox, together with the Special Ops Seals, must find a way to delay the air strike. This final part of Savage City brings a complex, thrilling, and fittingly cerebral edge to Batman’s showdown with the Riddler, as the Dark Knight tackles the complexities of Nygma’s deadly high-tech version of the circular Oroboros game – first seen in Batman #22 when Bruce originally encountered Nygma in the museums Egyptian exhibit.
With the Sphinx looming over them, this setting – so ingeniously hidden in plain sight all along and masterfully revealed last issue – not only provides a fitting backdrop for their final battle, it also links back though virtually every aspect of Zero Year itself. The way Scott Synder brings everything together in Batman #33 is staggeringly brilliant, and it is this total summation of everything that Zero Year stands for which now ultimately culminates with a gripping battle of intellects between the Dark Knight and the Riddler.
The Riddler and his web of puzzles and schemes have been an intrinsic part of Zero Year, yet it perhaps only now, as we approach the climax of this storyline, that we can fully appreciate how masterfully Snyder and Capullo have not only woven the character into the narrative of Batman’s origin, but also re-defined this classic villain in a way that has made him infinitely more compelling than ever before. Nygma and his ego-driven narcissistic designs for Gotham has given a fascinating insight into the psychology of the Riddler, believing himself slighted by the world around him, Nygma has basked in the chaos and destruction he’s unleashed in order to prove his point to the city while challenging the Dark Knight and the citizens of Gotham to evolve and defeat him. Batman #33 is a veritable showcase of Edward Nygma’s uncanny ingenuity and cunning as Batman races against time to solve each of the twelve mind-bending historical riddles entwined in the games lethal web of lasers.
Over the course of Zero Year, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have explored many facets of the Dark Knight’s origin. The flashback sequences have often proved to be the most compelling aspects of all and with Batman #33 Snyder and Capullo continue to explore the psychological trauma caused by the murder of Bruce’s parents during his teenage years. We see his life beginning to take a dark, and self-destructive path, and it is only through the events in Batman #33 that we learn the full extent of Bruce Wayne’s struggle with depression, as well as the lengths he was prepared to go to erase his pain, and the resolve that gave him the strength to fight his way back through the darkness with a decision that would see him leave Gotham City and begin the journey that would ultimately set him on the path to becoming Batman.
Greg Capullo’s incredible art work never ceases to amaze me. Batman #33 is easily one of Capullo’s finest issues to date, the level of detail on every page is staggering, and I guarantee when you’ve finished this issue you will be reading it again right away to savour each and every panel Greg Capullo has crafted for this Zero Year finale. Danny Miki’s inks and FCO Plascencia’s colors are superb, the shading, details, and rich color pallet is a joy to behold, and the amazing work of this artistic team on Batman #33 has, quite literally, blown me away. As well as Capullo’s, Miki’s, and FCO’s stunning cover (Great to see FCO also credited on the cover now as well), Batman #33 also has two excellent variant covers by Bryan Hitch and Paolo Rivera.
The intellectual battle between Batman and Riddler is just one of the many highlights this issue, as fate spins like penny, Gordon and Lucius also get their moment in the spotlight. Greg Capullo is the absolute master of conveying the characters emotions, their expressions, their stance, everything just works together so perfectly. Seeing the Riddler and Batman face to face, with Nygma finally seeing Batman as a worthy adversary, transcends their battle of wits to a whole new level. Incidentally, they are both wearing purple gloves, another nice touch that makes Zero Year’s reworking of Batman’s origin feel so special. Likewise, the scenes between Alfred and Bruce, and the way that Bruce’s past strikes a deeply moving, and emotionally charged symmetry with the Riddler’s grand design for Gotham, and its subsequent aftermath, will I’m sure, leave a warm smile on your face.
Scott Snyder concludes Zero Year with a brilliant coda that personifies his love and respect for the character of Batman, and through his deeply personal, and emotive re-envisioning of Batman’s origin, Snyder has ensured that Zero Year delivered everything he promised, and then some. Gothamites are made of strong stuff, the city will rebuild, and Bruce’s speech at Wayne Enterprises, and the announcement he makes on this day heralds the dawn of a new age, and the simple gesture of a surprise gift heals a rift with a bond of life-long friendship. Above all though, it is the final, closing scenes of Zero Year that are the most magnificent of all, and the clarity of this moment is one that will remain with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
Batman #33 is a stunning finale to Zero Year, as Batman’s confrontation with the Riddler concludes the third arc: Savage City. Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s epic twelve issue re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s early crime fighting career has encompassed the classic elements of the Dark Knights origin, modernising and redefining many of the iconic cornerstones that have defined the character over he last seventy five years. I think Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia have done tremendous work on Batman, I’ve enjoyed all the storylines, and I think Zero Year in particular has been their most outstanding achievement of all!
So what’s next for the Dark Knight? Well, in August, Batman #34, and the Batman issues which follow, will be jumping forward in time, to coincide with the events and continuity that takes place directly after DC’s current weekly series, Batman Eternal. Batman #34 will be a stand-alone story, co written by Gerry Duggan (Who is also writing this October’s new series Batman Arkham Manor), is a spooky detective story, with art by Matteo Scalera. This will lead into Snyder and Capullo’s next Batman story arc, Endgame, which begins in October’s Batman #35, Endgame, is also set in the same continuity as Batman #34 and both take place right after the ending of Batman Eternal.
Batman Endgame will be a six part storyline, and it promises to be Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s most exciting story yet. Endgame is Snyder’s and Capullo’s big story for Batman’s 75th anniversary, boasting an extensive cast of characters and thrilling cataclysmic events. Each issue will also feature back-up stories that link into the main arc of Endgame, co written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the artists changing monthly.
Batman #33 is extra special in many ways, not only because it’s the final issue of Zero Year, it also happens to be released on Wednesday, July 23rd, as part of DC Comics international Batman Day celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of Batman. So, enjoy Batman #33 and have a happy Batman Day Batfans!