Martin Deer reviews the latest issue of Batman…
“Witness the moment Bruce Wayne becomes Batman as ‘Zero Year’ makes history! And in the backup story, a young Bruce Wayne fights for his life in a death match in Russia!“
Issue #22 was one of the strongest that Scott Snyder has written in his time on Batman, and so following that up was going to be tough. Which is exactly what it proved to be as issue #23 fails to continue some of the great plot points raised in the previous outing.
The issue picks up where #22 left off, with the Red Hood gang inside Wayne Manor and ready to deliver a beating to young Bruce, which they do. Severely beating him and teaching him a lesson on the importance of keeping your identity a secret, the leader of the gang reveals that the death of the Waynes not only affected Bruce, but affected him too, and that his life philosophy of chaos and giving yourself the “wolf”, to crime and despair, was born that night.
Having left him for dead as they burnt down… a part… of Wayne Manor, Bruce makes his way to the caves below and out of the Manor to an outhouse, where he collapses. What happens when he comes to is where the issue most disappointed me. In the previous issue Bruce and Alfred argued and fell out, with Bruce being quite petulant and Alfred slapping him. This was extremely unexpected and most definitely felt out of character. But that’s what made it great – it was something truly new and left some avenues to be explored. In the very next issue however, this issue, Alfred is back to patch up Bruce, “no matter what”. What happened in issue #22 now feels like a cheap shock tactic, rather than a true character moment for the two.
Whilst Snyder’s stories have been interesting and he has done some really great things, his love of all things Batman is perhaps a hindrance, as he relies on past stories to provide material for his stories, using elements of them to include in his arcs and so he does here too. Having had his body and ego bruised, Bruce – back in Wayne Manor – heads to his Father’s study for advice, and advice he receives. Taking the seminal image from Year One, Snyder simply recreates it in his own way, but it is basically the same scene. Instead of doing something unique with the new origin story, he uses parts of the previous origin. Which doesn’t do much to answer the question: why did the origin need updating?
Hopefully Snyder can get it back on track next month, but this issue is a bland entry repeating elements we’ve already seen and refusing to add anything new.