Cover by Greg Capullo
Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Pencils by Rafael Albuquerque
Inks by Rafael Albuquerque & Danny Miki
BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
I realise this review seems a little out dated to be reviewing issue #22 when both issue #23 and #23.1 have now been released but unfortunately the way my subscription works I’m always a month behind on Batman.
The ‘Batman’ title has failed to do any wrong for quite some time and with the introduction of the ‘Zero Year’ arc it continues to break new ground in the Batman universe to the applause of almost all of the fandom.
Snyder is well known for his brilliant work on ‘Batman’ over the course of The New 52 and it shows no sign of stopping any time soon. What I love about his stories is that there’s never a feeling that you are being rushed or handed any information for the sake of clarity.
‘Secret City’ is no change from the work that has come before it. A beautiful slow burn that isn’t going over the origin story that has been done so many times before it.
Initial hesitation to the idea was blown away completely when it became apparent that ‘Zero Year’ would not simply be a retelling of ‘Year One’ with a new spin.
As fans we know where the story is going to end up but for once we’re at the inception of Batman with no idea how the story will play out.
‘Secret City: Part Two’ is part flash-back and part present day tale featuring a gang of Red Hoods.
First lets discuss the flash-back. This is the only time we see any recognisable images from origins of Batman past with Bruce falling down the well. It’s impossible to tell any form of Batman origin without covering some of the ground that has been covered before and its handled well here with a couple of striking images of the bats encompassing the young Bruce. It’s placed a little abruptly in the story but perhaps this is a mirror for real human though… don’t we often jump back to childhood memories in our heads at the drop of a hat?
The present day storyline brings us a rather menacing group of Red Hoods, Oswald Cobblepot and plenty of Bruce Wayne action.
The dialogue is brilliant and consistently well written with scenes between Alfred and the young Bruce are particularly poignant and at times striking. Snyder has constructed the characters to reflect the younger age that they appear at in this arc. Bruce in particular displays the angst of young adulthood brilliantly, the tension he shares with Alfred is a little heartbreaking but at least we know it will all be fine in the end.
The appearance of the young Edward Nygma towards the end of the story takes it to a whole other level. There’s an underlying level of The Riddler as he first appears which leads us to an incredible puzzle pages which I struggled to read to begin with.
I’m not convinced that the leader of the Red Hood group will turn out to be The Joker but the force and anarchy that he carries is certainly making him a great villain for the infant Bat.
The back-up story fleshes out some of the background in the scene that Bruce shares with Nygma in the Egyptian exhibit. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I often get bored with back-up stories as they are simply a piece of side information tied to the main story and this is one of those examples however in this case learning a little more about the young Bruce does help to make the character in the main story feel more fleshed out.
The art in both stories is, as always, brilliant. The back-up story features a much darker, more angular and detailed image than the main piece but in tone with the story at the same time.
Capullo’s work on the main story continues the brilliant work that we’ve been seeing for some time now in the ‘Batman’ title. Everything has been perfectly dialled back several years from where it was prior to the ‘Zero Year’ arc: Gotham is shinier; Bruce is younger etc…
A great deal of effort has been put in to creating a new world which over the course of ‘Zero Year’ will be deconstructed to resemble the city that we know of the present day.
This isn’t simply a new story in the Batman world. It’s a whole new world that we’ve yet to really explore which adds a lot more suspense and anticipation to Batman’s origin which is something that has been lacking from the comics for a long long time. Not because it hasn’t been done well but because it’s been done so many times. The level of anticipation that ‘Zero Year’ is bringing rivals that of any new Batman movie.
A complete must read!