Zero Year Review: Batman #21 By Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Reviews, Top Story


Batman #21

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and Fco Plascencia


The short of it:

Six years ago Gotham City was an overgrown wasteland, a dead city where a child fishing is chased through the fields by men in a mask. Only for The Bat to show up and save him, and we the readers to learn that whoever did this believes Batman to be dead, and has been bragging about it since he destroyed Gotham. Just the way Batman likes it.

But this story takes place five months before that, not long after the events of Batman #0. With Bruce Wayne in a rubber mask facing off against the Red Hood Gang. With a truck full of men, and a small army worth of well dressed men in red helmets in front of him, he has to be a bit brave and bold, using a grappling hook and a giant pair of balls to pull a stunt that, for Batman, is no big deal…but it’s the first time Bruce Wayne has ever attempted such a thing. But whatever, he’s Batman, and he give the Bat-finger!

Not long after he’s in his lair, not quite a cave. more of a hidden room in a brownstone, but it’s Alfred’s home. Where Bruce is recapping and trying to figure out the Red Hood and his gang while also testing a pair of adhesive boots. He’s incredibly single minded, and it’s not long before Alfred illuminates why…Bruce Wayne is legally dead and he has no intention of changing that. He’s entirely centered on the mission and views his true identity as nothing more than a distraction to be cast aside. All that matters to him is making sure no one lives through what he did, and so long as only Alfred knows he’s alive, he thinks he can do that. So of course his uncle shows up, having never believed his nephew was dead, and finally having found him. But really, he just wants to talk and try to convince Bruce to return. To put a Wayne in charge of Wayne Enterprises, but it’s not what Bruce wants. Nice penny, though.

See, when he was a kid, Bruce’s father taught him a valuable lesson. That he could be whoever he wanted to be and his parents would still be proud of him, no matter what. Which may explain why he’s driving around Gotham with a briefcase full of rubber masks as he goes undercover trying to bring down the Red Hood gang. Philip isn’t please, though, and he goes to talk to his head strategist about how to handle things.

Mr. Nygma believes the answer to the riddle is killing Bruce Wayne.


What I liked:

  • I like this version of Thomas Wayne, you retain the fact that he was a successful and popular doctor, but the added eccentricities make him much more like an every man despite it. I like the idea of Thomas being the kind of guy who might be rich, but still enjoys doing things for himself. Even if it does have him playing the role of mechanic on his own car. He comes across much more like a father than some unreachable idea of what the man was.


  • I like this version of Bruce, too. I can see the single mindedness, and the devotion, and the mission, and all the things that make him Batman…but I’m not seeing the jerkish nature that I’ve grown used to. I kinda like Bruce when he’s still loaded up with optimism.

  • As far as cover gimmicks go, I do not mind the slightly raised Bat at the bottom of this one. There’s no 3D, no holograms, no giant foldouts, not even the die-cut Joker thing from a few months ago. This is so far my favorite, I didn’t even notice it at first.

  • Greg Capullo’s art has made this series thus far, but it’s even better here. I’m not sure if the inks from Danny Miki deserve credit, or if Plascencia is doing something differently with the colors, but I really dig the look of this issue. Much brighter and more kinetic than the last few.

  • The concept behind the Red Hood Gang is brilliant. One core guy who blackmails other people into putting on a hood and joining up for whatever time he needs them.


What I didn’t like:

  • The Robin logo comes from a hat that Bruce’s father wore when he was a kid, and now Bruce wears it himself. I kinda liked that R being Dick Grayson’s.

  • Maybe it’s just a Batman or Gotham thing, but the cars. I love the cars, but Bruce is supposed to my age, and when I was a kid not every car looked right out of the 50’s. I get his dad having a classic car collection, but I’ve never seen Thomas Wayne drive something that looks like it was around in the 80’s.

  • His uncle is a bit of a tool, but as he establishes that everyone loves the Wayne’s while scandals and corruptions follow the Kane’s…are all Kane’s tools? He’s pretty clear, he’s known his nephew to be alive for twenty minutes and already wants to put him in charge of the company to boost profits.


Final thoughts:

It takes Gotham five months to go from Gotham City to Life After People? Alright, I’m intrigued. Both at how things got that bad, as well as how they improved. I imagine the plant overgrowth is going to be given the simple explanation of “Poison Ivy”, but at the same time, how awesome would it be if Snyder swerved in The Demon’s Head himself?

Man, Snyder is all about giving Bruce a family. For my entire lifetime Bruce was the sole survivor with two dead parents. Now he has a bastard brother and an uncle!

The censored bar over the Bat-Finger made me laugh my ass off. Totally not something deserving of a censor, but the giant sized bar just makes it comedic.

If Bruce is dead, and everyone thinks he’s dead, then how did he gets a secret pre-Batcave Batcave set up in Alfred’s house? is that Alfred’s house? Why does Alfred live in Crime Alley?

Any use of the Riddler is a good use of him…well, no, but recently there’s been some great stuff. Paul Dini kicked ass with him back in Detective Comics, and ever since Snyder expressed interest in writing him I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat to read it. I love The Riddler.

With Zero Year we finally have a Batman arc that can’t be spun into a cross-line event that suffers from not actually being an event! Snyder has been desperately in need of telling his own story without having to let every other book fit into it, and unfortunately DC hasn’t allowed that thus far. The Night of the Owls was a great Batman arc that turned into a weak event as it was diluted across the line, and Death of the Family suffered the same fate. These weren’t events, these were Batman arcs that somehow had more tie-in issues than actual issues in the arc. Now the only way to do that is to try and shoehorn in other peoples origins. And I mean, come on, let’s be honest, in the birth of Batman there is no Robin. And there sure as hell isn’t a Batgirl.

Overall: 9/10

A lifelong reader and self proclaimed continuity guru, Grey is the Editor in Chief of Comics Nexus. Known for his love of Booster Gold, Spider-Girl (the real one), Stephanie Brown, and The Boys. Don't miss The Gold Standard.