Review by Paul Bowler
A former scientist at Wayne Enterprises, Dr Karl Helfern, now horrifically disfigured by the formula he created which causes accelerated bone growth, has returned as Dr Death and used his own serum to murder the team of scientists he used to work with. With Lieutenant Gordon’s help, Bruce and Lucius Fox were able to escape from Dr Death. Despite suffering a cranial fracture, Batman tries to save the last two scientists, only to find that they have already been killed by Dr Death and the GCPD are waiting to ambush him. Batman must find a way to escape from the Police, as well as confront his differences with Gordon, if he is to have any chance of tracking Dr Death to his secret lair before the super storm hits the city.
The penultimate issue of Dark City beings with a flashback to Tokyo 1946 before returning to the Newton Centre, where Batman finds the scientists have been murdered by Dr Death, and the GCPD have cornered the Dark Knight and opened fire. The Dark Knight Detectives early years continue to unfold explosively in Batman #27, with the GCPD’s attack cutting off Batman’s escape, leaving him reeling from a hail of bullets.
With the inclusion of Dr Death over the last few issue, the Dark City section of Zero Year has taken on a very distinct tone and feel, with this classic villain almost symbolically representing the twisting scar tissue that has healed over the terrible loss Bruce suffered on that fateful night in Crime Alley when his parents were murdered. Scott Snyder has also explored the relationship between Bruce and Lieutenant Gordon with Dark City, flaying open the old wounds that have played such a vital part in forging the direction both of their lives have taken. Batman #27 provides a fascinating insight into the story behind the trench coat from last issue, as the faint glimmer of hope which Gordon thought he had found earlier on that day, so long ago, was ultimately dashed by the corruption within the CGPD and the tears of a young orphan’s terrible loss.
If you were still pondering over last issues other intriguing flashback, which showed Bruce, suspended in cell over a vast pit in the Sudan, then Batman #27 yields a very unexpected, and highly emotional payoff. I really like how Scott Snyder has explored Alfred’s role during these early years over the course of Zero Year. It’s also been fascinating to watch this angrier, less disciplined, Bruce Wayne take to the streets as Batman and begin his war on crime. Alfred’s concerns for how Bruce is dealing with his anger provides this issues best moment, as he does not want to see Bruce let the dark scars of the past consume him. This fantastic scene brings Bruce’s motivations for being Batman into focus like never before, as Alfred urges him to reach out to those who can help, to become a force of justice, and hope for a city riddled with crime and corruption.
Just as Snyder is absolutely bang on the money when it comes to writing Batman, I think Greg Capullo’s work on Batman has also been outstanding; his incredible attention to detail and the realism he continues to bring to every issue is superb. The opening scenes alone are nail bitingly tense as Batman makes his escape attempt. It’s during the quiet moments though, particularly in the scenes involving Gordon, and then later with Alfred, where Capullo’s brilliant renditions of these characters expressions perfectly captures the emotional impact of these events on Bruce. We also see the first time Batman disappears while Gordon is still talking. Add to that a glimpse of Batman on a storm drenched night, one guaranteed to send a few iconic shivers of nostalgia down your spine, which together with this issues exciting conclusion, will leave you on the edge of your seat as Batman discovers he has gravely underestimated his opponents.
Danny Miki’s inks are as excellent as ever, accentuating Capullo’s art perfectly, while FCO’s amazing use of color continues to play a major role in making Zero Year so enjoyable, with the vivid purple and red tones for Batman’s daring escape from the Newton Centre giving way to the sombre blues and greys of the flashbacks, while a ghoulish palette of emerald hues accompanies Batman on his descent into the catacombs to find Helfern’s lab. Capullo’s cover for Batman #27 is also really good, disturbing and compelling in equal measure; this image of Batman’s costume twisted and distorted by Dr Death’s formula has quickly become one of my favourite Zero Year covers.
Batman #27 takes Dark City into completely unexpected territory. Scott Snyder effortlessly manages to draw together several of the plot threads that have now become so indicative of Zero Year, which considering this is only chapter two of his retelling of Bruce Wayne’s early career as Batman, it points to there being even bigger, and greater surprises awaiting us in the third chapter. As Dr Death’s plans are revealed and the Riddler’s grand schemes begin to take shape, next months special Batman #28 will offers us a glimpse into the future, before we return for Batman #29 and the conclusion of Dark City in March.