‘BATMAN: ZERO YEAR’ EXPLORES THE ORIGINS OF THE “NEW 52” DARK KNIGHT

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This month, DC Comics is running a mini-crossover event across its New 52 line-up to support the current Batman storyline Zero Year.  The Zero Year tie-in issues give readers a look back at a wide variety of characters’ histories prior to their debuts as heroes.

One of fans’ biggest complaints about the New 52 reboot is the fact that Batman’s continuity no longer makes sense.  If super-heroes have only been around 5 years, how do you explain a) the vast amount of Batman stories that DC claims still exist in continuity and b) the fact that there have been as many as four possible Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne).  Fans clamored for an explanation and DC saw an opportunity to do an origin story.

The only problem is that DC already has a critically acclaimed origin story for the Dark Knight.  In 1987, Frank Miller wrote the Batman: Year One origin story that ran in Batman #404-407.  The story has been reprinted numerous times in both trade paperback and hardcover and just last year was adapted into a DC Animated film.  With the recent reboot of the DC universe and the launch of the New 52, Batman: Year One no longer fits in continuity.  Some of the changes brought about by the reboot include Barbara Gordon is now the biological daughter of Commissioner Gordon and Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is no longer a former prostitute.

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Zero Year is DC Comics latest attempt to have its cake and eat it too.  Realizing that Batman: Year One no longer fit within the New 52 continuity, DC Comics is capitalizing on readers desire to know how it all makes sense.  Enter Scott Snyder.  Scott Snyder was the writer on Detective Comics prior to the New 52 relaunch and was given the writing duties on Batman with the relaunch.  Snyder’s run on Batman has been amazing.  His story arcs involving the Court of Owls showed fans a side of Gotham City they had never seen and his Death of The Family deconstructed Batman’s ties to the extended Bat-family.  Wanting to give the fans what they want, but also wanting to try to stay true to the feel of Year One, Snyder pitched Zero Year as an 11-part storyline detailing Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham and his eventual growth into Batman. Thus far, Wayne has fought the Red Hood (the Joker’s pre-Joker identity) and is now matching wits with Edward Nygma (the Riddler) as Super-Storm Rene descends upon Gotham City.

This month, a handful of DC titles flashback to the days leading up to the Super-Storm.  We see stories starring both Gotham City residents (Jim Gordon in Detective Comics #25, Barbara Gordon in Batgirl #25, Luke Fox in Batwing #25, Dinah Drake [Black Canary] in Birds of Prey #25, Selina Kyle in Catwoman #25, Dick Grayson in Nightwing #25, and Jason Todd in Red Hood & The Outlaws #25) and non-Gothamites (Clark Kent in Action Comics #25, Barry Allen in Flash #25, Oliver Queen in Green Arrow #25, and John Stewart in Green Lantern Corps #25) as they deal with the chaos of the storm hitting Gotham.  The books have all done a very good job of showing us the heroic sides of our characters before they were super.

This is how cross-over events should be done.  Readers of Zero Year (and Batman in general) don’t need to pick up any of the tie-in issues, but all of them (especially the Bat-Family books) do add a layer to the story.  For readers of the non-Batman persuasion, the tie-in books tell great stories that just happen to be set in Gotham six years ago and contribute nicely to the back-stories of the characters.  As an example (spoiler-free), in Batwoman, there’s a nice two panel beat towards the end of the story that sets up the future relationship between Maggie Sawyer and Kate Kane.  And for readers who aren’t picking up Batman, maybe it’ll tempt you to check out what Scott Snyder has been doing with the Dark Knight.

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About Author

Chris Keno

Chris Keno has been a comics geek for over 35 years, and is thankful his 'dark age' came in the late 90's. He's not ashamed to admit he owns both the Flash and Birds of Prey Complete Series on DVD. He's married and raising three geeks-in-training.