The first of two Scott Snyder comics I read today, Batman #21 was a really, really good comic. Technically speaking, it’s the first issue of Zero Year, Snyder and Capullo’s year long epic. But this story really began in Batman #00, which introduced the Red Hood gang. Right now, it looks like they’re positioned to play a massive role in Zero Year, an epic that is so far, really, really awesome. I’ve really enjoyed the last few issues of Batman, but one issue into Zero Year and you can already tell that this is where Snyder and Capullo thrive. Sure, it starts off a little slow, and we don’t know a whole lot about what’s really going on. What we do know is that it ends with Gotham becoming a sort of wasteland, which we get to see at the beginning of the issue. And throughout the issue, that’s the only time we actually see Batman. We see a disguised Bruce taking on the Red Hood gang, which is awesome, but he’s not quite Batman yet.
What this comic is doing is focusing in one Bruce, and his true journey to becoming Batman. Whereas Batman: Year One was more about him as Batman, figuring out how to fight crime, this is Bruce’s path to becoming that symbol. The book starts up six years before the main Batman title, and then transitions to nearly six and a half years ago. And it’s all good, even if all the action is in the beginning of the book. What we get later in the issue is Bruce and his uncle, a Kane, who tries to convince him to take over Wayne industries, which he refuses to do. That part is pretty cool, but my favorite part of the issue is the flashback to Bruce’s childhood, in which we see Thomas Wayne.
In a lot of ways, this run has been defined by Snyder using Gotham City as a character, and we see that theme continue in this issue, when Thomas Wayne asks Bruce what he does in the city, and Bruce replies with “That’s what I love about Gotham. It’s a place where you can be anyone.”. I love that quote, and I get the feeling that it’s going to contribute to Zero Year. I can already tell that one of the big themes is going to be Batman as a symbol, and as an inspiration to the people of Gotham. The people of Gotham play another role as well, as it seems that many are blackmailed into being a part of the Red Hood gang, which, unto itself, is a pretty cool concept. It’s even cooler seeing that the Riddler (who is still Edward Nigma at this point) is pulling the strings from behind the scenes. This issue reminds me of a merge between many great Batman stories – including Hush, Year One, and No Man’s Land. That, combined with Greg Capullo’s stunning artwork and Scott Snyder’s stellar character work means that Batman #21 is one of the best books on the shelves.